Finding a way through the ongoing policy quagmire and developing a long-term strategic plan for Australia’s energy future is becoming increasingly urgent to relieve pressure on energy security and power prices, the Clean Energy Council said today.

Clean Energy Council Chief Executive Kane Thornton said the time was long overdue to end the political bickering and start planning for integrated energy and climate policy that extended beyond 2020.

“The entire energy sector and the business community is now desperate to end this deadlock and develop a policy suite to transform our energy sector into one that is affordable, clean and reliable,” Mr Thornton said.

“We do not under-estimate the scale of this challenge. Problems with the management of our energy system are becoming more acute. We have had years of finger-pointing when we need collaboration that takes us beyond the next election cycle.

“An emissions intensity scheme could be the circuit-breaker that is needed to resolve the policy deadlock that is pushing up power prices due to continued policy uncertainty. If the Federal Government is prepared to properly consider it this year, an emissions intensity scheme could be a viable foundation policy on which to lead the transition from out-dated coal-fired power to renewable energy and storage technology.

“Essentially we need to achieve two outcomes. The first is to manage a planned retirement of coal-fired power plants which are now years past their expected retirement date. Currently more than 70 per cent of our coal power plants fall into this category. The second is to bring on new, flexible clean power generation and complementary technology such as energy storage.

“The greatest threat to our energy security is if we don’t have enough new generation being built to replace the coal-fired plants that will retire in the coming decades. This requires strong long-term policy and reform to Australia’s energy markets and regulations, something the Finkel Review is actively considering.

“While gas-fired generation can play an important role in the energy transition, there are substantial challenges in the gas sector that is limiting its availability and driving up the cost of gas-fired electricity,” he said.

Mr Thornton said the renewable energy industry is poised for an unprecedented year, with $5.6 billion of investment and more than 3150 direct jobs to be generated from the wind and solar projects that will go to construction this year.    

“This program of works, and the economic benefits these projects will bring to the regions, will run into a wall by 2020 unless the current policy uncertainty is addressed,” he said.

Please contact Clean Energy Council Media Manager Mark Bretherton on 0413 556 981 for more information or to arrange an interview.