The Turnbull government is still deciding whether to support a clean energy target, as the federal energy minister Josh Frydenberg prepares to pitch the other 49 recommendations of the Finkel Review to a meeting of state ministers on Friday.
Australia’s chief scientist Dr Alan Finkel recommended 50 strategies to improve the reliability and affordability of the national energy market.
The head of the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), Audrey Zibelman, has urged the ministers at the upcoming COAG meeting to endorse the report.
The government has already agreed to 49 of the recommendations, Mr Frydenberg told ABC Radio on Wednesday.
Among them are a plan for more battery storage for renewables similar to the Tesla battery in South Australia, the Turnbull government’s so-called Snowy 2.0 and a new requirement that coal-fired power stations provide three years of notice before shutting down.
But the Coalition party-room has not decided on whether to back the report’s most controversial suggestion: a clean energy target that would require power companies to source a percentage of their electricity from renewable energy.
“I’m sure the states would like to discuss it and I’m happy to talk to them about it, but … the government’s position on a clean energy target is that we haven’t finalised our internal discussions,” Mr Frydenberg said.
“This is a very big decision, to move down the path of a new mechanism. It’s one that Dr Finkel himself said should be in place by 2020, so we don’t have to rush it.”
The minister said the government was continuing to question the assumptions behind some of Dr Finkel’s modelling, and to consult with “key stakeholders”.
Some in the Turnbull Government are resistant to the idea of a clean energy target. Former prime minister Tony Abbot has argued for the existing renewable energy target (RET) to be cut back.
Not a ‘conservative’ approach
John Hewson, a former Liberal leader, told the ABC’s Lateline program that if Mr Abbott were a “true conservative” he would support a market-based solution on climate change via some kind of price on carbon emissions, rather than the ‘direct action’ policy left over from his government.
Ms Zibelman, the head of AEMO, said the energy ministers needed to agree on a policy framework at COAG and move on quickly.
“There is a path forward and we need to take it, and we need to move and we need to move quickly,” Ms Zibelman told a Committee for the Economic Development of Australia lunch in Melbourne, according to The Australian.
Meanwhile, the Turnbull Government has hosed down reports it is considering a new carbon pricing system that would penalise drivers who buy petrol-thirsty cars.
Wednesday’s front page of the Daily Telegraph claimed the government was planning to introduce a carbon tax on cars.
That prompted energy minister Josh Frydenberg to dismiss the idea on ABC’s breakfast program.
“There is as much chance of a carbon tax on cars as Elvis making a comeback,” he said.
But the government has not ruled out introducing new standards for the fuel efficiency of cars.
Mr Frydenberg said the government had been undertaking consultations since October 2015, but was only motivated by a desire to “reduce the fuel costs for families on their vehicles”.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said “no decisions” had been made.
The Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development has canvassed the idea and asked the auto industry for feedback.
The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries said it was “hugely disappointed” with the proposed standard, according to the Australian Financial Review, because it would add thousands of dollars to the cost of common medium-sized SUVs.