Australia’s treasurer has urged MPs to put aside ideological differences and embrace an energy policy in the interests of giving investors certainty.
Scott Morrison, who earlier in the year waved a lump of coal around during question time, said on Wednesday for far too long parliament has not come together to resolve energy issues.
Policy uncertainty had turned into a big risk for investors.
“There’s a very big national interest here and it’s for all parliamentarians I think to focus on that regardless of which party they’re in or what ideological perspective they have on this issue,” Mr Morrison told reporters in Canberra.
“Until we can get to that certain place on energy policy, then we really are putting a lot at risk.”
Renewables attracted record levels of investment in 2016 but that came off the back of several sluggish years while the Abbott government reviewed and cut the renewable energy target.
Chief Scientist Alan Finkel will brief the prime minister and state leaders on his review of the national energy sector at a meeting in Hobart on Friday.
He’s widely expected to recommend a low emissions target – similar to the existing renewable energy target but taking a technology-neutral approach by mandating a percentage of power each year be generated from sources below a certain emissions level.
The approach is firming as the new focus of federal climate policy with the Nationals flagging support and Labor not ruling it out.
Energy experts say the LET would be a “third-best solution”.
“This mechanism is well behind an emissions intensity scheme and an economy-wide price on carbon, and won’t discriminate against really dirty coal over more efficient coal,” ANU Energy Change Institute director Ken Baldwin said.
However, his colleague Paul Burke said it was a smart alternative given the government had already ruled out any mechanisms that price carbon pollution.
“Solar and wind power are increasingly cheap, and an LET would help to ensure that the required investment takes place to replace retiring fossil-fuel generators,” he said.
Greens energy spokesman Adam Bandt said reports Dr Finkel could recommend rule changes to mandate new renewable projects have storage attached were troubling and could lock storage companies out of participating in the market in their own right.
It would be better to create a new energy storage target or have other non-market incentives to integrate storage, he said.
A Lowy Institute poll, released on Wednesday, found four in five Australians thought the government should focus on renewables, even if they needed more investment to make the system more reliable.
Nearly three in five ranked climate change as a “critical threat” to Australia over the next decade.