Consensus on a national energy guarantee proposal is edging forward with state and territory energy ministers seeking detailed design of the policy at a COAG energy council meeting on Friday.
Energy ministers who flagged concerns with the NEG still have four months to push for changes before the federal government’s deadline in August.
While more than 100 protestors called for renewable energy outside the meeting at the Sofitel hotel in Melbourne, Federal Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg urged his state and territory counterparts to get behind the NEG “backed by business, industry and community groups”.
Mr Frydenberg acknowledged there was “more work to be done” at the meeting of energy ministers.
“I think there is a recognition that there is more work to be done, there is a recognition that there is a lot of goodwill from all sides of this debate and there is a recognition that we will need to get an outcome in August,” Mr Frydenberg said heading into the meeting.
The Energy Security Board will now continue to progress a more detailed design expected to be released in July.
While no state or territory ministers have spoken out against a detailed design of the NEG, none have offered their full support for the plan at this stage.
Victoria, Queensland and the ACT have all raised major sticking points with the plan and have called for a higher emissions reduction target.
State Labor ministers are still pushing for the government to increase the 26 per cent emissions reduction target that would be legislated for the electricity sector.
The national energy guarantee proposal is at the lower end of Australia’s Paris Agreement commitment of 26-28 per cent reduction of 2005 level emissions by 2030.
Queensland Energy Minister Anthony Lynham said his state wouldn’t compromise on four points, including its “rock solid” 50 per cent renewable energy target by 2030, that downward price pressure continue, and the ability to scale up the emissions target.
Ministers questioned the low target for electricity where abatement is cheaper and easier to achieve than in agriculture, industry and transport.
“It’s a critical question and Minister Frydenberg needs to provide some specificity in how that will be achieved by the rest of the economy,” Ms D’Ambrosio said on Friday morning.
ACT Climate Change Minister Shane Rattenbury also committed to pursue more ambitious emissions reductions and renewable targets.
“I think it is appropriate that where those states are doing the work, they actually put in place heavier targets, that it doesn’t become a free ride of some of the other jurisdictions,” he said.
Environment Victoria chief executive Mark Wakeham said Victoria should not sign up to a plan that “falls short” of a nation in need of significant clean energy investment and cuts to climate pollution in line with the Paris Agreement.
“Victoria has all the right ingredients to secure an international reputation in clean energy and high-tech renewable industries,” Mr Wakeham said.
South Australian energy minister Dan Van Holst Pelekaan gave the strongest indication of support ahead of the talks.
“If the details we receive shortly will support South Australia, then we will support the National Energy Guarantee,” he said.
“If it doesn’t, the state won’t back the deal – but will support further detailed work.”