Environment and Energy

The Environment and Energy portfolio advises on and implements environment and energy policy that supports a range of environmental, social and economic benefits for regional Australia by protecting and improving the natural assets that communities rely on and ensuring reliable, affordable and sustainable energy.

Effective environmental management, including of our Commonwealth National Parks, Australian Marine Parks and World Heritage Areas, helps to protect the country’s most iconic natural destinations, Indigenous culture, unique ecosystems, biodiversity and threatened species. This supports continued growth in the tourism sector, which contributes more than $52.9 billion to the Australian economy each year. Much of this flows to regional economies and communities.

Australia’s energy system is transforming due to changes in technology, consumer preference and environmental factors. The Australian Government is taking action to ensure this transition occurs smoothly. Regional communities will benefit from Government investments in energy efficiency and new energy generation through lower energy bills and improved employment opportunities.

Under the National Landcare Program and other environmental programs, the Government is continuing its commitment to environment conservation and sustainable land management. These programs support communities across Australia to deliver on-ground projects that address national environmental, agricultural and Indigenous priorities and provide local and regional economic and social benefits.

The new Climate Solutions Fund provides a $2.0 billion investment to support Australian businesses, farmers and landholders to take practical and direct action to reduce emissions. Around 80 per cent of all contracted emission reductions purchased by the Government to date are from the land sector. Participants, including farmers, landholders and Indigenous communities, receive a stable diversified income stream, and incentives to implement new and better practices.

The Bureau of Meteorology provides world class essential weather information, forecasts and warnings Australia‑wide. The Bureau’s services support planning, risk management and decision making in many sectors of the economy including agriculture, aviation, construction, tourism, transport and mining.  During severe weather events such as drought and floods, the Bureau provides critical information to farmers and communities, helping affected Australians minimise damage to their livelihoods and help keep them safe.

The portfolio has a strong presence in regional Australia through the Department of the Environment and Energy, the Bureau of Meteorology, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the Director of National Parks.

As at 31 December 2018, the Environment and Energy portfolio employed 5144 staff under the Public Service Act. Of this total, 3436 staff (67 per cent) are employed in Canberra, central Melbourne and central Sydney, 812 staff (16 per cent) in other capital cities and 896 staff (17 per cent) in regional areas.

The portfolio’s footprint includes office locations such as Hobart, Brisbane, Townsville, Darwin and Kakadu, ensuring staff are close to the sites, communities and industries they support and protect.

New Initiatives

Practical Environment Restoration

The Australian Government is investing $137.4 over four years to support practical, on-ground action and mobilise communities to protect their local environment and reduce pollution, complementing current investment in the $1.1 billion National Landcare Program. The Clean Environment Package will deliver new actions to engage local communities in environmental protection to support recovery and recycling of waste, to protect coasts and coastal waterways from erosion and pollution, and prevent species from going extinct.

Australia’s iconic natural environment and heritage is part of our way of life. Australians, particularly those living in regional communities, have a strong connection to land. The Government’s investments in the environment will provide positive benefits to regional communities, including economic opportunities, improved health and community wellbeing.

The $28.3 million Communities Environment Program will help communities across Australia to improve their local environment, with $150,000 allocated to each federal electorate. Projects will support community group projects that deliver outcomes such as threatened species recovery, cleaning up local ecosystems and building community understanding on Indigenous knowledge and heritage.

The Government has committed $100.0 million to an Environment Restoration Fund. The Fund will mobilise community and natural resource management organisations, local councils and other groups to deliver projects that protect and remediate Australia’s environment. Projects will be targeted at improving water quality and managing erosion in coasts and waterways, supporting the recovery and recycling of waste and protecting threatened species and their habitats.

The Government is supporting the control of yellow crazy ants in the Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Site. These ants have devastating impacts on neighbourhoods, crops and biodiversity. The Government will provide $9.2 million over four years from 2019-20 to expand on-ground management activities and improve community awareness. The funding will provide economic benefits to the region by limiting the impacts of yellow crazy ants on local cane farmers, and protects our World Heritage Site.

Climate Solutions Package

The Government’s Climate Solutions Package invests $3.5 billion to improve the environment, reduce energy bills and encourage actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This package will go towards Australia achieving our 26 per cent emissions reduction target under the Paris Agreement.

The Government is investing an additional $2.0 billion to reduce greenhouse gases and purchase low-cost abatement through the Climate Solutions Fund, bringing total investment in Government purchasing of abatement to $4.55 billion. The Climate Solutions Fund builds on the Emissions Reduction Fund, creating positive incentives for Australians to adopt smarter practices and technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Since the start of Government contracting in 2014, $2.3 billion has been committed, involving 437 projects to deliver around 193 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emission reductions.

Regional Australia will benefit from the Climate Solutions Fund, with a large proportion of projects being outside capital cities. This includes projects that will allow native forests to regrow, store carbon in the soil and reduce methane emissions from the livestock industry. In addition to reducing emissions and diversifying income streams, these projects will have social, economic and environmental benefits. For example, through the Emissions Reduction Fund, farmers are using revenue generated through the sale of carbon credits to invest in new and innovative farm practices. Savannah fire management projects in Northern Australia deliver significant emission reductions and reduce late season wild bushfires. These projects improve the protection of cultural and environment values, allowing Indigenous people to remain living on country and actively manage important cultural sites.

The National Electric Vehicle Strategy will plan and manage the transition to new vehicle technology and infrastructure. The strategy will coordinate action across governments, industry and the community in both urban and regional areas to ensure Australians can get the benefits of the latest vehicle technology. The strategy will build on grants from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), finance from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC), and the work of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Transport and Infrastructure Council.  Increased uptake of electric vehicles will have significant benefits for Australians, including in regional areas. Benefits from increased electric vehicle uptake include improved air quality and public health, improved fuel security and reduced transportation costs.

The Government has committed $79.2 million to improving energy efficiency in the industrial, commercial and residential sectors. Improving energy efficiency will contribute to cost savings across the economy and will help lower energy bills for Australians, including those living in rural and regional communities.

Initiatives delivered by the Environment and Energy portfolio with this funding are:

  • the Energy Efficient Communities Program will provide $50 million in grants to eligible businesses and community organisations to help them save energy by either installing new equipment or by reviewing and improving their energy management;
  • the National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS) will be expanded to include more types of commercial buildings, such as schools, industrial buildings and retail stores. This will improve the energy efficiency of commercial buildings by allowing building owners to understand and benchmark their energy use;
  • investment in the Trajectory for Low Energy Buildings, broadening resources to help homes become more energy efficient, and reviewing the Commercial Building Disclosure Program to expand it to even more high-energy use buildings;
  • examination of options to apply Energy Rating Labels to heating appliances, allowing consumers to compare the running costs of different heaters and calculate potential savings.

Australia’s energy markets are undergoing a significant transition. As more variable renewable energy enters the system and ageing coal plants exit there is an increasing need to ensure there is enough dispatchable generation and adequate transmission infrastructure to maintain system security and reliability.

The Government is providing Snowy Hydro Limited with a $1.38 billion equity injection from 2019-20 to support the delivery of the Snowy 2.0 pumped hydro project. Snowy 2.0 will add 2,000 megawatts of energy generation capacity and provide 175 hours of storage for the National Electricity Market, enough to bolster the stability and reliability of the system during times of peak energy demand. In addition to lower electricity prices, regional communities will benefit from the creation of up to 5,000 direct and indirect jobs and supply of goods and services generated during construction of the Snowy 2.0 project.

The Government is supporting investment in network infrastructure by providing $56.0 million to the Tasmanian Government to fast track feasibility assessments for the MarinusLink project, a second interconnector to the mainland. This project will enable the development of Tasmania as the Battery of the Nation through electricity generation, storage and transmission. The Government is also working to establish a Priority Transmission Fund to support the delivery of projects identified in the Australian Energy Market Operator’s Integrated System Plan. This investment will enable quicker delivery of generation and transmission projects, reducing the risk of unplanned disruptions to consumers’ energy supply.

Reducing Power Prices

Added reliability and stability within the National Energy Market will place downward pressure on electricity prices, leading to lower power bills for Australians.

The Government has developed the Underwriting New Generation Investments program to support targeted investment in electricity generation that will lower prices and increase competition and reliability in the system. To secure energy affordability for commercial and industrial users, the Government will also provide $10.0 million over two years for a business case to identify viable locations for firm generation to meet customer needs in north and central Queensland.

The Government will establish a $50.4 million fund to support feasibility studies into the development of microgrids in regional and remote communities to deliver secure, reliable and affordable electricity.

The Government is providing $8.4 million to accelerate gas supply from the Beetaloo Basin in the Northern Territory. The funding will be used to conduct studies to assess the feasibility of developing new gas supply, support strategic environment assessments to inform potential development opportunities, and develop a strategy to ensure that economic development from increased gas activity benefits the local Indigenous community.

These new measures complement the $131.0 million over seven years from 2018-19 (and $10.1 million per year ongoing from 2025-26) under the Action Plan to Reduce Power Prices. The Action Plan will help Australians, including those in regional communities, get a better deal on their energy bills.

This includes funding to:

  • establish a default market offer and reference bill to help consumers get better energy deals;
  • provide support to small and medium businesses to get better energy deals and reduce their energy usage;
  • support the Energy Security Board to provide whole-of-market oversight for energy reliability, affordability and sustainability;
  • continue the national campaign to inform Australians about work being undertaken to deliver more affordable, reliable and sustainable energy system.

Securing the Future of the Jabiru Township

The Government has committed up to $216.2 million to transition the Jabiru Township and Kakadu National Park to a post-mining future by growing the tourism economy and regional presence. Kakadu is a place of significant ecological and biological diversity with over 200,000 visitors per year. The investment will ensure that Kakadu continues to be a world-class tourist destination that supports the local economy. The funding will focus on improving access and upgrading infrastructure at key visitor sites throughout Kakadu, remediating the Jabiru Township and relocating the Kakadu Visitor Centre into Jabiru.

The investment in Jabiru and Kakadu has significant benefits for the region, providing employment and economic opportunities for Traditional Owners to build on their vision for supporting tourism on their land.

Antarctic Infrastructure and Science

The Government is providing more than $450 million over ten years for additional capital expenditure on Australia’s Antarctic research stations. This investment supports the Hobart City Deal and is expected to create around 40 jobs in Tasmania. In addition, the Government is providing $7.6 million in 2018-19 for expediting a business case to construct a paved runway near Davis research station. The runway will support our scientific capabilities in Antarctica and enable international collaboration with other Antarctic nations.

The funding ensures critical functions that support Australia’s presence and scientific research activities in Antarctica are maintained, and Australia retains its influence in the Antarctic region. The Antarctic sector largely centres around the activities of the Australian Antarctic Division and represents a significant element of Tasmania’s knowledge‑based economy (including through employing and retaining staff in highly skilled jobs in scientific and research fields in Hobart, and local specialised service industries).

Bureau of Meteorology—Additional radars and rain gauges

The Government is providing $77.2 million over 23 years from 2019-20 to improve weather radar coverage in regional areas of Queensland and northern New South Wales. Funding will support the installation of new radars near Maxwelton, Oakey, Taroom and between Charters Towers and Hughenden; the relocation of a radar from Moree to Boggabilla in northern New South Wales; and the installation of rain gauges in the Burdekin and Flinders regions. The Government will also invest $15.4 million to provide for the installation of a new radar in Tennant Creek to address gaps in coverage in the Barkly region of the Northern Territory. The new radar is part of the Barkly Regional Deal with an additional co-contribution of $2.5 million from the Northern Territory Government.

The radars and rain gauges will provide real time information on rainfall, hail and dust storm events to enable communities and farmers to prepare for extreme weather events and make more informed decisions on how best to manage their land and businesses.

Bureau of Meteorology—Drought Assistance Package

As part of the Drought Assistance Package, the Government is providing $2.7 million over two years from 2018-19 to the Bureau of Meteorology to create localised weather intelligence guides to support farmers manage their land. The Guides will provide farms with information on the likelihood, severity and duration of key weather variable that affect the resilience of their businesses.

National Centre for Coasts, Environment and Climate

The Government will provide $25.0 million over four years from 2019 20 to Monash University and the University of Melbourne to establish a coasts, environment and climate science research and education centre at the Quarantine Station Precinct at Point Nepean, Victoria.

The Centre will be a world leading interdisciplinary research facility on marine and coastal ecosystems, climate science and environmental management. The centre will leverage its Point Nepean location and its existing capabilities as an integrated ocean and atmospheric observation site.

Current Initiatives

National Landcare Program

The Australian Government is investing around $1.1 billion over six years from 2017-18 in the next phase of the National Landcare Program. The Program is administered collaboratively by the Department of the Environment and Energy, the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Under the Regional Land Partnerships component, $450.0 million is allocated to protect, conserve and provide for the productive use of Australia’s water, soil, plants, animals and the ecosystems in which they live. Service Providers are working in partnership with communities to design and deliver on-ground environment and agriculture projects at a regional scale that support national priorities for natural resource management.

$15.0 million is also provided to expand Indigenous Protected Areas, in addition to $93.0 million to support existing Indigenous Protected Areas. This investment delivers benefits to our environment and our local communities by: safeguarding the biodiversity of the nation’s remote areas for present and future generations; protecting the cultural heritage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in their region; and providing employment, education and training opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in remote areas.

Great Barrier Reef 2050 Plan

The Great Barrier Reef is one of the world’s natural wonders, supporting tourism, fishing, recreation, traditional uses and research, and generating 64,000 jobs and $6.4 billion to the Australia’s economy each year. The Government is committed to addressing the challenges facing the reef through the Reef 2050 Plan, and this is supported by significant investment. The Governments’ investments are helping to protect and preserve the Great Barrier Reef and to maintain environmental health, sustainable agricultural practices and tourism activities in the Great Barrier Reef catchments.

The Government is investing more than $1.2 billion from 2014-15 to 2023-24 for initiatives such as water quality improvement, crown-of-thorns starfish control, science for reef restoration, community engagement and improved monitoring. This includes through the $443.3 million partnership with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, which will provide opportunities for collaboration and co-investment to help deliver actions under the Reef 2050 Plan. The Great Barrier Reef Joint Field Management Program is putting more field officers on the water, improving compliance, providing early warning of environmental stresses and strengthening reef and island management. Further to this, the Australian Government is funding clean energy projects in the Reef catchment area through the Clean Energy Finance Corporation’s $1 billion Reef Fund—this fund tackles the two biggest challenges—climate change and water quality.

National Environmental Science Program

The National Environmental Science Program assists decision‑makers to understand, manage and conserve Australia’s environment by funding world‑class biodiversity and climate science. The Program funding of $145.0 million over six years supports on‑ground scientific research across regional Australia delivered through six research hubs:

  • the Marine Biodiversity Hub is researching Australian oceans and marine environments, including temperate coastal water quality and marine species, based in Hobart;
  • the Northern Australia Environmental Resources Hub is supporting the sustainable development of our northern landscapes, based in Darwin.;
  • the Threatened Species Recovery Hub is supporting the recovery of threatened species and the management of threats, based in Brisbane;
  • the Tropical Water Quality Hub is researching coastal water quality and coastal management focused on the Great Barrier Reef and other tropical waters, based in Cairns;
  • the Clean Air and Urban Landscapes Hub is supporting environmental quality in urban areas, based in Melbourne;
  • the Earth Systems and Climate Change Hub is increasing our understanding of the drivers of Australia’s climate, based in Melbourne.

Director of National Parks

The Director of National Parks manages Australia’s six Commonwealth national parks, the Australian National Botanic Gardens, and Australia’s network of Australian Marine Parks. The Director of National Parks employs around 200 staff in regional Australia. The majority are located in and around Booderee, Kakadu and Uluru‑Kata Tjuta national parks in the Northern Territory, and in Hobart. There are also small offices in the remote locations of Norfolk Island, Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands.

In Kakadu, Uluru‑Kata Tjuta and Booderee national parks, the Aboriginal owners lease their land to be managed jointly with the Director of National Parks, to be protected as national parks to be enjoyed by all Australians. In addition to Aboriginal staff, trainees and apprentices, the parks provide service delivery agreements with local Aboriginal organisations and businesses. Trainee programs are designed to provide employment pathways for local people through on‑the‑job training in various aspects of park management, and the completion of nationally accredited certificates in conservation and land management.

The Government is providing $56.1 million over four years from 2016-17 to implement new management arrangements for Australian Marine Parks. The funding is supporting the commercial fishing sector to adjust to changes and provide more opportunities for engagement with recreational fishers, community groups and dive operators. It will promote local growth in tourism and protect our unique aquatic assets. This investment will have a positive impact on regional Australia through targeted investments that support local marine businesses and increase regional engagement in marine park management.

Commonwealth Water Functions—Commonwealth Environmental Water Office

The Commonwealth Environmental Water holdings are managed so that increased flows of water are provided to protect and restore water dependent ecosystems throughout the Murray-Darling Basin. The Government is providing ongoing funding from 2017-18, including $136.3 million over three years to 2019-20 to support the management of the Commonwealth’s environmental water holdings. As at 31 January 2019, a total of 8,848 gigalitres of Commonwealth environmental water had been delivered to rivers, wetlands and floodplains of the Basin, contributing to the sustainability and amenity of these unique regional landscapes. Early results of the long- term intervention monitoring program indicate that Commonwealth environmental watering has already made contributions to key environmental objectives in the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. This includes re-establishing populations of iconic fish species (including Murray Cod) following the millennium drought and supporting the completion of water bird breeding events at internationally important wetlands such as Barmah and Millewa Forests. The Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder has recruited six local engagement officers working within the Basin to assist members of the community participate in environmental water planning and decision-making.

Strengthening science underpinning regulation of Unconventional Gas and Large Coal Mining Development

The Department of the Environment and Energy continues to support the Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development, which provides advice to Australian governments on the water‑related impacts of coal seam gas and large coal mining development proposals. The Committee’s advice informs regulatory decisions made on development proposals located primarily in regional communities and contributes to the management of water resources including groundwater, surface water and species that depend on those resources.  

The Department is addressing critical gaps in the scientific understanding of impacts on water and the environment posed by developing coal and unconventional gas resources. This includes the $30.4 million commitment in the 2017-18 Budget to continue to deliver targeted geological and bioregional assessments in three regions in South Australia, Queensland and Northern Territory that are prospective for shale and tight gas development.

Australian Heritage Grants Program

The Government is providing an ongoing $5.3 million per year from 2018-19 through the flagship Australian Heritage Grants Program to support management of National Heritage places. The program will support management, conservation and promotion activities for places in Australia recognised for their natural, Indigenous or historic heritage values. Many of the eligible National heritage places are found in regional Australia. The program will support owners and managers of heritage places, along with community groups and other non-government entities, to protect and promote the heritage values for which places are listed.

Supervising Scientist

The Department, through the Supervising Scientist, ensures the protection of the people and the environment of the Alligator Rivers Region of the Northern Territory, including Kakadu National Park, from the effects of uranium mining. The Supervising Scientist’s work is based in Darwin and Jabiru in the Northern Territory with over 40 staff members, providing economic and social benefits to local communities.

For nearly 40 years the Supervising Scientist has been undertaking environmental research and monitoring, participating in and overseeing the regulatory process and developing standards and practices for environmental protection. The Department is currently utilising its environmental research and monitoring data to inform the closure and rehabilitation of the Ranger uranium mine, including the development of rehabilitation standards. Expertise within the Supervising Scientist area is also used to advise the Department on other environmental matters and outcomes relevant to northern Australia.

Clean Energy Finance Corporation

The Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) is working to mobilise capital investment in renewable energy, low emissions technology and energy efficiency in Australia through commercial loans, equity investments and limited loan guarantees. More than half of the CEFC’s investments support projects in regional Australia, including many in the agriculture sector. These projects include 20 large-scale solar projects across regional Australia, making the CEFC Australia's largest solar investor.

The CEFC and the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources are working together to support increase investment in the agribusiness sector. The CEFC has committed $100.0 million to the agricultural platform of Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets. This investment will contribute to on-farm energy efficiency and sustainability and the CSIRO will contribute expert analysis to enable clean energy learnings to be shared across the farming sector.

The Reef Funding Program is making up to $1.0 billion available over 10 years in investment finance for clean energy projects located in the Great Barrier Reef catchment region that support delivery of the Reef 2050 plan. Target sectors include agribusiness, tourism, property and infrastructure.

Australian Renewable Energy Agency

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has a long-standing focus on delivering energy innovation in regional Australia. The Agency supports research and development and is focusing on investments which increase the affordability and reliability of energy for Australians, including those in regional communities.

Since its establishment in 2012, ARENA has committed more than $1.3 billion to projects, many of which are in regional Australia. Some of these projects support communities, mines and businesses to use renewables to displace diesel and improve energy supply and security at the fringes of the grid, and include the Lakeland solar and storage project north-west of Cairns and the Barcaldine solar farm in central Queensland. Projects in remote locations away from electricity grids have also been supported, such as the Degrussa solar and storage project at a copper mine in Western Australia and projects supplying energy to Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory.

Around $400.0 million of this funding has supported development of large-scale solar photovoltaic projects across Australia from Collinsville in Queensland to Emu Downs in Western Australia.

ARENA is working to bring the next generation of renewables to market through pilots, trials and studies in regional Australia. Examples include a hybrid wind, solar and storage facility at Kennedy Energy Park in Queensland and, the battery of the nation suite of projects in Tasmania.

National Wind Farm Commissioner and the Independent Scientific Committee on Wind Turbines

The National Wind Farm Commissioner receives and refers complaints about wind farms from concerned community residents. Due to the ongoing growth in renewable energy, the Government reappointed the National Wind Farm Commissioner for a further three year term from 1 November 2018 until 31 October 2021, and expanded the role to resolve complaints about large scale solar farms and storage, including batteries. The Commissioner is improving transparency of information and promotes best practice for industry and government to adopt in relation to proposed and operating wind farms, large-scale solar farms and energy storage facilities.

The Independent Scientific Committee on Wind Turbines—an independent, multidisciplinary, expert group—is improving science and monitoring of the potential impacts of sound from wind turbines (including low frequency and infrasound) on human health and the environment.

Australia’s Presence in Antarctica

Australian Government funding for Antarctic science and environmental management continues to boost the Tasmanian economy, as Australia’s operational work for Antarctica out of Hobart contributes to employment and local investment. The Government is well progressed on the implementation of key priorities in the Australian Antarctic Strategy and 20 Year Action Plan. This includes the investigation of options to deliver year-round aviation access from Hobart as well as the establishment of new inland traverse capability to support the retrieval of a million year ice core.

The construction of a new world‑class icebreaker, named RSV Nuyina, to support the Australian Antarctic Program has commenced. The RSV Nuvina will be home‑ported in Hobart.

The Department of the Environment and Energy is working with the Industry and Education portfolios to reform current governance arrangements for Antarctic Science funding. In the 2018-19 Budget, the Government provided $8.0 million per year from 1 January 2020 to 30 June 2027 for a new Special Research Initiative in Excellence in Antarctic Science and $5.0 million per year from 2019-20 for a new 10 year Antarctic Science Collaboration Initiative grants program. These measures, together with the Government’s significant investment in the Australian Antarctic Strategy and 20 Year Action Plan, will have a positive impact on the Antarctic Science Community and the Australian Antarctic Program, benefiting the Tasmanian economy.

The Government is providing $49.8 million over 11 years from 2016-17 to build new scientific facilities on Macquarie Island and replace the existing research station. Macquarie Island is located in the Southern Ocean around 1,500 kilometres southeast of Tasmania. The construction and ongoing operation of a new research station on Macquarie Island will bring economic benefits to Tasmania and position Hobart and its surrounding area as the premier logistics gateway and scientific research hub for East Antarctica and the Southern Ocean.

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