A Coalition-controlled committee says proposed changes to ARENA may be illegal. 

The Federal Government is seeking new regulations for the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) that would allow it to invest in more areas that the LNP favours, such as carbon capture and storage, soil carbon, and sustainable transport.

The government is relying on provisions within ARENA’s legislation that allow it to issue new regulations to support its policies. 

The new regulations are being reviewed by an oversight committee chaired by Liberal senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, who has written to Mr Taylor with some questions about whether expanding the functions of ARENA would be legally valid.

“From a scrutiny perspective, the committee is concerned that the instrument is expanding the remit of the ARENA beyond what was envisaged by parliament when the Act was passed. The committee notes that the object of the Act is to improve the competitiveness and supply of renewable energy in Australia,” the letter says.

The committee suggested to the energy minister that trying to change ARENA’s functions through regulations, even though they do not need to be approved by parliament, would not be the best way forward. 

The committee wants the Morrison Government to formally amend ARENA’s Act, which would need to win approval from both houses of parliament.

“The committee is concerned that the instrument deals with the significant matter of expanding the jurisdiction of the ARENA from investing in renewable energy technologies to programs relating to energy efficiency and low-emissions technology. Given the scope and impact of the measures, from a scrutiny perspective, it is the committee’s view that they are more appropriate for parliamentary enactment,” the letter says.

Senator Fierravanti-Wells also raised concerns about Mr Taylor’s plan not to consult with  relevant stakeholders, as he says the changes are minor enough that public consultation is not necessary.

“The committee considers that the measures provided for in the instrument are more than machinery in nature, given that they substantially expand the jurisdiction of the ARENA to invest public funds. As such, from a scrutiny perspective, it is the committee’s view that stakeholders and experts should have been consulted in relation to the instrument,” the letter adds.

Mr Taylor has until 1 July to respond to the letter.