Federal Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg has signalled the coalition government could financially back new power generation as part of a suite of measures to tackle skyrocketing power costs.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has recommended the government underwrite new power plants to help companies who haven’t been able to get finance.
Mr Frydenberg said the competition watchdog had identified a failure in the market but stressed the ACCC’s report had not favoured any particular technology.
“What they’re saying is the government needs to step in here provide some sort of assurance,” Mr Frydenberg told the Nine Network on Thursday.
“This is something that does have a lot of merit and we’ll consider it.”
Some Nationals and Liberals have claimed the recommendation is vindication for their push to build new coal-fired power plants.
But Mr Frydenberg said it could include coal, gas, renewable energy or battery storage.
Labor’s energy spokesman Mark Butler said there was no appetite in the business community to invest in new coal-fired power generation, with or without government support.
“The coal ideologues in the coalition partyroom have effectively hijacked what is quite an important and serious recommendation,” Mr Butler told ABC radio.
Deputy Nationals leader Bridget McKenzie said science should determine which technology would get the best outcomes for power bills.
“We have to walk away from the evangelical attachment to one particular fuel source for power generation over another,” Senator McKenzie told Sky News.
The ACCC’s report, which sets out a blueprint to cut 25 per cent from electricity bills, got warm support from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull when it was released on Wednesday.
“Australians are crying out for an energy policy that is focused on them,” Mr Turnbull said.
A key measure involves forcing retailers to offer a benchmark price near the middle of the market, to end confusing and deceptive discounts.
ACCC chair Rod Sims estimates bills could drop up to 25 per cent for the average household if the report’s 56 recommendations are all implemented.
Business lobby Australian Industry Group welcomed the voluntary write-down of the value of state-owned electricity networks but was unsure about the plan for the government to underwrite new power generation.
Mr Turnbull will talk to the states about the ACCC’s recommendations, as he also tries to get them to sign up to his national energy guarantee, which is aimed at dropping prices, guaranteeing reliability, and cutting emissions.