PM blasts 'glib' slogans, calls for national climate plan


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A frustrated Malcolm Turnbull has taken an apparent swipe at his predecessor, Tony Abbott, for reducing climate policy debate to "glib" slogans.

A frustrated Malcolm Turnbull has taken an apparent swipe at his predecessor, Tony Abbott, for reducing climate policy debate to "glib" slogans.

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The Prime Minister has called for an end to the ideological wars over climate change and wants a clear national energy plan.

About 21 MPs told Tuesday's three-hour party room meeting they either opposed a Clean Energy Target [CET], as proposed by Chief Scientist Alan Finkel, or had concerns about its implementation.

MPs raised concerns a CET could price coal out of the market, that the 42 per cent renewable energy by 2030 was too high and expressed fears over the impact of a CET on electricity prices for household and business.

The review, in fact, finds power prices would be lower under a CET than compared to a business-as-usual scenario.

Mr Abbott, who earlier this week called the Finkel review a "magic pudding" and who wrested the prime ministership from Labor with his "axe the tax" anti-carbon tax campaign, told the special meeting Australia had a huge natural energy advantage.

He clashed with fellow Liberal Craig Laundy over his interjections and argued the current renewable energy target was to blame for rising power prices.

In his first comments since Tuesday's meeting, Mr Turnbull was at pains to characterise the Finkel review as a report to, not by, government and declined to say when the government would deliver a formal response.

And in a sign of his frustration, Mr Turnbull declared "business-as-usual is not an option" and that "glib answers and one-liners have been of no assistance in keeping Australians' energy secure and affordable".

"Enough is enough. We need a clear national plan founded on economics and engineering and we're doing the work to deliver it," he said.

"This is a complex task, it's a hard task. Glibness is not going to keep the lights on. Glibness is not going to pay the electricity bills."

Those comments can be interpreted as a thinly-veiled rebuke by Mr Turnbull at his predecessor and could stoke tensions inside the Coalition. They can also be read as a criticism of Labor, which has called for a bipartisan approach to climate policy but also indicated they would not back a CET that assisted new coal plants to be built.

"Industry does need certainty. There's been too much politics, too much ideology, not enough economics, not enough engineering. Our energy policy and my commitment is to ensure that Australians have affordable, reliable energy, and that we meet our commitments, our international commitments to cut our emissions," Mr Turnbull said.

Earlier, Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg told Fairfax Media that forcing wind and solar generators to invest in expensive battery storage was not an attempt to level the playing field with coal.

During Tuesday's meeting, the proposal to force zero emissions generators to have "despatchable" base load power, via a battery, pumped hydro storage, or even a gas plant alongside, was one of the proposals that won support from MPs.

Environment groups and the Greens have warned that introducing a storage requirement on wind and solar will force up costs and slow the transition to zero emissions power.

Coalition MPs were shown a detailed Finkel Review slide-show presentation in the meeting by Mr Frydenberg, a copy of which has been obtained by Fairfax Media.

That slideshow demonstrates that if solar and wind providers were required to provide 25 per cent of their generation capacity as back-up power, for four hours, to meet peak demand periods, it would increase the price of solar from $91 per megawatt hour to $107, and for wind power the price would rise from $92 to $108 per megawatt hour.

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Mr Frydenberg said on Wednesday morning the storage requirement was about dealing with the unpredictability of wind and solar power.

"With such a high level of wind and solar, and bearing in mind that wind produces power 35 per cent of the time, and solar produces power 25 per cent of the time, it is becoming increasingly more difficult for the energy market operator to get that supply-demand balance," he told Fairfax Media.

"The goal is not to level the playing field, the goal is to get a more stable system, and this is a step forward."

Mr Frydenberg fired a salvo at Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, characterising his offer to end the climate policy wars as disingenuous posturing.

"My colleagues are justifiably cynical and sceptical about Bill Shorten's intentions here. Just last night he said he would oppose our move to amend the clean Energy Finance Corporation, to include carbon capture and storage," he said.

"I have seen first-hand how this can work. He is playing politics. How can he expect us to take him seriously when he talks about bipartisanship, reaching across the table, when on a simple legislative change like this he is simply playing politics to protect his green left flank."

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The story PM blasts 'glib' slogans, calls for national climate plan first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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