The ACT will hold another wind farm auction before the end of the year. Photo: Rohan Thomson
The Abbott government's sharp direction to end funding for wind farms was a "retrograde" step which would further discourage environmental students, an Australian National University climate change leader said.
Professor Janette Lindesay, the ANU's Climate Change Institute deputy director, said positive opportunities remained for research into renewable energy but federal decisions did affect student and business prospects.
"Once you change the policy environment to make it less attractive it's most disappointing - I think it's a retrograde step," she said.
"If there is clear policy saying the government is not going to be engaging with renewable energies and is not going to run a large department on climate change, obviously that's going to affect things."
The climatologist praised the ACT government for it's leadership on a renewable energy target and decision to hold another wind farm auction before the end of the year, in contrast to the federal government's decision to direct the Clean Energy Finance Corporation not to fund wind farms or small or medium solar farms.
University of Canberra professor of urban and regional planning Barbara Norman said strong federal moves like those revealed last week were the latest in a long line of hits to the sector, including the scrapping of the National Climate Commission and - due to wider federal cuts - the CSIRO's national climate change adaptation flagship, would inevitably have an impact on the future research environment.
"But at the local level, not just at territory level but at council level, throughout the region, they're seeing the need to invest in how we adapt to the effects of climate change."
Professor Norman was an ACT government appointee to the ACT Climate Change Council, and has taught coastal planning and climate change units interchangeably since 2011.
The Canberra Institute of Technology has had the biggest direct boost of any education organisation from individual wind projects, with a Renewable Energy Skills Centre of Excellence now being built, in partnership with renewable developers, to provide technical training for use of wind projects from next year.
Professor Lindesay said the recent years' broad-based decrease in funds through the Australian Research Council had the biggest impact in the university sector.
The latest round of research council industry-linked funding, announced by the Abbott government this month, provided nearly $4 million (from an $87m pool) for clean technology, including for battery storage technology, photovoltaics, wave and wind energy projects. The ANU received funding for eight projects worth a combined $3 million from the overall pool.
An ANU spokeswoman said the renewable and new energy sources had been a major part of the university's research program since its founding and would continue to be.