Four Labor states and governments have formalised their push to purse their own clean energy target mechanism, officially breaking away from the federal government after the Coalition refused to endorse the Finkel Review’s recommendation on the issue.
The COAG energy council meeting in Brisbane endorsed 49 of the 50 recommendations from the Finkel Review, and endorsed the decision to get rid of the “limited merits review” that affects network spending. However, the federal government said it could not commit to a clean energy target.
South Australia, Victoria and Queensland, along with the ACT, said they would ask the Australian Energy market Commission to study how a CET might be implemented by the states saying “they can’t wait any longer”.
It is not clear how long this will take, and how quickly legislation can be introduced, or if it can survive state-based partisan politics given that both the South Australia and Queensland Labor governments are facing elections in the next 12 months.
The role of the ACT is also unclear, given that it will reach its target of 100 per cent renewable energy by 2020.
These same states this week all committed to zero net emissions by 2050, in a ceremony marking the visit of former vice-president and climate campaigner Al Gore.
“It is incredibly frustrating that despite the overwhelming community support for a market mechanism, the Federal Government is still resisting committing to all 50 Finkel recommendations,” South Australia energy minister Tom Koutsantonis said in a statement.
“Opposition from the coal lobby and the right wing of his party is preventing the Prime Minister from acting in the interests of all Australians.”
The federal Coalition has been riven by divisions over the proposed CET, with conservative commentators unanimously condemning the idea, and the rump of Far Right Coalition MPs also voicing their opposition.
Federal energy minister Josh Frydenberg said COAG had agreed a “significant set of reforms …. to ensure a more affordable and reliable energy system.”
The recommendations include the creation of an Energy Security Board. Each jurisdiction will send through a name; and the next few weeks the states will agree on a chair and deputy chair. The other members will be the heads of the three main energy industry regulators, rule-makers and operators.