Energy supply to take priority under PM’s policy
Malcolm Turnbull is preparing to ask government MPs to back a new energy policy that puts a priority on reliable supply rather than cuts to greenhouse gas emissions, signalling an end to generous subsidies for solar and wind power.
The plan will go to federal cabinet on Monday in a key step towards formal debate within the Coalition partyroom as early as Tuesday, setting the terms of a fight with Labor that is likely to run all the way to the next election. It is understood the policy is yet to be finalised but will be billed as a framework to ensure more investment in power generation, rather than a scheme with the primary goal of cutting emissions.
The government believes it is already on track to reach Australia’s pledge to reduce national carbon emissions by 26-28 per cent by 2030, justifying the decision to reject a clean energy target that favours solar and wind.
While the clean energy target was recommended by Chief Scientist Alan Finkel, it has no champions in the Coalition partyroom and is fiercely opposed by conservative MPs who want an end to all subsidies for renewables. The alternative will be an investment policy that encourages reliable supply, such as renewable energy backed by batteries or hydro power.
Mr Turnbull dismissed Tony Abbott’s call to abandon the emission-reduction target, noting the former prime minister had committed to the target in 2015 and should explain whether his new stance was “consistent or inconsistent” with his earlier beliefs.
“The important thing is that what we are doing is delivering the triple bottom line that Australians want,” the Prime Minister said. “They want affordable energy, they want reliable energy. They don’t want to have blackouts.”
He said the “triple bottom line” meant affordable and reliable energy while meeting the emissions pledge.
Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne said the “comprehensive energy policy” would be outlined soon, while signalling less support for solar and wind compared with the existing renewable energy target.
“The competitive disadvantage of solar and wind in the past versus coal and gas is no longer the case,” Mr Pyne said. “It’s as competitive to bring solar and wind into the equation as it is to do coal and gas.”