Bills Digest No. 36, 2017-18
PDF version [713KB]
Science, Technology, Environment and Resources Section
14 September 2017
The Bills Digest at a glance
Purpose of the Bill
What is the Clean Energy Finance
What is carbon capture and storage
CCS around the world
CCS in Australia
Selection of Bills Committee
Senate Standing Committee for the
Scrutiny of Bills
Policy position of non-government
Position of major interest groups
Business and industry groups
Statement of Compatibility with Human
Parliamentary Joint Committee on
Key issues and provisions
What can the CEFC
currently invest in?
Would this enable to the CEFC to
invest in CCS?
Low emissions technology guidelines
CEFC investment mandate
The role of CCS in reducing greenhouse
Objectives of the CEFC: should the
CEFC invest in CCS?
Date introduced: 31
House: House of
day after Royal Assent
Links: The links to the Bill,
its Explanatory Memorandum and second reading speech can be found on the
Bill’s homepage, or through the Australian
When Bills have been passed and have received Royal Assent,
they become Acts, which can be found at the Federal Register of Legislation
All hyperlinks in this Bills Digest are correct as
at September 2017.
The Bills Digest at a glance
Purpose of the Bill
Bill proposes to amend the Clean Energy
Finance Corporation Act 2012 (CEFC Act) to remove a prohibition
on the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) investing in carbon capture and
storage (CCS) technologies.
What is the Clean Energy Finance Corporation?
Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) is a Commonwealth statutory authority
established in 2012 to manage a $10 billion fund which co-finances and invests
in renewable energy, low-emission and energy efficiency projects. Plans to
abolish the CEFC following the change of government in 2013, which were rejected
by the Senate, have since been shelved.
What is carbon capture and storage?
capture and storage (CCS) is the capture, transport and storage of carbon
dioxide (CO2) from processes that emit significant quantities of the
gas, such as coal- and gas-fired power stations or other industrial processes
such as natural gas production, cement manufacturing, steel processing and oil
the International Energy Agency and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change have recognised that CCS may have a role to play in reducing greenhouse
gas emissions. In particular, CCS has a range of applications, not just in the power
generation sector, and may be an important technology in other industrial
processes for which there are few other alternatives for reducing emissions.
What do people think?
stakeholders, including industry groups such as the Minerals Council of
Australia, have welcomed the Bill as it would allow the CEFC to take a more
technology-neutral approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, as well as help
overcome financial obstacles for some CCS projects.
stakeholders, particularly conservation organisations, are opposed to the Bill
on the basis that allowing the CEFC to finance CCS would not be consistent with
its original purpose, particularly if it were to fund CCS associated with coal
fired power generation. A related concern was that CEFC funds could be diverted
from renewable energy projects.
such as the Australia Institute, have suggested that CCS technologies have
already received considerable amounts of government funding, with little result
in terms of reduced greenhouse gas emissions or operational CCS projects.
key issue is whether the CEFC is an appropriate vehicle to fund CCS projects
and whether CCS projects would in any case meet the CEFC’s commercial
requirements, including the benchmark rates of return required by the CEFC’s
current investment mandate.
The purpose of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation
Amendment (Carbon Capture and Storage) Bill 2017 (the Bill) is to amend the Clean Energy
Finance Corporation Act 2012 (CEFC Act) to remove the
prohibition on the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) investing in carbon
capture and storage (CCS) technologies.
What is the
Clean Energy Finance Corporation?
The Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) is a
Commonwealth statutory authority established in 2012 under the CEFC Act.
The object of the CEFC Act and the CEFC is to facilitate increased flows
of finance into the clean energy sector.
The CEFC manages a $10 billion fund which co-finances and invests
in clean energy technologies, that is, renewable energy, low‑emission
and energy efficiency technologies.
The CEFC was originally intended to supplement the former carbon pricing
The CEFC Board has statutory responsibility
for decision-making and managing the CEFC's investments. The CEFC Act
requires investments by the CEFC to be ‘complying investments’, which are
investments that are in ‘clean energy technologies’; solely or mainly
Australian-based; and not in a prohibited technology.
While the Board operates and makes its
investment decisions independently of government, the CEFC must also comply
with an investment mandate, which is issued by the responsible Ministers to give guidance to the
CEFC. The investment mandate must not be inconsistent with the CEFC Act
and must not require the CEFC Board to make any particular investment.
The Coalition Government has attempted to abolish the CEFC
several times since 2013, but two abolition Bills were rejected by the Senate,
while a third abolition Bill lapsed in April 2016.
The plan to abolish the CEFC has since been abandoned. Instead, the Government
has issued new investment mandates to the CEFC, directing the CEFC to focus on emerging and innovative renewable energy technologies and energy efficiency,
such as large‑scale solar, storage, offshore wind and energy efficiency
in the built environment.
In addition, in March 2016, the Government
announced the creation of a new Clean Energy Innovation Fund (CEIF) which was initially allocated $100 million annually for ten years,
funded out of the CEFC’s $10 billion allocation. The CEFC makes final approval
decisions in relation to the CEIF, which is operated in consultation with the
Australian Renewable Energy (ARENA).
The CEIF provides loans to businesses rather than grants, and ‘targets
technologies and businesses that have passed beyond the research and
development stage, but are not yet established or of sufficient maturity, size
or otherwise commercially ready to attract sufficient private sector capital’. The funding available specifically
for the CEIF has since been reduced to $200 million in total, apparently to
‘avoid an unintended increase in overall public resources available to ARENA’.
The Government has also directed the CEFC to
make up to $1 billion of investment finance over ten years available each to a Sustainable Cities Investment Program and
a Reef Funding Program.
carbon capture and storage technology?
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is the capture, transport
and storage of carbon dioxide (CO2) from industrial processes, such
as coal- and gas-fired power generation or processes such as cement manufacturing,
steel processing and oil refining. CCS involves three distinct stages: capture
of CO2, transport to a storage site and injection and long-term
storage of the gas underground. CCS can be potentially incorporated into new
facilities or retrofitted to existing plants.
The key aim is to prevent large amounts of CO2
from being released into the atmosphere and hence to reduce greenhouse gas
emissions which contribute to climate change.
The potential role of CCS in reducing greenhouse emissions and meeting
international climate commitments has been acknowledged by both the
International Energy Agency (IEA)
and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
However, the Climate Change Authority (an
independent statutory authority which provides advice to the Australian
Government) considers that ‘while the individual aspects of the CCS chain have
been proven to be technologically feasible, there are few demonstration
projects around the world and it has yet to be proven commercially’.
In addition, while CCS can reduce emissions by 85 per cent or more, the process
of capturing CO2 emissions also both increases the cost and reduces
efficiency of power generation:
CCS increases the cost of electricity from fossil fuel
generation, due to the additional equipment and operational cost involved, and
because it requires a significant amount of power to run, reducing the
available output from the generator.
Nevertheless, CCS may still have a role to play in
reducing greenhouse gas emissions:
In the future, using CCS in conjunction with bio-energy
(BECCS) could enable the drawdown and storage of emissions already in the
atmosphere (a ‘negative emissions technology’), which could support efforts to
limit warming to 1.5 degrees. CCS could also help reduce emissions from
industrial processes, such as in the production of cement, iron and steel.
Note that in some instances, CO2 may be
captured and put to some other use, rather than long term storage underground.
For example, in the Netherlands, CO2 from a refinery is captured,
transported and used in nearby greenhouses.
However, this appears to be unusual, with most CCS involving some form of
storage in geological formations.
There are currently 17 large-scale CCS projects operating
globally across a range of applications, including coal‑fired power
generation and steel manufacturing.
Many of these are in North America, and most involve using the captured CO2
oil recovery (whereby captured CO2 is injected into oil
reservoirs to enhance oil recovery), rather than dedicated geological storage.
Only two coal-fired power stations with CCS are currently operational: Boundary
Dam in Canada and Petra
Nova in the United States (and both involve enhanced oil recovery).
Other operational projects apply CCS to industrial processes, including natural
gas processing and fertiliser production.
In Australia, CCS has received funding support from the
Commonwealth government since at least 2003. The Cooperative Research
Centre for Greenhouse Gas Technologies (CO2CRC) was established
in 2003, as part of the Australian Government Cooperative Research Centres
(CRC) program, to investigate CCS technologies and options for Australia. Other past Commonwealth funding
programs include the former Low Emissions Technology Demonstration Fund
(established in 2005);
and the CCS Flagships program, established in 2009 to
support large-scale CCS projects in Australia.
More recently, in 2015, the Commonwealth Government
announced a new $25 million CCS Research Development and Demonstration Fund. In August 2016, the Australian
Government announced grants of $23.7 million to seven applicants under this
According to the Minister for the
Environment and Energy Josh Frydenberg, more than $590 million in government
financial support has been provided to CCS projects since 2009.
Examples of CCS projects currently under development or in
operation in Australia include:
- the Gorgon Carbon Dioxide Injection Project,
currently under construction in Western Australia by Chevron Australia. The
Gorgon Project involves the development of two gas fields and the Injection
Project proposes to separate CO2 from the natural gas stream prior
to gas processing and inject up to four million tonnes of CO2 each
year into a deep reservoir for underground storage. This CO2 does
not come from combustion, but exists naturally as part the extracted gas.
Usually, CO2 contained in reservoir gas is vented to the atmosphere,
so this deep injection represents a foregone emission. The gas processing plant
is in the final stages of commissioning and CO2 injection is
expected to commence shortly
Otway research facility, a demonstration project in
Victoria capturing CO2 from a gas field. The CO2 is then piped to a depleted gas field and a saline aquifer for storage
- the South
West Hub in Western Australia, which has been
evaluating the feasibility of a geological formation south of Perth as a deep
underground CO2 storage site.
The project was selected in 2011 to receive federal government funding under
the (now closed) CCS Flagships program
- the CarbonNet Project, which is investigating the
potential for establishing a commercial scale CCS network in the Latrobe Valley
that would involve multiple CCS projects transporting CO2 via a
shared pipeline and injecting it into deep offshore underground storage sites
Surat Basin CCS Project, operated by a subsidiary of Glencore. The Project is
still in feasibility stage, but aims to demonstrate the viability of CCS in the
Surat Basin of Queensland, and will involve the injection and monitoring of CO2
from nearby coal fired power stations.
In August 2016, this project received a grant of nearly $9 million under the CCS
Research Development and Demonstration Fund.
Discontinued Australian CCS projects include
the Callide Oxyfuel Project in Queensland, a demonstration
project in which CCS technology was fitted to an existing coal-fired power
station. The project closed in March 2015.
of Bills Committee
The Senate Selection of Bills Committee has deferred its consideration
of whether the Bill should be referred to any committees for inquiry.
Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills
The Senate Scrutiny of Bills Committee had no comment on
position of non-government parties/independents
The Australian Labor Party (Labor) is opposed to the Bill.
Labor has indicated that it is not opposed to CCS, but rather ‘has been a
strong supporter of carbon capture technology for many years’.
However, when changes to allow the CEFC to invest in CCS were first flagged by
the Government in February this year, Labor’s Shadow Minister for Climate and
Energy, Mark Butler indicated that Labor would strongly oppose such
legislation, which he considered would ‘fundamentally undermine the CEFC’.
When the Bill was announced, Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, responded on
Twitter to a related media article with a tweet saying ‘you’ve got to be
Mr Butler, along with Shadow Finance Minister Jim
Chalmers, subsequently described the Bill as a ‘hollow gesture’, noting that
the ‘Government is unable to point to any CCS projects that would meet the
strict commercial investment mandate of the CEFC—which can only invest in
projects that pay a commercial return’.
They pointed out that in 2014 the Government removed $460 of uncommitted funds
in the CCS
Flagships program, which is now closed to new projects and had supported
research and development in CCS technology.
They stated that ‘if the Turnbull Government was serious about seeing CCS
technology deployed commercially, they would first reinstate the research and
development funds they previously cut’.
Senator Nick Xenophon has reportedly stated that he has
‘real reservations’ about allowing the CEFC to invest in carbon capture and
storage technology and is concerned that if CEFC funding goes to a coal generator,
other projects will inevitably miss out.
Senator Xenophon’s preference would be for the government to focus on an
emissions intensity scheme for the electricity sector.
Rebekha Sharkie of the Nick Xenophon Team (NXT) has similarly stated that ‘I’d
be disappointed if the Clean Energy Finance Corporation was assisting to fund
clean coal, which I think is an oxymoron’.
The Australian Greens are opposed to the Bill, with climate
change and energy spokesperson Adam Bandt suggesting that ‘using money for
clean energy to fund a broken technology’ is ‘like pouring money from the
health budget into asbestos’. He has called for Labor and the Senate
cross-bench to reject the Bill.
At the time of writing, other non-government parties and
independents do not appear to have commented on the Bill.
major interest groups
and industry groups
The Minerals Council of Australia supports the Bill which
it considers ‘recognises the role our high-quality coal in helping curb
emissions’. It said if the Government's intention is to reduce emissions, there
needed to be a technology-neutral approach, which means ‘considering the
opportunity coal offers when utilising both high efficiency low emission (HELE)
and carbon capture and storage (CCS)’.
The Council said that CCS is a ‘real-world technology’ that ‘can reduce
greenhouse emissions by up to 90%’. It considered that including CCS in the
CEFC ambit ‘strengthens our capacity to lower emissions in the supply of
Energy Networks Australia welcomed the government’s
decision to allow the CEFC to fund CCS technology, describing it as ‘consistent
with a ‘technology neutral’ regulatory framework for achieving carbon
abatement’. Energy Networks Australia suggested that CCS technologies are not
‘pro-coal’ and that ‘CCS has the potential to support long-term carbon
abatement in major industries with significant carbon emissions, like metal
manufacturing, fertilisers and advanced manufacturing’.
The Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration
Association (APPEA) similarly welcomed the proposal, stating that ‘access to
CEFC financing could help overcome some of the capital and financing obstacles
facing some CCS projects’. APPEA suggested that ‘accelerating the roll-out of
CCS projects could assist in reducing emissions from the generation sector’.
APPEA further considered that ‘support for CCS projects is consistent with the
CEFC’s function to finance Australia’s clean energy sector using financial
products and structures to address the barriers inhibiting investment’.
The Business Council of Australia also welcomed the Bill,
suggesting that ‘removing arbitrary restrictions on CEFC investments in
potentially effective technologies like CCS will allow market participants to
determine the most effective technology to invest in’.
Conservation organisations have objected to the Bill, with
their primary concern appearing to relate to allowing the CEFC to invest in CCS
fitted to coal-fired power generation, rather than the application of CCS to
other industrial processes (as noted earlier in this Digest).
The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), for example,
has described the Bill as a ‘corruption of the original mandate of the CEFC’
and an ‘illogical backward step that will cost Australians jobs in renewable
energy and increase pollution’.
The ACF compared allowing the CEFC to invest in coal technology as ‘like
telling the health department to invest in tobacco’.
The Climate Council warned against enabling the CEFC ‘to
fund coal plants with carbon capture and storage’, describing it as ‘bizarre’
and a ‘waste of money’:
The CEFC was designed to invest in commercially sound
renewable energy and emissions reducing projects, and it should stay this way.
The CEFC have shown wind and solar plants provide a positive return on
investment as well as actually reducing emissions and creating jobs.
The Climate Council considered that ‘coal power plants
with carbon capture and storage are notoriously bad investments’ and that ‘diverting
renewable energy funds to coal projects is costly, will increase emissions, and
exacerbate climate change’.
The Australia Institute recently released a discussion
paper on CCS funding which suggests that since 2003 the federal government has
committed more than $3.5 billion, and distributed more than $1.3 billion, to
Despite this spending, the Australian Institute argued that there has been
little progress on CCS in Australia, and very few successful projects. In
particular, ‘there has never been an operational large-scale deployment of coal
with CCS in Australia’ and CCS is ‘likely to be more expensive than about every
other energy source’.
The Australia Institute considered that redirecting funds from commercial or
near-commercial clean energy towards CCS would be ‘throwing good money after
The CO2CRC (as noted above, the CO2CRC is now a private research
organisation dedicated to CCS) welcomed the Bill, stating that the proposed
change ‘is an important step forward for carbon capture and storage to become a
real option for industries such as cement, steel, oil, gas and coal to
significantly reduce their greenhouse emissions in Australia’.
The Global CCS Institute (GCCSI) applauded the move to
open CEFC investments to CCS, with their Chief Executive Officer describing it
as ‘an historical step towards a true low-carbon energy future in Australia’.
The Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering
(ATSE) does not appear to have commented directly on the Bill, but recently
published an action statement on CCS. The statement recommends, among other
matters, that the Australian government should ‘lead the effort to build and
deploy a commercial-scale CCS demonstration plant within the next five years’
(while also legislating to limit emissions from power stations). At the same,
ATSE has recommended that Australia should ‘accelerate the application of CCS
to industrial processes globally’, particularly given the importance of iron, metallurgical
coal and LNG exports to the Australian economy.
The CEFC itself made a statement following the
announcement of the Bill. While noting that amendments to the CEFC Act
are ‘a matter for the Parliament’, the CEFC observed:
In addition to potential applications in the power sector,
CCS can also be used in the industrial sector to capture emissions from
chemical processes, as well as fugitive emissions. There are some industrial
processes for which there are currently very few alternatives to reducing
emissions, making CCS an important technology if these sectors are to achieve
deep cuts in emissions.
The majority of existing large-scale CCS projects globally
are in the industrial sector, including in natural gas, fertiliser, hydrogen,
and iron and steel making. In Australia, there are several industrial pilot CCS
projects either in operation or at a planning stage.
The CEFC made no direct comment on whether it would be
able to fund CCS projects if the prohibition were lifted, more generally observing:
The CEFC receives a steady flow of potential projects
relating to a diverse range of clean energy technologies. We are in a
continuous process of receiving and reviewing new project proposals and investing
in eligible commercial projects.
Through our investment activities, the CEFC continues to
support the development of a resilient, balanced and secure energy system in
Australia, through the deployment of eligible clean energy technologies across diverse
areas of the economy.
According to the Explanatory Memorandum, the Bill has no
In particular, the Bill will not have an impact on the funding available to the
CEFC and ‘does not alter the CEFC’s legislated appropriation or have the effect
of actually requiring the CEFC to invest in carbon capture and storage
Statement of Compatibility with Human Rights
As required under Part 3 of the Human Rights
(Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011 (Cth), the Government has assessed the
Bill’s compatibility with the human rights and freedoms recognised or declared
in the international instruments listed in section 3 of that Act. The
Government considers that the Bill is compatible.
Joint Committee on Human Rights
The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights considers
that the Bill does not raise human rights concerns.
What can the CEFC currently invest in?
To date, the CEFC has invested more than
$3.3 billion in eligible clean energy projects, with a total project value of
$8.3 billion, ‘while also delivering a positive return for the taxpayer’.
The CEFC Act requires investments by
the CEFC to be ‘complying investments’, which are investments that are in
‘clean energy technologies’; solely or mainly Australian-based; and not in a
Clean energy technologies are defined by
section 60 of the CEFC Act as energy
efficiency technologies; low‑emission technologies; and renewable energy
technologies. The CEFC must ensure that at least half of the funds invested on
or after 1 July 2018 are invested in renewable energy technologies. Section 62 currently prohibits
investments in technology for carbon capture and storage (CCS), nuclear
technology or nuclear power.
The Board has also established formal
guidelines, as required by the CEFC Act,
setting out the matters to which it will have regard in satisfying itself that
a technology is a ‘low emissions technology’.
These are discussed further later in this Digest.
As noted earlier in this Digest, the CEFC
must also comply with its investment mandate,
which is issued by the responsible Ministers to give guidance to the CEFC. The
investment mandate must not be inconsistent with the CEFC Act and must
not require the CEFC Board to make any particular investment.
investment mandate, issued in December 2016, requires the
Board to target an average return of the five-year Australian Government bond
rate +3 to +4 per cent per annum over the medium to long term as the benchmark
return of the portfolio.
However, the targeted rate of return is different for investments made under
the Clean Energy Innovation Fund, which is designed for ‘emerging clean energy technology
projects’ and ‘technologies that have passed beyond the research and
development stages but are not yet established or of sufficient maturity, size
or otherwise commercially ready to attract sufficient private sector
investment’. Under the Clean Energy Innovation Fund, the target average return
is at least the five-year Australian Government bond rate +1 per cent per annum.
The CEFC also formulates written investment
policies which outline its investment strategy, benchmarks and standards as well
as the risk management approach for the CEFC and its investments.
The Bill only contains one substantive provision, item
1, which amends section 62 of the CEFC Act. Paragraph 62(a) of
the CEFC Act currently prevents the CEFC from investing in ‘technology
for carbon capture and storage’. Item 1 of the Bill proposes to repeal
paragraph 62(a) of the CEFC Act in order to remove the prohibition on the
CEFC investing in CCS technology.
‘Carbon capture and storage’ is currently defined in paragraph
62(a) by reference to section 7 of the National Greenhouse
and Energy Reporting Act 2007 (NGER Act). Section 7 of the NGER
Act provides that CCS means:
storage of a greenhouse gas substance in a part of a geological formation
injection of a greenhouse gas substance into a part of a geological formation
for the purposes of such storage or
capture, compression, processing, offloading, transportation or piped
conveyance of a greenhouse gas substance, where the compression, processing,
offloading, transportation or piped conveyance is for the purposes of such
Note that this definition does not appear to cover the
capture and re-use of CO2 for other purposes (as discussed earlier
in this Digest). However, by repealing paragraph 62(a), the Bill will remove
any reference to CCS or any definition of CCS from the CEFC Act.
Would this enable
to the CEFC to invest in CCS?
The Bill does not mean that the CEFC will invest in
CCS technology; it simply removes the prohibition from the legislation and
provides the CEFC with the option to invest in those technologies. If the Bill
were passed, the CEFC could still only invest in any relevant CCS projects if
they met the other eligibility criteria for CEFC investments.
In the case of CCS, key criteria are currently set out in the guidelines for
‘low emissions technology’ and the CEFC investment mandate. These are discussed
in further detail below. However, note that both the CEFC investment mandate
and the low emissions technology guidelines could potentially be changed in the
future by the relevant Ministers (in the case of the investment mandate) or the
CEFC Board (in the case of the guidelines).
If the prohibition on investment in CCS technology is removed from the CEFC
Act, this leaves open the possibility of amendments to the guidelines and
mandate in the future, in order to facilitate CEFC investments in CCS
technologies. However, the guidelines and mandate must still be
consistent with the CEFC Act, and in particular, the investment mandate must not require the CEFC Board to make any
emissions technology guidelines
In particular, any proposed CCS project would need to
qualify as a ‘low emissions technology’. Subsections 60(4) and (5) of the CEFC
Act provide for the CEFC Board to make guidelines ‘setting out the matters
to which the Board will have regard in satisfying itself that a technology is a
The current guidelines
developed by the CEFC provide that low emissions technology includes activities
‘using, reducing, or eliminating existing fugitive greenhouse gas emissions’. However,
the low emissions technology must result in emissions that are ‘substantially
lower than the current average of the most relevant baseline for the activity
being undertaken’. In turn, to satisfy this test a proponent must demonstrate:
- that if the
technology is solely for electricity generation, it must achieve an emissions
intensity of less than 50 per cent of the existing generation system as
connected to the transmission network/grid, or where not connected to a grid,
less than 50 per cent of the emissions intensity of the baseline activity;
- that, if
otherwise, the technology achieves useful-life emissions at 50 per cent less
than the relevant current average baseline of the activity being undertaken; or
- that, for a
technology not solely for electricity generation that does not achieve the
useful-life emissions at 50 per cent less than the relevant current average
baseline of the activity being undertaken, the technology achieves (or has real
demonstrable ability to achieve) meaningful aggregate emission reductions and
other positive externalities.
The guidelines further provide that ‘the Board will
consider on a case by case basis the level of reduced emissions in ranking low
emissions technology investments against other investments the CEFC may make’.
Whether any particular CCS project would meet the current
guidelines would depend on the nature of the particular project, including the
percentage of emissions actually captured by the project. While CCS can
potentially reduce emissions by large amounts,
certain CCS projects may only capture some emissions. For example, in the
Callide Oxyfuel project (mentioned earlier in this Digest), CCS technology was
fitted to only one of four boilers at the Callide A power station, meaning it only
reduced emissions from a fraction of the power station as a whole.
In addition to meeting the guidelines in relation to low-emission
technologies, CCS projects would also need to meet the benchmark rates of
return set out in the CEFC investment mandate (as outlined earlier in this
Digest). Several industry groups considered that access to CEFC financing would
help to overcome ‘capital and financing obstacles facing some CCS projects’.
Similarly, the Minister in his second reading speech suggests:
Access to finance is one of the barriers to investment in CCS
technologies. This change will provide direct support for CCS technologies,
encourage greater private sector investment and reduce risk for potential
However, several commentators have queried whether CCS
project would be able to meet the rates of return currently required for CEFC
Some commentators have suggested that ‘given the poor economics of CCS
technology, it is difficult to see how the CEFC can provide finance for any
such projects and meet the government’s benchmark returns’.
The cost and commercial viability of any particular CCS
project would depend on the particular location and application, including the
capture method, whether CCS is being retrofitted to an existing plant or
incorporated into a new build, and the distance which CO2 may need
to be transported to a suitable storage site.
Nevertheless, the Minister for the Environment and Energy
has suggested, based on a report
by the CO2CRC, that retrofitting CCS to existing coal and gas fired power
stations is economically viable and competitive with solar photovoltaics.
In contrast, critics of the Bill suggest that CCS is prohibitively expensive,
and in the case of power generation, is not cost‑competitive with renewable
energy such as wind or solar photovoltaics.
The role of
CCS in reducing greenhouse gas emissions
In his second reading speech, the Minister stated that, by
widening the scope of emissions reduction technologies the CEFC can invest in,
the Bill will also ‘assist in achieving our emissions reduction targets more
The Minister further suggested that ‘CCS technology has been acclaimed by the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the International Energy
Agency (IEA) as critical to enabling the world to meet its emissions reduction
As discussed above, whether CCS is a cost-effective form
of emissions reduction has been questioned. However, as noted earlier in this
Digest, both the IEA and the IPCC have observed that CCS could play a role in
reducing GHG emissions and meeting commitments under the Paris Agreement.
The IPCC suggested in 2014 that without CCS, the cost of achieving a 2°C
outcome increases by 138 per cent by the end of this century.
The IEA has described CCS as ‘an essential part of the climate solution’
and a ‘crucial technology’ in reducing emissions to meet commitments under the Paris
In the Australian context, the recent review of the future
of the National Electricity Market led by the Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel,
reported that CCS can reduce emissions from power stations by around 85 per
cent (but reduce the efficiency of power generation by up to 25 per cent).
It can also reduce or even eliminate emissions from industrial processes.
In particular, as the CEFC itself has stated, for some industrial processes
there are currently very few alternatives for reducing emissions and CCS may
play a key role for those processes. In contrast, others suggest that CCS may
be useful ‘at the margin’ in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Finally, concerns have been expressed about the long-term
nature of CCS storage due to the potential for leakage of CO2 from
CCS storage sites. However, the IPCC found in 2005 that with careful site
selection and design, along with appropriate operation and monitoring, the risk
of leakage can be very low.
Nevertheless, as the CSIRO recently observed:
... there is also an ongoing perception that CCS promotes
continued use of coal and is unsafe due to CO2 leakage from reservoirs,
particularly onshore. Widespread consultation with stakeholders regarding the
safety of geological storage and continual community has been found to be
critical in overcoming these social licence barriers.
of the CEFC: should the CEFC invest in CCS?
Many of those opposed to the Bill point to the original
intent and purpose of the CEFC as being to increase flows of finance to the
clean energy sector, with many considering that CCS technologies are not
consistent with this original intent. As noted earlier in this Digest, the
concerns of many of those who have expressed opposition to the Bill appear to
revolve around allowing the CEFC to invest in CCS fitted to coal-fired power
generation: many argue that that ‘clean coal’ is not ‘clean energy’. The
Climate Council argues, for example, that ‘clean coal’ is a misnomer and that
‘no matter how efficient a coal-fired power station is, it is always
However, as noted earlier in the Background to this
Digest, CCS can also involve capturing the emissions from other forms of power
generation (such as gas) as well as industrial processes: this is known as industrial
Some commentators are concerned that industrial CCS has been ‘largely ignored’
as a result of the focus of debate on CCS and ‘clean coal’.
Many consider that CCS has a valuable role to play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions
from these processes. Indeed, as noted earlier in this Digest, the CEFC itself
has noted that ‘there are some industrial processes for which there are
currently very few alternatives to reducing emissions, making CCS an important
technology if these sectors are to achieve deep cuts in emissions’.
At the same time, the Global CCS Institute considers that ‘the longevity of
Australia’s coal industry in the face of aggressive climate targets depends on
A related concern is that allowing the CEFC to invest in
CCS would displace funding available for renewable and other clean energy projects.
The CEFC is currently required to invest at least half of its funds in
renewable energy technologies. The remainder is available for low-emission and
energy efficiency technologies, and it is possible (noting the other
requirements discussed earlier), that this remainder could be used for CCS
rather than other alternatives.
However, the Minister for the Environment and Energy argues that the change
proposed by the Bill is consistent with a ‘technology-neutral approach’ to
energy and climate policy. He has also pointed out the CEFC is ‘not the renewable
energy finance corporation’ and ‘is explicitly encouraged under part six of the
Act to also invest in energy efficiency and low emission alternatives’.
CEFC is also a corporate Commonwealth entity under the Public Governance,
Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA Act).
. Clean Energy
Finance Corporation Act 2012 (CEFC Act), section 3.
sections 58 and 60.
Memorandum, Clean Energy Finance Corporation Bill 2012, p. 7.
Act, subsection 59(2).
section 67. Note that the investment mandate is NOT a disallowable instrument:
see paragraph 44(2)(b) of the Legislation Act
2003 and Regulation 9 of the Legislation
(Exemptions and Other Matters) Regulation 2015.
is, the Minister for the Environment and the Minister for Finance: see CEFC
Act, section 64 and the definition of ‘responsible Ministers’ in section 4.
Note that the Acts
Interpretation (Substituted References - Section 19BA) Amendment Order 2015
(No.1), substituted the reference to the Treasurer in the definition of
‘responsible Minister’ in the CEFC Act to the Minister for the
Act, section 65.
Energy Finance Corporation (Abolition) Bill 2013; the Clean
Energy Finance Corporation (Abolition) Bill 2013 [No. 2]; and the Clean
Energy Finance Corporation (Abolition) Bill 2014.
. Clean Energy Finance
Corporation Investment Mandate Direction 2016 (No.2), clause 13.
Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC), ‘Where
we invest: Innovation Fund’, CEFC website. ARENA was established under the Australian Renewable
Energy Agency Act 2011 in 2012 with funding to co-invest in projects
that improve the competitiveness of renewable energy technologies and increase
the supply of renewable energy in Australia: see further A St John, ‘What’s
happening with ARENA?’, FlagPost, Parliamentary Library blog, 19 September
we invest: Innovation Fund’, op. cit. See also Clean Energy Finance
Corporation Investment Mandate Direction 2016 (No.2), subclause 14(1).
committee: Budget Savings (Omnibus) Bill 2016’, Senate, Debates, 15
September 2016, p. 1193; see also Clean Energy Finance Corporation Investment
Mandate Direction 2016 (No.2), clause 4; St John, ‘What’s
happening with ARENA?’, op. cit.
cities investment program’, CEFC website.
funding program’, CEFC website; see also Clean Energy Finance
Corporation Investment Mandate Direction 2016 (No.2), clause 5.
further information see, for example, CSIRO, Carbon
capture and storage (CCS): frequently asked questions, CSIRO,
Australia, n.d.; Global CCS Institute (GCCSI), ‘Understanding
carbon capture and storage’, GCCSI website; CO2CRC, ‘What is CCS?’, CO2CRC
Energy Agency (IEA), Carbon
capture and storage: the solution for deep emissions reductions, IEA,
Paris, 2015; IEA, Energy technology
perspectives 2017, IEA, Paris, 6 June 2017, p. 364.
for example, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), ‘Summary
for policy makers’, Climate
change 2014: mitigation of climate change, Cambridge University Press, New
York, 2014, p. 15.
Change Authority (CCA), Towards
a climate policy toolkit: special review on Australia’s climate goals and
policies, CCA, Melbourne, August 2016, p. 103.
Campey, S Bruce, T Yankos, J Hayward, P Graham, L Reedman, T Brinsmead, J
emissions technology roadmap, CSIRO, Australia, June 2017, p. 49; see
also A Finkel, Independent
review into the future security of the National Electricity Market: blueprint
for the future, (Finkel Review), Department of the Environment and
Energy (DEE), Canberra, June 2017, p. 187.
a climate policy toolkit: special review on Australia’s climate goals and
policies, op. cit.
other possibilities, see IEA, Technology
roadmap: carbon capture and storage in industrial applications, IEA,
Paris, 2011; IPCC, Carbon
dioxide capture and storage, special report, IPCC, 2005.
roadmap: carbon capture and storage in industrial applications, op.
cit., p. 10.
‘Part 2: catalysing energy technology transformations’, Energy technology perspectives 2017,
op. cit., p. 38; GCCSI, ‘Large-scale
CCS facilities’, GCCSI website: ‘Large-scale’ integrated CCS facilities are
defined as facilities involving the capture, transport, and storage of CO2
at a scale of at least 800,000 tonnes of CO2 annually for a
coal-based power plant, or at least 400,000 tonnes of CO2 annually
for other emissions-intensive industrial facilities (including natural
gas-based power generation)—see: GCCSI, ‘Large-scale
CCS facilities: definition’, GCCSI website.
CCS facilities’, op. cit. See further, for example, IEA, Storing
CO2 through enhanced oil recovery: combining EOR
with CO2 storage (EOR+) for profit, IEA, Paris, 2015.
Dam carbon capture and storage’, GCCSI website, 20 June 2017; GCCSI, ‘Petra
Nova carbon capture’, GCCSI website, 20 June 2017.
CCS facilities’, GCCSI website; GCCSI, Global
status of CCS: special report: introduction to industrial carbon capture and
storage, GCCSI, Melbourne, June 2016; see also S Evans, ‘Around
the world in 22 carbon capture projects’, Carbon Brief website, 7 October 2014.
‘Our history’, CO2CRC
website. At the conclusion of its CRC funding in 2014, CO2CRC Limited was
established as a private research organisation to continue the research and to
focus on commercial adaptability of CCS.
Macfarlane (Minister for Industry, Tourism and Resources), $500
million low-emissions technology fund takes final shape, media release,
3 June 2005.
of Industry, Innovation and Science (DIIS), ‘Carbon
capture and storage flagships program’, DIIS website. The CCS
Flagships program’s initial funding was $2 billion (see, for example, P
Wong (Minister for Climate Change and Water), Budget
2009: Australian Government climate change strategy, media release, 12
May 2009). The program’s funding was scaled back progressively and the program
has now closed to new projects: see further A St John, ‘Changes
to energy and climate programs’, Budget review 2014–15, Research
paper series, 2013–14, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 2014 and K Swoboda and
S Power, ‘Clean
energy support’, Budget review 2016–7, Research paper series,
2015–16, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 2016.
Macfarlane (Minister for Industry and Science), New
support for carbon capture and storage research and development, media
release, 31 August 2015.
Canavan (Minister for Resources and Northern Australia), $23.7
million for carbon capture and storage, media release, 12 August 2016.
world can’t hit its Paris target without captured carbon’, Australian
Financial Review, 31 May 2017, p. 39.
author gratefully acknowledges the work of researcher Kate Loynes in preparing
background information for this section.
dioxide injection: world-class technology’, Chevron Australia website; GCCSI,
carbon dioxide injection’, GCCSI website, 20 June 2017.
to the DEE, Review of Australia’s climate change policies, 5 May 2017,
Otway Project’, GCCSI website, 2 March 2017; CO2CRC, ‘$100 million Otway
research facility’, CO2CRC website. As noted above, the CO2CRC is now a
private research organisation.
of Mines and Petroleum (WA) (DMP), ‘South West Hub
Project’, DMP website; GCCSI, ‘South West Hub’,
GCCSI website, 14 September 2016.
capture and storage flagships program’, op. cit.
of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (Victoria) (DEDJTR), ‘The
CarbonNet Project’, DEDJTR website; GCCSI, ‘CarbonNet’,
GCCSI website, 19 September 2016.
Surat Basin CCS Project’, GCCSI website, 26 August 2016.
million for carbon capture and storage, op. cit.
Oxyfuel Project’, CS Energy website.
Selection of Bills Committee, Report,
7, 2017, The Senate, Canberra, 22 June 2017; Senate Selection of Bills
8, 2017, The Senate, Canberra, 10 August 2017; Report,
9, 2017, The Senate, Canberra, 17 August 2017; Report,
10, 2017, The Senate, Canberra, 7 September 2017.
Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills, Scrutiny
digest, 6, 2017, The Senate, Canberra, 14 June 2017, p. 19.
Butler (Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy), Industry
has no faith in Turnbull to solve energy crisis, media release, 31 May 2017;
see also M Butler (Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy), Government’s
latest energy stunt, media release, 30 May 2017.
Frydenberg flags changes to allow CEFC to invest in carbon capture and storage’,
ABC News website, 20 February 2017; M Butler (Shadow Minister for Climate
Change and Energy), Clean
energy to support coal, not going to happen, media release, 20 February 2017.
Shorten (@billshortenmp), ‘You've got to be kidding ...’, tweet, 30 May 2017, https://twitter.com/billshortenmp/status/869412442526199808.
Butler and J Chalmers, Labor
opposes amendments to CEFC, media release, 13 June 2017; see also
Frydenberg flags changes to allow CEFC to invest in carbon capture and storage’,
op. cit.; Butler, Clean
energy to support coal, not going to happen, op. cit.
and Chalmers, Labor opposes amendments to CEFC, op. cit.; see also St
to energy and climate programs’, op. cit.; DIIS, ‘Carbon
capture and storage flagships program’, DIIS website.
and Chalmers, Labor opposes amendments to CEFC, op. cit.
Xenophon reluctant to back Coalition plan for CEFC to fund carbon capture’,
The Guardian, (online edition), 31 May 2017; K Murphy, ‘Nick
Xenophon says he has “real concerns” about CEFC investing in “clean” coal’,
The Guardian, (online edition),
22 February 2017.
Butler (Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy), Radio
interview: ABC Adelaide, Super Wednesday: Oakden, CEFC, Finkel Review, EIS,
transcript, 31 May 2017.
Bandt (Australian Greens), Greens
slam govt's proposal for CEFC to fund coal, media release, 30 May 2017.
Evans (Executive Director of Coal, Minerals Council of Australia), Government
takes balanced view with low-emission strategy, media release, 30
Networks Australia, CCS
funding decision levels the playing field for carbon abatement options,
media release, 30 May 2017.
Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA), Gas
industry welcomes support for carbon capture and storage support, media
release, 30 May 2017.
Council of Australia, Statement
on the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, media release, 30 May 2017.
Conservation Foundation (ACF), CEFC
investing in fantasy coal technology is like smoking to reduce cancer,
media release, 30 May 2017.
Government diverting clean energy funds to coal bizarre, media release,
30 May 2017.
Browne and T Swann, Money
for nothing, Discussion paper, The Australia Institute, Canberra, May
2017, pp. 1, 10.
pp. 2, 3.
legislation to support financing of CCS, media release, 30 May 2017.
leading authority on carbon capture and storage applauds Government CEFC
investment decision, media release, 30 May 2017.
Academy of Technology and Engineering (ATSE), Deep
reductions in emissions using CCS, Energy action statement, ATSE, June
from the CEFC regarding proposed changes to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation
Act, media release, 30 May 2017.
Memorandum, p. 1.
Statement of Compatibility with Human Rights can be found at page 2 of the
Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill.
Joint Committee on Human Rights, Human
rights scrutiny report, 5, 2017, 14 June 2017, p. 49.
from the CEFC regarding proposed changes to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation
Act, op. cit.
Act, subsection 59(2).
provided for in subsection 60(4) of the CEFC Act.
Act, section 67. Note that the investment mandate is NOT a disallowable
. Clean Energy Finance
Corporation Investment Mandate Direction 2016 (No.2), clause 7.
clause 7 and subclause 14(1).
Act, section 68. These policies must be consistent with the Investment
Mandate (subsection 68(2)). The current investment policies are available on
the CEFC website: CEFC, ‘About us: investment
policies’, CEFC website.
also that expressions used in this definition are to have the same meaning as in
Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006. Section 7 of that Act
defines greenhouse gas substances, and also defines ‘geological formation’ as
including ‘any seal or reservoir of a geological formation; and any associated
geological attributes or features of a geological formation’.
further CEFC Act, sections 59–60; CEFC, Complying
investments and guidelines, CEFC, Sydney, n.d.; and CEFC, CEFC
investment policies, CEFC, Sydney, 2016.
Act, subsections 60(4) and (5) and section 64.
investments and guidelines, op. cit., p. 3.
Review, op. cit., p. 187.
Energy, op. cit.
reading speech: Clean Energy Finance Corporation Amendment (Carbon Capture and
Storage) Bill 2017’, House of Representatives, Debates, 31
May 2017, p. 5.
for example, G Parkinson, ‘Coalition
tries to push CEFC into carbon capture and storage’, RenewEconomy,
30 May 2017; P Hannam, ‘Captured?:
why getting the green bank to look at CCS is not so whacky’, Sydney
Morning Herald, (online edition), 30 May 2017.
tries to push CEFC into carbon capture and storage’, op. cit.; see also
Why getting the green bank to look at CCS is not so whacky’, op. cit.; M
Ludlow and B Potter, ‘“Clean
coal” too costly for CEFC mandate’, Australian Financial Review,
21 February 2017.
for example, CO2CRC, Australian
power generation technology report, CO2CRC, Melbourne, 2015, pp. vii, 179–201.
world can’t hit its Paris target without captured carbon’, op. cit., p. 39;
CCS to Coal: enhancing Australia’s energy security, CO2CRC, Melbourne,
2 March 2017, p. viii; see also, for example, S Long, ‘“Clean”
coal-fired power will not work: industry insider’, ABC News website, 19
for example, The Australia Institute, op. cit., p. 27; Climate Council, Factsheet:
10 basic electricity facts to help you navigate the Finkel Review, Finkel
Review fact sheet, Climate Council, June 2017; Climate Council, Clean
coal: briefing paper, Climate Council, Sydney, June 2017, p. 4.
‘Second reading speech: Clean Energy Finance Corporation Amendment (Carbon Capture
and Storage) Bill 2017’, op. cit.
climate agreement, countries have agreed to hold the increase in global
temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels: Paris Agreement,
done in Paris on 12 December 2015,  ATS 24 (entered into force for
Australia on 10 December 2016), article 2. Australia has committed to reduce
greenhouse gas emissions by 26–28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030:
Australian Government, Australia’s
intended nationally determined contribution to a new climate change agreement,
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, New York, August 2015.
for policy makers’, Climate
change 2014: mitigation of climate change, op. cit., p. 15.
capture and storage: the solution for deep emissions reductions, op.
Energy technology perspectives 2017,
op. cit., p. 364.
Review, op. cit., p. 187.
coal”, CCS and CSG will not save fossil fuels: their game is up’, The
Guardian, (online edition), 3 March 2017.
IPCC Special Report on Carbon dioxide capture and storage, 2005,
Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 244–246.
Low emissions technology roadmap, op. cit., p. 201.
10 basic electricity facts to help you navigate the Finkel Review, op.
cit., p. 5; Climate Council, Clean coal: briefing paper,
op. cit., pp. 1–2; see also, for example, B Potter, ‘Why
coal won't wash’, AFR Weekend, 3 February 2017.
further, for example, GCCSI, ‘Industrial
CCS’, GCCSI website; U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil
Energy, ‘Carbon capture and
storage from industrial sources’, DOE website.
for example, A Martinez Arranz, ‘The
“clean coal” row shouldn’t distract us from using carbon capture for other
industries’, The Conversation, 18 April 2017.
to the DEE, op. cit.
for example, The Australia Institute, op. cit., p. 3.
Act, subsection 58(3).
world can’t hit its Paris target without captured carbon’, op. cit., p. 39.
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