Australia’s energy ministers will be expected to give their first indication on whether they’ll support the national energy guarantee next week, but nine days out none of them have seen the framework.
Federal Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg says it will be released by the Energy Security Board “relatively soon” but at least one state counterpart, the ACT’s Shane Rattenbury, says time is running out.
“We are going to see very substantial policy detail on the future of Australia’s energy system with maybe a couple of days to analyse it – I don’t think we’re going to be in a position next Friday to come to an agreement,” Mr Rattenbury told AAP.
Mr Frydenberg told the National Press Club on Wednesday he expected states and territories to sign off on the agreement by August, so legislation can be put in place by the end of the year.
“Government at all levels, and parties of all political persuasions, must put their ideology aside and work together to put the national interest first,” he said.
Mr Rattenbury disputed claims the ACT could be the only holdout to the deal, something Mr Frydenberg warned wouldn’t go down well.
“I can’t see a situation where the other states representing 99.97 per cent of (Australia’s) supply agree to the national energy guarantee and the ACT holds out,” Mr Frydenberg said.
December is also the deadline given by the Australian Energy Market Operator before alternatives are investigated to prevent a shortfall in energy after the 2022 closure of the Liddell power station, should AGL not go through with all of its investment plan.
That potential shortfall is what the government’s using to put pressure on AGL to sell the power station to Hong Kong-based Alinta.
AGL plans to refurbish the Liddell plant for gas, solar and wind alternatives as well as battery storage as an alternative to selling.
But Mr Frydenberg said AGL was yet to provide a financial commitment to all three stages.
“So you’re asking the government to wait for a board decision down the track before we actually secure supply,” he said.
“That is not something the government will do.”
AGL chief executive Andrew Vesey reiterated on Wednesday that many options were modelled before the company reached a final decision on Liddell.
“We have the underlying work to prove it,” he said, adding the company was not afraid to engage with people who disagree with the decision.
Mr Frydenberg also used his speech to warn coalition colleagues and those on the left of politics that ideology must be set aside to solve the power problem.
“As politicians set their battle lines, it is consumers who are the casualties. This is the hard truth,” he said..
“The answer lies neither in a war on coal nor the nationalisation of our energy assets.”