Turnbull under attack from left and right on energy strategy – September 2017

Filed under: Politics, Australian Politics, Trade and industry, Energy,

The Coalition continues to be bedevilled by energy policy and the high gas and electricity bills being delivered to households around the country.

The problem for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is not just with voters, but with pro-coal elements within the Coalition, particularly within the Nationals.

Mr Turnbull has been trying to persuade AGL chief executive Andy Vesey to abandon plans to close its Liddell coal-fired power station in New South Wales in 2022 when it is reckoned to reach the end of its economic life – or else to sell it.

After their latest meeting, Mr Vesey appeared to give a little ground by asking for 90 days to come up with a proposal.

But Greens climate change and energy spokesman Adam Bandt scoffed at the Government’s efforts. “All the government has done has forced AGL to bring forward its planning for new renewables. AGL's board will discuss what they were going to discuss anyway,” he said.

“Given AGL indicated to the minister that their preference is for additional new supply and that the company is getting out of coal, we are expecting to see a plan in 90 days for more renewables and storage.”

Mr Turnbull had told Parliament that AGL indicated it was willing to sell Liddell, the oldest coal-fired power station in Australia, to a third party to keep it open for five years beyond 2022 and avoid a 1000-megawatt shortfall of base load, dispatchable power forecast by the electricity market operator.

But the Prime Minister continued to take flak from the right as well as the left.

Conservative News Corp columnist Andrew Bolt wrote: “Malcolm Turnbull was right: he can win the next election just by fighting Labor’s global warming crusaders on electricity prices.

“In fact, he and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg have banked on it. But Turnbull is wrong: the way he and Frydenberg are fighting — timidly and erratically — is backfiring.

“Tuesday’s Essential poll should shock the Prime Minister out of his fantasy that he can win this by being not quite as global-warming crazy as Labor in trying the impossible — cutting both prices and the emissions he claims cause dangerous warming.

“The poll showed that far from fearing Labor, which promises a disastrous 50 per cent renewable energy target by 2030, or triple today’s renewable power, voters fear the Liberals instead.

“Just 19 per cent think Turnbull’s government would cut electricity prices, while 28 per cent thought Labor would. A third, though, think both are hopeless. Ain’t that the truth.

“Thanks to both sides, your power bills have doubled in a decade and now the Australian Energy Market Operator warns we’ve closed so many coal-fired power stations — seven under the Liberals — that we also risk running out of electricity in summer.

“It is insane that we face electricity shortages in a country with huge supplies of coal, uranium and gas, but green superstitions and weak politicians have achieved the bizarre.”

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