The federal Coalition government says it has allocated $74 million for a “Future Fuels Fund” that will enable more infrastructure and remove “blackspots” for regional charging and refuelling, including both hydrogen and EVs.
The funding was announced as part of a $1.9 billion “low emissions” funding package, including a 10-year funding agreement for the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, which will manage the Future Fuels Fund.
The funding package comes as the government seeks to turn ARENA and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation away from wind and solar, and into what it calls “low emission technologies”, including gas, hydrogen, and carbon capture and storage.
The funding package for “future fuels” follows the $211 million allocated earlier this week to supporting Australian oil refineries, and seeking to prevent any closures that could threaten Australia’s transport fuel security.
It included $200 million for diesel fuel storage and again, in that package, there was no mention of electric vehicle or EV charging infrastructure as a possible alternative to the fuel security issues.
In a media backgrounder distributed by the government on Thursday explaining the ARENA and low emissions technology funding, it said the Future Fuels Fund will “enable infrastructure and remove regional charging or re-fuelling blackspots through a competitive grants process.
“Regional charging and refuelling ‘blackspots’ will also be eligible for co-investment (e.g. hydrogen refuelling sites in regional areas).”
Australia only has few hydrogen fuel cell vehicles – mostly in the 20-strong fleet brought in by the ACT government. But they are currently grounded because Covid-19 restrictions means the country’s one public re-fuelling station is not yet operating.
We asked ARENA, which is managing the fund, whether any money would be allocated to electric vehicle charging stations as part of the future fuels package. ARENA said it could not answer the question and suggested we ask the minister.
It now turns out that the package will include EVs, and particularly for businesses looking to host EV charging facilities and who could be operating fleets of EVs.
This will include grants for businesses to upgrade the power supply to their premises to enable EV fast charging – and through that encouraging them to adopt battery electric vehicles.
It is understood that the government is looking at back-to-base fleets as one of the most promising opportunities for growth of commercial electric vehicles.
Electric Vehicle Council chief executive Behyad Jafari said the announcement was a welcome piece of progress.
“We know businesses are waking up to the many benefits of electrifying their fleets and these grants should be the incentive they need to break with combustion engine tradition,” Jafari said in a statement.
“If we want to make the benefits of electric vehicles accessible to all consumers we must take steps to stimulate a healthy market for used electric cars.
“Businesses tend to recycle their fleets every few years so if they are incentivised to purchase new electric vehicles today we should see them staring to appear in numbers on the used care market soon.”
Bioenergy Australia was also pleased.
“The Future Fuels Fund commitment, combined with the $211 million announcement on Monday to secure Australia’s long-term fuel supply including the creation of a market mechanism to support local refineries – if applied to renewable fuel sources such as renewable diesel, biodiesel, biojet fuel and bioethanol – could support the decarbonisation of our transport sector while securing our domestic fuel supplies and creating new job opportunities across the country,” it said in a statement.
“It’s a ‘one stone three birds’ opportunity.”
(Note: This story was updated after the government provided further information about the intent of the Future Fuels fund).