WA could go it alone on green power policy beyond 2020 after coalition ditch Renewable Energy Target

UPDATE: WA could “go it alone” on a green power policy beyond 2020 after the coalition said it would abandon the national Renewable Energy Target in a package aimed at fixing problems in the east coast electricity market.

As Chief Scientist Alan Finkel endorsed the coalition’s new energy package as “credible”, State Labor leaders accused Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of being hostage to the right-wing of his party for abandoning Dr Finkel’s proposed clean energy target.

Mr Turnbull said the coalition’s alternative plan for a National Energy Guarantee, which needs approval from the Council of Australian Governments, would lower prices in the east coast energy market and could be adopted for WA’s grid.

“There is the opportunity to import similar principles into those markets but WA has a very different electricity market,” Mr Turnbull said, adding that the east coast “had the big problems in terms of affordability and particularly reliability”.

Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg said though the Government’s agreement to cut emissions by 26 to 28 per cent of 2005 levels by 2030 would be enshrined in Federal legislation, a Federal market mechanism would not be imposed on WA.

WA Energy Minister Ben Wyatt said the State would need to decide whether to follow suit if the Eastern States adopted the energy guarantee, which puts in place reliability and low emission obligations.

“Post-2020, there may be the potential reality of a non-national regime guiding the uptake of renewable energy technology,” he said.

Under the Government’s plan, coal and gas will contribute between 64 and 72 per cent of energy generation by 2030, compared with 39 per cent under Labor’s proposed renewable target.

Premier Mark McGowan complained the States had not been consulted about the Turnbull Government’s energy policy backflip.

“Back in June we had Professor Finkel come to the COAG meeting in Hobart and brief us on the clean energy target and the Federal Government was wildly keen on it.

“Now, they’ve gone in a completely different direction without consulting the States. Now we are the ones that actually run the energy systems.

“It’s actually bizarre that the Commonwealth would come up with new arrangements for the States without even talking to us.

“It mainly applies to the national electricity market which is basically the Eastern States but if there is a change to the renewable energy target, that could well impact WA.”

Mr McGowan said he would work with the Commonwealth determine the implications but appealed for certainty from the Federal Government.

Federal shadow minister for energy Mark Butler said the Government should provide modelling to back its claim consumers would save up to $115 a year on average over 2020 to 2030.

In a sign of the challenge for the coalition as it seeks agreement from State leaders on the policy, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said the plan would not cut bills or carbon emissions.

South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill said it amounted “to a subsidy of the coal industry”.

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