States give conditional support to National Energy Guarantee, but more talks to come – Politics



Updated

August 10, 2018 15:30:58

The Turnbull Government is a step closer to settling a national policy on electricity and emissions.

Key points:

  • Labor and Greens ministers still concerned NEG will be too weak to bring down emissions
  • Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg says conditional agreement is a win for Federal Government
  • Greens to demand the full modelling be released before the final sign off

State and federal energy ministers met today to discuss the National Energy Guarantee (NEG), which would try to reduce electricity prices and carbon emissions while ensuring a reliable power supply.

The Federal Government has released a draft of the energy bill and the states will now wait to see what happens when the Coalition partyroom discusses the policy next week.

Federal Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg hailed the meeting as a win for the Government.

“We had the victory because the National Energy Guarantee goes through the gate to the next stage, it is one step closer,” he said.

“What ministers have now agreed is that following the partyroom’s consideration of the federal legislation, and a teleconference on Tuesday evening, the exposure draft of the state legislation will be released for a period of consultation.

“We are hoping that following that consultation, ministers will agree to implement the design of the National Energy Guarantee.”

Mr Frydenberg insisted the policy had strong support from his Coalition colleagues.

“It’s been discussed at length previously, it will be discussed at length on Tuesday,” he said.

States still have concerns about emissions targets

But Labor ministers from Victoria and Queensland and the Greens minister from the ACT still have concerns about the NEG.

Queensland’s acting Energy Minister Cameron Dick said the 26 per cent emissions reduction target was too low.

Victoria’s Minister Lily D’Ambrosio and ACT Energy Minister Shane Rattenbury have both also pushed for the NEG to have a stronger target so it brings down emissions more quickly.

While the Labor states are heavily critical of the target, they have agreed to discussing the NEG.

South Australia’s Energy Minister Dan van Holst Pellekaan was much more positive about today’s talks, saying: “We see this as a very, very important step”.

“We’ve actually made some real progress,” he added.

Mr van Holst Pellekaan played down the significance of the other states baulking at agreeing today.

“They’re not withholding their support, they’re being cautious,” he said.

Target ‘ludicrously weak’ but ‘no limit on’ investment

The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) called the NEG emission target “ludicrously weak” but said compromise could “salvage the NEG as a workable scheme to cut climate pollution”.

Ms D’Ambrosio and Mr Rattenbury point out that analysis by the Federal Government’s advisory body, the Energy Security Board, shows the target would be almost met within a year of the NEG coming into force.

Mr Rattenbury said it showed emissions would drop by 24 per cent without the NEG, so the 26 per cent target means emissions would only go down an extra 2 per cent over 10 years.

But Mr Frydenberg said nothing in the NEG stopped investment in new renewable energy.

“There is no limit on renewable energy,” he said.

Mr Rattenbury was also expected to insist that the ACT and other jurisdictions should be able to keep their own stronger targets for cutting emissions, not have them counted as part of the national goal.

But Tasmania’s Energy Minister Guy Barnett, who was expected to support the NEG today, said it was consistent with his state’s energy policy “where the state will be 100 per cent self-sufficient in renewable energy generation, while delivering the lowest regulated electricity prices in Australia by 2022”.

Melbourne University Climate and Energy College senior adviser Simon Holmes à Court disputed that, saying the NEG proposal assumed Tasmania’s “Battery of the Nation” pumped hydro project would not proceed.

Mr Holmes à Court said of six or seven pumped hydro projects planned throughout Australia, only Snowy Hydro 2.0 was expected to proceed.

Opponents of the NEG say they cannot properly judge its cost and effectiveness because they have not seen all the figures underlying it.

Federal Greens MP Adam Bandt will push in Parliament on Monday for the full modelling of the NEG to be released “for proper scrutiny by experts and politicians expected to vote on it”.

“The Liberals have cooked the books on climate change before. Without the full modelling, there’s no way to tell for sure if they are doing it again.

“The NEG is terrible, but if the Government has complete confidence in their price and pollution predictions, they should release the full modelling,” Mr Bandt said.

Topics:

government-and-politics,

alternative-energy,

hydro-energy,

electricity-energy-and-utilities,

australia

First posted

August 10, 2018 04:52:12



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