Electric vehicles have largely been snubbed in a federal budget which has delivered billions of dollars in funding for new roads, and will also fund the construction of new diesel fuel storage infrastructure,.
The Morrison government rebuffing calls to support a clean energy led economic recovery, and the federal budget handed down by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on Tuesday night, which the government has touted as an infrastructure budget, included a substantial commitment to invest in new transport infrastructure.
At the heart of the Morrison government’s spend on transport is a $7.5 billion package that will fund new major road and rail links, as well as upgrades to key highways.
But it offers little in terms of support for establishing new zero-emissions transport networks in Australia, and it appears there is no new funding directed to support the roll out of electric vehicle charging networks, or establishing the infrastructure required to support the uptake of hydrogen transport.
In a very small nod to the electric vehicle sector, the government has allocated $5 million to fund the creation of an ‘advanced manufacturing facility’ in South Australia, for the assembly of electric vehicles and which also includes funding of a trial of vehicle-to-grid charging and energy storage.
This funding amount is dwarfed by other commitments for roads and liquid fuels, including a $250 million commitment from the Morrison government to build Australia’s liquid fuel capacity, which will see $203 million spent on new diesel fuel storage capacity.
The federal budget also confirms that the Morrison government will spend $94 million in oil, currently being stored in the United States Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which is supposed to boost Australia’s emergency fuel supplies.
The $5 million in funding for electric vehicles is also likely to be less than half the funding allocated for upgrades to the ageing Vales Point coal fired power station.
Virtually all of the new infrastructure spend will be directed to building new roads, including $560 million for the Singleton Bypass on the New England Highway in New South Wales, $528 million for the Shepparton and Warrnambool Rail Line Upgrades in Victoria, $750 million for Stage 1 of the Coomera Connector in Queensland and $120 million to upgrade the Carpentaria Highway in the Northern Territory.
The investments will also be directed towards keeping Australians using their own cars, and the $7.5 billion package offers no funding for any major public transport projects.
“We have been working closely with state and territory governments to invest in the infrastructure that is ready to go and can help rebuild our economy and create more jobs,” prime minister Scott Morrison said.
“These projects will keep commuters safe on the road, get people home to their loved ones sooner and provide better transport links for urban and regional communities.”
However, the measures have attracted the ire of environmental groups, which say the budget is a missed opportunity.
“Instead of wasting more public money on the dying gas industry and resisting global trends to ditch fossil fuels, the Morrison Government should be supporting infrastructure that boosts the supply of renewable energy, which is already the cheapest source of new-build power and prices are still falling,” Greenpeace Australia Pacific Program Director, Kate Smolski said.
It appears the only funding that the Morrison government has offered new zero-emissions transport technologies is the previously announced $74.5 million Future Fuels Fund, set to be funded through allocations provided to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, which will be spread across electric vehicles, as well as hydrogen and biofuels.
But it is unknown when this funding will be allocated, and which technologies will share in the funding.
ARENA has generally sought to support the emergence of electric vehicles in Australia, and a $1.4 billion allocation to boost to ARENA’s funding over the next ten years will likely help support the growth of the electric vehicle and hydrogen transport sectors.
Michael Mazengarb is a journalist with RenewEconomy, based in Sydney. Before joining RenewEconomy, Michael worked in the renewable energy sector for more than a decade.