“Clean coal” was once a marketing term introduced by the coal industry to refer to carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology. But with CCS still expensive and with questionable viability, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Federal Government Ministers this month expanded the definition to include new coal plants with a slightly lower emissions profile than the ones built decades ago.

By Clean Energy Council Chief Executive Kane Thornton 

All the government is missing are Marty McFly and a DeLorean as they try to go back in time to change the future.

Even these much-hyped ultra-supercritical coal plants produce about twice the emissions of the electricity generated by gas. They are more expensive than new renewable energy such as wind and solar, and they don’t make a lot of sense in an energy market that is still clogged with legacy coal plants long past their expected retirement date.

Consequently Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull didn't get much support for his coal proposal from the energy sector, investors, or even his own Chief Scientist. 

The PM’s speech at the National Press Club last week outlined clear battlelines for energy in the year ahead. Unfortunately, it was light on substance that will address the looming absence of long-term post-2020 energy policy or the modernisation of Australia’s energy system. And although he reinforced the importance of energy storage – which is helpful – Australia’s lack of bipartisanship on energy policy means we are now looking at second- and third-best options to meet our Paris climate commitments. 

Thankfully, the energy policy circus can't get in the way of the continued cost reductions and massive project pipeline that is charging ahead around the country. In 2017 this will translate into more than 20 wind and solar projects under construction across the country, $5.1 billion of investment and almost 3000 jobs.

And many of these are in regional areas, turning places like Townsville into renewable energy hubs offering jobs for locals and work for contractors in the area.

The many success stories we will see in 2017 make a compelling argument for why renewable energy is important and the case for sensible long-term policy. It’s a golden opportunity for the national economy and for the many people in regional Australia in need of new economic activity.