Abbott spoke to a group from the Australian Environment Foundation on July 3 to elaborate on his criticisms of the government’s proposed National Energy Guarantee (NEG). The NEG is set to determine the nation’s future energy and climate policy by August this year.
Answering questions on his government’s centrepiece energy policy, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said at a press conference on the same that “the NEG offers the prospect of lower electricity prices.”
The Turnbull government presented the NEG to the Australian people in October 2017 as a much-needed market framework that would allow the government to manage the policy “trilemma” of reliability, affordability, and emissions—as set by the UN Paris Climate Accord that Turnbull ratified on Nov. 10, 2016.
But Abbott warned that the government’s NEG was essentially an emissions trading scheme in disguise.
“The government would like to crack the so-called trilemma of keeping the lights on, getting power prices down and reducing emissions in line with our Paris targets,” Abbott said in his speech on July 3.
“It’s just that there’s no plausible evidence at all that all three can be done at the same time.”
Daniel Wild from the Institute of Public Affairs told SkyNews, “What we know about the national energy guarantee is that it is functionally the same as a renewable energy target, as a clean energy target, as a carbon tax.”
“Yes, there’s differences in how it’s implemented, but the outcome is government favouritism of wind and of solar at the expense of coal.”
According to Abbott, this is because Paris “is driving the so called national energy guarantee.”
“I stress, it’s not a price-reduction policy. It’s an emissions reduction policy.
“If it was a price reduction policy, there would be a price target in it and not just an emissions target,” he said.
According to Abbott, the NEG sets the path for even more renewable energy, up from 23 percent to perhaps 36 percent under the government, with Labor wanting even more. He said Australia would be looking at 50 percent under Labor, as well as even higher emissions targets.
The chair of the ESB, Kerry Schott, previously said on ABC’s Lateline, “The guarantee is about providing a reliable power system and meeting the emissions targets set in the Paris agreement. I don’t think anybody can guarantee a price reduction about anything actually, because what happens with prices depends on too many things.”
The NEG is the nation’s future energy policy that is being crafted by members of the Energy Security Board (ESB)—appointed by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) energy council to implement recommendations of the Finkel Review—who are currently seeking consultations with stakeholders on the draft detailed design documents of the NEG.
Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg told the ABC on June 26 that the Turnbull government believes the NEG is the country’s best chance to break from the decade long impasse that has plagued Australia’s energy policy, scaring off would-be investors and resulting in the 2017 state-wide blackout in South Australia (SA) that cost businesses an estimated $450 million.
“It’s vitally important that it is adopted because what we need is a technology-agnostic energy policy that encourages investment, and that’s precisely what the national energy guarantee will do,” Turnbull said in a statement.
While the majority of Liberals party members are reported to be backing Turnbull’s NEG, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack vowed to discuss with Turnbull the feasibility of accommodating a new, non-subsidised high-efficiency, low-emissions (HELE) coal-fired power station like those being built overseas after a Nationals party room meeting on June 25.
The Nationals believe this will be critical to address the impending shortfall in dispatchable power as old high-emissions coal units go offline.
At the end of the day, the NEG is “all about reducing emissions because that’s what our Paris targets are all about,” Abbott said.
“Of global emissions, China is responsible for 28 percent, America 15 percent, Europe 11 percent, India 7 percent—and Australia a puny 1.3 percent,” he said in his most recent speech.
But with China and India not having made any commitment the Paris agreement to reduce their emissions, and the United States having withdrawn from the agreement under President Donald Trump, Abbott said, “I think the best thing we can do right now is to pull out of the Paris agreement.”
— Environment Progress (@envprogress) June 9, 2016
“If we had known then what we know now, about American withdrawing and about the economic damage in particular would do to our power system and to our industries, we would never have signed up.”