Energy minister backs One Nation, new coal

IPCC coal warning

Federal Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg has come under fire for supporting new coal-fired power stations under the Federal Government’s national energy guarantee (NEG).

In Senate on Wednesday, the Coalition voted alongside the One Nation party, backing a motion to “facilitate the building of new coal-fired power stations and the retrofitting of existing baseload power stations”.

The motion was defeated 34-32, but the Turnbull Government has faced criticism for supporting the coal industry through its policy.

When asked during Question Time in parliament on Wednesday if the Prime Minister would rule out building new coal-fired power stations, Mr Frydenberg said coal would “continue to be an important part of the energy mix” under the NEG.

This week a delegation of leading representatives from Australia’s business, industry, mining, manufacturing and farming sectors gathered in Canberra to discuss the NEG.

Mr Frydenberg aims to legislate the NEG by the end of the year.

In an opinion piece written in The Australian on Monday, he said the reliability of Australia’s energy system relies predominately on coal.

Under the NEG, the reliability obligation will value our existing coal fleet and see it more likely to be upgraded and stay in the system,” he said.

“Without the NEG, our coal fleet would face an even more uncertain future and electricity prices would be higher.

“As the NEG approaches the final stages of development and debate, it is worth bearing in mind the broad base of support this reform has.

“It is for good reason that employer and consumer groups see it as the way forward: it will deliver a cleaner, cheaper and more reliable energy system.”

The Smart Energy Council has slammed the Federal Government for backing the Hanson motion for new coal-fired power stations.

CEO John Grimes said the NEG would “lock in coal and spell death knell” for renewables.

“This is the straw that broke the camel’s back,” he said.

“When it boils down to it, the NEG is all about locking in coal and locking out renewables.

“If there was even the faintest shadow of doubt over whether the NEG has been designed to prop up coal or not, that’s completely gone out the window now.

“State and Territory governments must not hand a blank cheque to the coal polluters.”

The Smart Energy Council is in Brisbane today for a series of meetings on the policy, and Mr Grimes called on the Queensland Government to make any support for the NEG conditional on the Federal Government committing to a stronger national emissions reduction target.

“While the future of renewables is shining bright in Queensland, this could all come quickly crashing down if the NEG is approved in its current form,” he said.

“Without a stronger national target to reduce emissions, the NEG will cheat Queenslanders and the whole of Australia out of more investment, jobs and cheap clean energy.

“This junk policy is actually worse than not having a new national policy because its emissions reduction target of 26% is lower than what will be achieved with the current build and investment in renewable energy.”