Clean tech start-ups peer through carbon tax gloom

Clean energy start-ups are gearing up for the potential opportunities provided by the newly-imposed carbon tax, despite widespread uncertainty in the business community over the rising costs associated with the scheme.


The latest Fairfax/Nielsen poll, taken in the lead-up to yesterday’s launch of the carbon tax, shows the Opposition has gained headway against Labor, widening its two-party lead to 58%.


The news comes on the back of survey results from the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Australian Industry Group.


According to ACCI’s July 2012 Survey of Investor Confidence, actual and expected business indicators continued their declining trend over the June quarter.


Greg Evans, ACCI director of economics and industry policy, said in a statement the non-mining areas of the economy continue to face a “long list” of negative circumstances.


In addition to international instability, weak domestic demand and a high dollar, Evans said the “self-imposed” carbon tax will add to costs and reduce competitiveness.


His sentiments were echoed by Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox, who highlighted manufacturers’ “ongoing concern” about the start of the carbon tax.


But not all businesses are up in arms over the carbon tax, as highlighted by the Australian Clean Technologies Competition, which attracted entries from more than 100 companies.


The competition, which is part of the Cleantech Open based in the United States, was launched in May by Mark Dreyfus, Parliamentary Secretary for Industry and Innovation.


The competition is part of the Federal Government’s $58.4 million Buy Australian at Home and Abroad initiative. It is managed by private research and advisory business Australian CleanTech.


The competition aims to shine a light on innovators taking advantage of business opportunities to reduce energy and resource consumption.


Clean technology includes transportation smart power, green grid, energy storage, green building, renewable energy, energy efficiency, and air water and waste management.


This year, 103 companies entered the competition, compared to 70 last year.


In total, the entrants have raised nearly $100 million for their businesses so far, with around 25% of this coming from external funders.


John O’Brien, managing director of Australian CleanTech, says he has been amazed at the depth of innovation among Australian clean tech start-ups.


“Some of the entries appear to be world-leading technologies,” O’Brien says.


“Clean technology is not about saving the world… it is using technology to make processes and industries more efficient, and thus saving them money by offering more sensible options.”


Kane Thornton, acting CEO of the Clean Energy Council, said: “For the first time, Australia has a comprehensive set of policies to nurture new clean energy technology from the first light bulb moment of inspiration all the way through to maturity.”


“Another initiative made possible by a price on carbon is the $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation, which will use revenue from the country’s biggest polluters to unlock up to $100 billion worth of private capital.”


“The carbon price and Clean Energy Finance Corporation will support the achievement of Australia’s 20% Renewable Energy Target, and set us up to go beyond that target in decades to come at the lowest possible cost.”


“Many companies are seeing the commercial opportunities available under a carbon price. Pricing carbon has been part of the public debate for years and those companies that have had the foresight and agility to embrace change will flourish.”


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