More than $2 billion for the Water for Australia Plan, a $2.4 billion boost for NBN services, and $20 billion to Rewiring the Nation, plus a significant number of energy initiatives, are among the funding that has been committed in the 2022-23 Federal Budget, ahead of a predicted 50 per cent increase to consumer energy costs by 2024.
The Federal Government’s self-described ‘restrained’ budget, the first to be delivered under recently-appointed Federal Treasurer, Jim Chalmers, will allocate $2 billion to its Water for Australia Plan and dedicate $2.4 billion to expanding the NBN.
The Water for Australia Plan will deliver over $1.1 billion toward new water infrastructure projects, with the remaining funds committed to delivering the Murray Darling Basin Plan in full.
The Boost Fibre and Fast Track the NBN Repair Job will see a four-year investment of $2.4 billion toward improving the NBN, facilitating the expansion of fibre networks and access speeds of up to one gigabit per second for about ten million homes by late 2026
Finally, the comparatively large investment in the Government’s new Rewiring the Nation plan will deliver $20 billion to transmission infrastructure and Renewable Energy Zones through conditional loans, in an effort to fast-track the nation’s transition to net-zero emissions. A further $1.9 billion will be committed to promoting regional participation in new and emerging energy industries.
Investment in the construction of new and upgraded water infrastructure, totalling $1.1 billion, will aim to improve long-term water security ahead of escalating risks attributed to climate change and population growth, these include:
- $600 million towards the Paradise Dam Improvement project in Queensland
- $107.5 million towards the Cairns Water Security – Stage 1 project in Queensland
- $3.5 million towards the Mount Morgan Water Supply project in Queensland
- $12.5 million towards groundwater improvement and water efficiency in the lower Burdekin, Queensland
- $11.5 million towards strategic planning for improving water security in Queensland
- $8.0 million in additional funding towards Big Rocks Weir in Queensland
- $100.0 million towards the Pipeline to Prosperity Tranche 3 projects in Tasmania
- $300.6 million towards the Darwin Region Water Supply – Stage 1 in the Northern Territory
- $7.1 million towards the Adelaide River Science project in the Northern Territory
- $23.0 million towards the Nyngan to Cobar Pipeline – Stage 1 in New South Wales
In addition, the Budget will commit over $60 million toward delivering the Murray Darling Basin Plan in full, though the Government claims “significant funding” was set aside for this project, the figures have not been released publicly due to commercial sensitivities.
Delivery of the Murray Darling Basin Plan will include:
- Delivering on the Murray-Darling Basin Plan’s commitment to returning water to the environment.
- $22.9 million to update the science to ensure the impacts of climate change are accounted for in managing Murray-Darling Basin water resources.
- $29.0 million to improve trust and transparency in Murray-Darling Basin water management, including metering and monitoring of water use.
- Restoring transparency, integrity and confidence in Murray-Darling Basin water markets
The 2022-23 Federal Budget’s $2.4 billion investment in the NBN is expected to expand full-fibre connectivity to an additional one-and-a-half million Australian residences.
Additionally, the investment will offer 30,000 low-socioeconomic households with twelve months of free NBN service to enable broader participation in remote work and learning.
A further spend of $1.1 billion will increase regional and rural connectivity to better support communities affected by natural divide, also contributing to bridging the digital divide between urban and rural areas, this funding will include:
- $400 million to expand regional mobile coverage and improve the resilience of communications systems
- $200 million for two further rounds of the Regional Connectivity Program, to improve connectivity in regional, rural and First Nations communities
- $30 million over three years to accelerate Australia’s agricultural sector through the On Farm Connectivity Program, to extend connectivity for farmers and their machinery, and grow Australia’s agribusiness
- $20 million for an independent national audit of mobile coverage to establish an evidence baseline to guide and better target future priorities
- a further $6 million over three years to extend the Regional Tech Hub to support better consumer awareness, connectivity literacy and trouble-shooting
The Government’s ambitious Rewiring the Nation plan will deliver billions of dollars in conditional loans to energy providers and facilitators, establish a national partnership between the territory, state and federal governments, and introduce several major reforms to the sector.
Significant reforms to the industry will be delivered in three separate policy commitments, including:
Rewiring the Nation
$20 billion in low-cost finance for the urgent upgrade and expansion of Australia’s electricity grid at lowest cost – to unlock new renewables, increase the security of the grid and drive down power prices. This includes more than $6 billion already announced to help build Marinus Link and VNI-West, which will unlock Tasmania’s Battery of the Nation and Victoria’s offshore wind and renewables industries.
Powering the Regions
Establishes the $1.9 billion Powering the Regions Fund, which will provide dedicated support to make sure traditional and new industries in regional Australia can harness the economic opportunities of decarbonisation. This Fund will support new jobs and long-term international competitiveness.
National Energy Transformation Partnership
Establishing for the first time an agreed national plan between the states, territories, and the Commonwealth to keep the lights on through Australia’s massive energy transformation. This includes delivering critical market reforms, supporting investments in the grid such as large-scale storage and transmission, and helping to make homes and appliances more energy efficient.
Federal Minister for Climate Change and Energy, Chris Bowen, said the Budget implements the Government’s Powering Australia plan and prioritises energy market reforms for long term reliability and affordability.
“This is Australia’s roadmap to delivering cleaner, more affordable energy to households and businesses – putting us on track to be a renewable energy superpower and ensuring we take advantage of the job and investment opportunities that have been missed for too long,” Minister Bowen said.
Investment highlights under the new commitments include:
- $1.9 billion to establish the Powering the Regions Fund which will support new jobs and the decarbonisation of emissions-intensive industries, and help ensure regional Australians drive Australia’s transformation into a renewable energy superpower
- $71.9 million to build a Hydrogen Hub in Townsville, to fast-track Australia’s green hydrogen industry and take the Albanese Government’s planned investments in regional hydrogen hubs to well over $525 million
- $62 million towards Skilling the Clean Energy Workforce, including financial support, assistance and mentoring to 10,000 New Energy Apprenticeships as part of a $100 million commitment over ten years
- $2.2 million towards developing a Guarantee of Origin Certificate scheme to allow markets to verify and value renewable electricity, hydrogen and green commodities
The Clean Energy Council’s Chief Executive, Kane Thornton, said the Budget reflected the new government’s commitment to a clean energy transition and deliver much-needed cost savings for energy consumers.
“This is the medium-to-long-term Federal Government expenditure that our industry has long called for,” Mr Thornton said
“Tonight’s announcements reveal a breadth and depth of commitment not seen before when it comes to successfully managing a fast and fair transition to renewable energy.
“Funding, like that announced last week under the Rewiring the Nation program to proceed with Marinus Link and for Clean Energy Finance Corporation funding for the Victoria-NSW KerangLink interconnector, enabling more clean, low-cost renewable energy and storage to power Australian homes and business is what will ultimately ease cost-of-living pressures.”
The Energy Efficiency Council (EEC) has welcomed the energy efficiency initiatives contained in the Federal 2022-23 October Budget.
The EEC said the measures are modest investments in reinvigorating Australia’s energy efficiency efforts but will play an important role in unlocking energy efficient investment in future years, by improving frameworks that help consumers make energy efficient choices.
EEC CEO, Luke Menzel, particularly welcomed the investment in energy efficiency upgrades for small and medium sized enterprises.
“Australia’s business and industry are hurting as high gas and energy prices take a toll. Smart energy management and efficiency can help cut energy bills right now, and this is an important down-payment,” Mr Menzel said.
However, the EEC said the task of industrial decarbonisation is enormous, and the forthcoming National Energy Performance Strategy will need to set an ambitious program of energy management for Australian businesses.
The National Reconstruction Fund and the Powering the Regions Fund – committed to in this Budget – will also play an important role in helping reinvigorate Australian manufacturing, and enable efficiency and electrification across the economy.
The EEC also welcomed other measures to support transitioning our energy system to being net zero-ready, including the deployment of community batteries, and investments in new energy system architecture.
Mr Menzel noted the foreshadowed Integrated System Plan review could uncover opportunities to harness demand-side measures in the energy system to accelerate the transition and reduce costs.
“Preparing our energy system for a net zero future is incredibly important, but we can be smart about where we put our money. Unleashing energy management to right-size our energy network investments will make every dollar go further, and reduce costs to consumers,” Mr Menzel said.
The Federal Government’s housing package also presents opportunities to champion energy efficiency to create healthy, comfortable homes for the most vulnerable in our communities.
“There’s 40,000 new homes in the pipeline which can be efficient, comfortable and affordable. We must use this opportunity to build new housing that not only lowers energy bills for occupants, but will protect their occupants against a changing climate,” Mr Menzel said.
Finally, the EEC said the Federal Government’s jobs and skills investments are part of a critical expansion of the workforce that will build our net zero transformation. These measures in the budget start the job of skilling up a new energy workforce that can build efficient, productive, low-emissions businesses – which is a core enabler of the net zero transition.