Federal Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor has passed a number of regulations through parliament expanding the Australian Renewable Energy Agency’s (ARENA) investment to include carbon capture and storage (CCS).

The controversial energy source sees carbon dioxide captured from industrial processes and ensures it doesn’t move into the atmosphere. This typically occurs by pushing it underground into spaces where oil and gas have been withdrawn. It will now form part of the agency’s remit.

ARENA’s new investment plan will be announced in full on Thursday. Taylor says the agency’s investments must move beyond just renewable energy and accommodate already existing energy sources and help them drive down emissions with new technologies.

“There is no silver bullet, and restricting ourselves from exploring opportunities for innovation will limit our – and the world’s – prospects of success,” he says in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald.

“That’s why I recently enacted regulations to expand ARENA’s mandate, enabling the agency to work across new sectors and technologies.” 

The Morrison Government aims to work in partnership with the private sector to invest in and introduce lower emissions technologies. After initially vetoing the changes to ARENA’s remit, the Greens and Labor parties were unable to prevent the bill from passing in the upper house, losing out by one vote. The two parties believe the money invested in CCS technologies should be directed towards public infrastructure as opposed to private sector fossil fuel entities.

ARENA CEO, Darren Miller, says the agency’s new investment plan looks to aid the introduction of new, emission reducing technologies.

“To get to net zero, we need to invest today in the technologies that are going to transform our energy system,” he says.

“As these are new areas for ARENA, we’ll be consulting with industry and researchers to develop our approach to these technologies.

“We need to utilise Australia’s abundant sun and wind resources to produce, use and supply renewable energy. We need to optimise this transition through energy storage, large-scale grid integration, flexible demand and further reducing the cost of solar and wind.”

The plan includes five priority technologies that the agency will invest within, including soil carbon sequestration on farmland, green steel and aluminium, energy storage to back up intermittent supply from renewables, hydrogen produced from gas or renewables, and CCS. 

Established by the Labor government in 2012, ARENA’s mandate is to invest in renewable energy technology that has the ability to compete with coal and gas. Since its inception, the agency has delivered $1.8 billion to over 600 renewable energy projects. $1.62 billion has been allocated towards the agency by the federal government, which will be utilised over the next decade.