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Source: Australian Renewable Energy Agency

ARENA welcomes the Auditor-General Report No.35 2019–20 Report into Grant Program Management by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency undertaken by the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO). It is appropriate that taxpayer funded entities are held accountable for their activities.

As ARENA approached the end of its legislated funding (June 2022), the ANAO determined that it was important to provide the Parliament with assurance over the effectiveness of ARENA’s grant management in achieving its legislated purpose. The audit commenced in June 2019 and the final report was tabled in the Senate on 30 April 2020 and is available on the ANAO website.

It was pleasing that the ANAO concluded that:

  • ARENA’s governance and oversight of grant funding agreements are robust
  • ARENA’s strategic plans are mostly clear and consistent with ARENA’s objectives
  • Management of ARENA’s grants programs is largely effective
  • Grant project selection is aligned with ARENA’s objectives.

The report made six recommendations for ARENA to strengthen some of our systems and processes associated with the following:

  • The performance measurement framework
  • Assurance that we are not funding activities that would occur without grant funding
  • Use of information systems in our grant management processes
  • Management of variations to funding agreements
  • Assurance of our performance measurement and reporting
  • Conflict of interest management and disclosure for external evaluations.

ARENA has accepted all recommendations and we have already commenced implementation.

ARENA is committed to continuous improvement, and the report also acknowledges our previous efforts to improve systems, policies and procedures. Consistent with findings from recent ANAO performance audits of other Commonwealth bodies, the report recommends that ARENA improve its performance measurement framework and evaluation metrics to provide a reliable basis to demonstrate that the agency is achieving its objectives. It is important to note that the ANAO did not conclude that ARENA did not have an impact but that our performance framework and evaluation did not effectively measure that impact.

In line with the ANAO’s recommendation to make more evaluations public, ARENA recently published the findings of an all of ARENA evaluation by Ernst & Young undertaken in November 2019.

EY said that given the findings of the stakeholder surveys, program and fund evaluations there is sufficient evidence to conclude that without ARENA’s support these projects may not have been as successful and that levels of investment in renewable energy in Australia would likely have been lower. They also found ARENA’s activities have contributed to an increase in the supply and diversity of Australia’s renewable energy supply, a decrease in the cost of renewable energy and reduction in electricity generated emissions.

ARENA has worked hard to support more than 500 projects including renewable energy research and demonstration and deployment of new technologies since it was first set up in 2012. Our funding also builds capability and capacity by reducing risk, building skills, confidence and knowledge; moving technologies towards commercialisation; testing new business models; and identifying and addressing regulatory hurdles. We are particularly proud of the work we’ve done in the large scale solar sector and this is outlined in the ANAO’s report (p.32).

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