Business and the electricity sector are crying out for action but the Turnbull government has indicated it could still be some time before it can agree on an energy policy.
Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg is refusing to put a timetable on the development of a new policy, days after a mammoth party room meeting on the issue brought back to the surface deep divisions within the Coalition.
The nation’s energy ministers meet on July 14 to consider the recommendations from Chief Scientist Alan Finkel’s review of the electricity market, including a clean energy target to encourage investment, and storage requirements for new renewable generators.
The federal government was understood to have been working to get a policy position in place before this meeting.
But Mr Frydenberg said on Sunday it was much more important to get the policy right than meet “some arbitrary timetable”.
“I don’t want to put a deadline on it but Finkel himself is envisaging his model coming in potentially for 2019-20, which is still some time away,” he told Sky News.
“We have to proceed carefully and I’m not going to be rushing the commonwealth’s position or in any way pre-empting the party room’s deliberation of this issue because my colleagues come first.”
Greens leader Richard Di Natale understood policy development took time but warned the transition to lower emissions was happening rapidly.
“There’s no question that it’s important to take your time over an important reform like this, but again let’s call it out for what it is: there’s a massive brawl going on inside the Liberal Party,” he told Sky News.
A clean energy target would mandate a proportion of electricity each year come from generators below a set emissions level.
Labor has offered cautious bipartisanship on it but seems likely to draw the line on setting the emissions level high enough to include coal.
But some on the government benches will only support a policy that encourages continued coal-fired generation.
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce says the government is “completely agnostic” about using coal as an energy source, unlike Labor and the Greens, who he says are religiously against it.
Mr Joyce told ABC TV the government will consider anything that’s reliable and affordable to ensure industry and jobs stay in Australia, otherwise you end up like South Australia, which looks like “pandemonium palace”.
Mr Frydenberg said the Greens had made themselves irrelevant to the debate, having “dealt themselves out of the game based on their zealotry” while Labor’s comments about coal were highly irresponsible.