New coal power plants are not the silver bullet to bringing down energy prices, Australia’s competition watchdog has told Nationals MPs.
But former prime minister Tony Abbott warns Australia will be “surrendering its sovereignty” if his coalition colleagues support the National Energy Guarantee.
The guarantee will go to the coalition party room on Tuesday, with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull aiming to win support for it by promising to underwrite new power generation, potentially including new coal.
The Australian Consumer and Competition Commission recommended the government financially back new power generation as one of 56 recommendations aimed at bringing prices down.
But ACCC chair Rod Sims said new coal power was not the only solution.
“If you’re going to deal with the affordability of electricity you’ve got to look right across the board, you can’t just narrow in on one sector,” Mr Sims told reporters on Monday.
He spoke to Nationals MPs, including Barnaby Joyce, on Monday about the need to implement all 56 recommendations, not just the one that could see new coal-fired generation built.
Mr Abbott wants the government to compulsorily acquire the Liddell coal-fired power station “now” to extend its life, and forget about the Paris emissions agreement he signed as prime minister.
“I have enormous concerns about anything that smacks of our country being dictated to, surrendering our sovereignty really, to the green bureaucrats of Paris,” Mr Abbott told 2GB radio on Monday.
Mr Abbott and Mr Joyce are among a small number of coalition members threatening to cross the floor and vote against the policy.
Mr Joyce wants the guarantee to include promises to hit power companies who lift energy prices for households.
“What do we say to them if the power prices don’t go down?” he asked reporters in Canberra.
Mr Joyce reserved the right to vote against government policy, but said he would listen “diligently” to the energy minister before making a decision.
Mr Turnbull will announce his support for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission proposal at a coalition party room meeting on Tuesday.
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann confirmed the government was “accelerating consideration” of the ACCC proposal, which he said would not favour one power technology over another.
Labor energy spokesman Mark Butler said his party is waiting until the coal situation is resolved to announce if it will support the guarantee.
“We want to see if Malcolm Turnbull is serious about throwing billions of taxpayers’ dollars at new coal-fired power stations,” he told reporters.
Greens MP Adam Bandt wants the guarantee’s modelling released to the public for scrutiny.
“If this scheme is as good as Malcolm Turnbull and Josh Frydenberg say it is then there’s an easy way to prove it. If it’s this great, prove it.”
© AAP 2018