Labor to keep the NEG plus billions for renewables

Labor, hydrogen plan
Labor leader Bill Shorten, image: Ross Caldwell

Labor has vowed to keep the Coalition’s national energy guarantee (NEG) with a higher emissions target, as well as pushing for the country to be operating on 50 per cent renewables by 2030.

It has also promised a $200 million federal solar battery rebate scheme for households and small businesses, where 100,000 Australian households can access a $2000 rebate for the installation of battery systems.

According to the ABC, Labor leader Bill Shorten will promise massive spending on renewable projects, with the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) to have its funding boosted to $10 billion.

Labor has also pledged $98.7 million to establish a community power network and regional hubs, as well as investing $206.6 million in the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) to support a specific Concentrated Solar Thermal funding round.

Shadow Energy Minister Mark Butler told AM in regards to keeping the NEG, “We remain committed to a bipartisan solution, if that is possible”.

“But we’re not going to wait for this Government.

“We’re willing to work with them, but we’re not willing to wait for them.”

Labor is also promising to expand support for solar installation at a cost of $100 million for lower-income households.

If Labor wins the next federal election, it plans to manage the transition to low-emissions energy with a contracts-for-difference policy instrument, or something similar.

There are six key elements under Labor’s Climate Change Action Plan the party aims to enact to achieve targets.

  1. Make Australia a leading renewable energy economy by ensuring that 50 per cent of the nation’s electricity is sourced from renewable energy by 2030, providing the Clean Energy Finance Corporation with more certainty and more flexibility with less red tape and more technology options, and developing new community power projects.
  2. Cleaner power generation by ensuring that the modernisation and diversification in Australia’s electricity generation from old heavy polluting coal fired power stations to modern clean energy is an orderly transition, with meaningful support for workers and communities.
  3. Build jobs and industry by maximising the job opportunities from clean energy and clean technology, while also securing the future of critical Australian industries through a Strategic Industries Task Force. This will be supported by a Strategic Industries Reserve Fund of $300m to support the transition of key industries to 2020.
  4. Cut pollution through an Emissions Trading Scheme with access to international offsets, placing a legal cap on the emissions of large polluters through a cap and offsets scheme, while supporting industry by ensuring access to international carbon offsets.
  5. Capture carbon on the land by reinvigorating the Carbon Farming Initiative to encourage carbon storage in agriculture, and taking decisive action to deal with broad scale land clearing.
  6. Increased energy efficiency by doubling Australia’s national energy productivity by 2030 and implementing new emissions standards for motor vehicles to cut pollution on our roads.

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison has torn apart Labor’s energy policy, dismissing it as “pink batt-eries”, in reference to the failed pink batts scheme under Kevin Rudd.

“If you couldn’t trust them to put in pink batts in your own roof without it setting on fire, I wouldn’t be trusting Bill Shorten to put a pink battery in your house either,” Mr Morrison told reporters in Sydney.

Energy Minister Angus Taylor has also slammed Labor’s energy policy, saying it will be a wrecking ball through the economy and the battery subsidies being offered are a drop in the ocean.

The Minerals Council of Australia has commented on Labor’s policy, saying it needs a reality check.

“As a number of analysts have outlined, rapidly increasing the level of intermittent renewable energy will lead to the early closure of older low-cost 24/7 power generation, possibly by the mid-2020s – only six years from now,” the Minerals Council said in a statement.

“This should not be cause for celebration.

“This will reduce low-cost baseload power generation in NSW (by 25 per cent), Victoria (22 per cent), SA (22 per cent) and Queensland (15 per cent).

“The challenge for Labor and others proposing rapid increases in renewable energy is to explain how this will occur in just over a decade while ensuring reliable, low-cost, 24/7 baseload energy supply for Australian homes and businesses.”

In the lead-up to the federal election, the Morrison Government has been championing lower power prices for Australians through measures such as forced divestment on retailers.

Bill Shorten says the rebate scheme will mean cheaper energy for Australians.

Energy Networks Australia has welcomed the Federal Opposition commitment to supporting new electricity transmission development as part of its energy policy.

CEO Andrew Dillon said the proposal for a $5 billion investment fund to support projects aligned with those identified by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) in its Integrated System Plan (ISP) was a positive move.

Mr Dillon said the proposal to support more household batteries was also welcome – provided there was a transition to smarter power pricing.

“Battery storage can help smooth electricity demand and reduce the pressure on the grid at peak times on hot summer evenings,” he said.

“But batteries could make things worse if we haven’t got incentives to encourage people to save money by using less power at peak times. Fairer electricity pricing is the key.”

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The Australian Energy Council welcomed Labor’s commitment to the NEG.

Australian Energy Council chief executive Sarah McNamara said Labor’s ongoing support for bipartisan energy policy provides another opportunity for the Government to end more than a decade of policy and investment uncertainty.

“Labor’s announcement today is a positive sign that it has heard the concerns of the Australian energy industry which wants stable carbon policy in order to deliver lower prices,” Ms McNamara said.

“The energy industry recognises that Labor is committed to a stronger carbon target, and welcomes the clarity Labor has provided regarding the role we would play to meet it if it wins government.”

The Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA) echoed this sentiment, saying that implementing the NEG would help attract new, long-term investments that are crucial in building a reliable, affordable and cleaner electricity sector.

“Australia needs an energy policy framework which cuts emissions without jeopardising reliable electricity supply or inflating energy prices,” APPEA chief executive Dr Malcolm Roberts said.

The Electrical Trades Union has also welcomed the Labor Party’s energy policy to adopt the NEG and support a transition period to renewables through the party’s Just Transition Authority (JTA).

ETU National Secretary Allen Hicks said there was much to like about the announcement but there is more work to do to fix the damage caused by privatisation and the inept regulation of the National Energy Market (NEM).

The Energy Users Association of Australia welcomed some aspects of the announcement.

“Today’s energy policy announcement by Federal Labor recognises the unfortunate reality that gaining long-term bipartisan agreement on energy and climate change policy is likely to be beyond our reach,” EUAA CEO Andrew Richards said.

“We continue to support the NEG framework and would welcome further engagement on how it could be adopted in the future. We feel that it could be a foundation of energy and climate change policy that could work with recent government and opposition initiatives to make them more efficient.”

While many would call a transition to 50 per cent renewables in 11 years ambitious, Greens Leader Adam Bandt says it’s not good enough.

“Labor’s new energy plan gives up on keeping global warming under 1.5 degrees,” Mr Bandt said.

“It lets coal-fired power stations keep running for decades, polluting without restriction.

“It borrows bits from Greens like subsidies for batteries, which we welcome, but ALP has caved in on coal.”