I am pleased to commend the Clean Energy Finance Corporation Annual Report for 2016-17.
The CEFC has delivered a strong performance in its fourth full year of operation, achieving new highs in the number, impact and value of commitments across the clean energy sector.
The CEFC was created with a clear charter to stimulate change in Australia’s investment in clean energy, as a key pathway to the decarbonisation of the Australian economy. During its first four years of operation, the CEFC’s investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency have impacted across diverse sectors of the Australian economy. CEFC investments are delivering positive returns to taxpayers, while catalysing or leading to additional private sector finance in the sector and helping reduce Australia’s emissions.
The CEFC’s investments demonstrate the enormous positive opportunities of clean energy to assist with the decarbonisation challenge. For example, the accelerated quantum and delivery of large-scale renewable energy projects is helping move them down the cost curve at significant speed. We look forward to future investment in large-scale storage projects to further enhance grid stability alongside increased renewable energy. The CEFC is also working with industry leaders to deliver the benefits of energy efficiency across the built environment.
A feature of the CEFC since its inception has been our collaboration with co-financing partners to extend the reach of our finance to smaller and more diverse businesses, including those in rural and regional Australia. During the year we passed an important milestone in this area, delivering $250 million in tailored asset finance to more than 2,000 individual smaller-scale renewable and energy efficiency and vehicle financing projects, working alongside other major financial institutions.
In 2016-17, our responsible Ministers instructed the CEFC to include a heightened focus in three specific areas – Sustainable Cities, the Great Barrier Reef and clean energy innovation. We are seeing immediate pick up in these areas, with CEFC finance being relevantly deployed with increasing momentum.
As a specialist and active financier in the clean energy sector, the CEFC is also well placed to work with expert review panels, policy makers, the industry and other investors in understanding the market, as well as the key drivers of carbon emissions and priority areas for investment. During the past year, this has seen the CEFC work closely with the Australian Government and other agencies, including AEMO, ARENA and the Clean Energy Regulator. Our hands-on experience as financiers in the energy market and a range of industry sectors provides the CEFC with an intimate view of market expectations and preferences, allowing us to bring an additional perspective to policy forums which continues to be well received.
After completion of the year in review, Minister for the Environment and Energy, the Hon Josh Frydenberg and Minister for Finance, Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann, appointed Leeanne Bond, Samantha Tough, Nicola Wakefield Evans and me as new Board members. The CEFC continues to benefit from the experience of continuing Board members Paul Binsted and Martijn Wilder AM in stewarding the organisation.
I would like to recognise the contribution of my predecessor and founding Chair Jillian Broadbent AO. As chair of the Expert Review Panel which led to the creation of the CEFC, Ms Broadbent was closely involved with the organisation since its initial conception. Along with her fellow Board members, she set an effective investment strategy, as well as a high standard for governance and performance. I would also like to recognise the contributions of other founding Board members Ian Moore, Anna Skarbek and Andrew Stock, whose terms also concluded just after completion of the year in review. They have left a strong legacy for the new Board and we are duly grateful.
The calibre of the Executive and staff of the CEFC is a credit to the organisation. The clean energy sector is both complex and fast moving. Given the CEFC’s unique role in catalysing new investment into the sector, our teams often find themselves in the position of developing new and innovative approaches to financing, while simultaneously endeavouring to deliver important public policy outcomes. The fact that this is done in an environment requiring commercial rigour, with expectations that the CEFC will deliver a positive return to the taxpayer, speaks volumes about the skill and expertise required of the CEFC.
The CEFC is grateful to founding CEO Oliver Yates for his tenacity of purpose and significant achievements, and we wish him well in his new endeavours. Our new CEO Ian Learmonth has quickly embedded himself in the organisation and the sector and enjoys the support of a dedicated and highly motivated organisation.
The Board looks forward to working with Ian, the Executive and staff of the CEFC in continuing to capitalise on the potential of clean energy investment to help transition Australia to a low carbon economy.
Steven Skala AO