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Australia's tortured energy debate: what is the state of play?

Katharine Murphy comments in The Guardian (13.10.19) on the current state of energy policy debate in Australia, looking at how we got from a national energy guarantee to the Morrison government's 'big stick' approach to the energy sector.

'There are a lot of moving parts in Australia’s tortured energy debate – and many of the parts are moving in the wrong direction. With parliament set to resume next week, and with energy back on the agenda, it is timely to recap the state of play.

'Energy policy in Australia has been in a state of flux since the Coalition dumped the national energy guarantee (Neg) when it ditched Malcolm Turnbull as prime minister. At the time conservatives moved against Turnbull, the Neg was derided by internal critics as bad policy and “merchant bankers’ gobbledigook”. But now, a year after the turmoil, the energy minister, Angus Taylor, says we don’t need to worry about, or mourn, the abandoned Neg mechanism because all the (unobjectionable) core objectives will be achieved even though it was never legislated (because it was terrible). This opening summary of the state of play sets the tone for the whole debate. You’d laugh if it wasn’t so serious.

'Instead of the Neg, which was a mechanism to ensure reliability of supply and emissions reduction in the electricity sector, Taylor has proposed government underwriting of new power generation to boost supply. This more ad hoc proposal has been criticised by a number of stakeholders – the Energy Security Board chair, Kerry Schott, said very politely this week it would not encourage “the considerable new investment and innovation that is needed”. The program also seems to be moving slowly – although Taylor insist he’s in “advanced negotiations” with some of the favoured projects.'

 

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