Energy Minister Angus Taylor has derided a canned coalition government plan to help cut power bills for Australians as a $1.6 billion bandaid fix.
The one-off bonus payment for people struggling to pay their electricity bills was reportedly rejected by cabinet ministers in the dying days of the Turnbull government.
“Welfare payments, whatever their merits, are a bandaid on a much more fundamental problem,” Mr Taylor told ABC radio on Thursday.
“It’s the structural solution we want.”
And yet, one of the final acts of the Turnbull government was to abandon plans to axe a fortnightly energy supplement paid to welfare recipients, which was originally offered as compensation for the carbon tax.
Asked about the National Energy Guarantee – the Turnbull government policy which was a catalyst for the recent bitter leadership battle – the new energy minister hinted the emissions reduction targets will be buried.
Mr Taylor told Sky News “the focus on reliability, absolutely, we have to focus on reliability.”
The policy was designed to cut $550 a year from energy bills while also requiring power companies to meet reliability and emissions reduction targets.
Mr Taylor says Australians will start to see changes to their power bills next year, conceding it won’t happen overnight.
His plans for reducing electricity prices centre on recommendations from the ACCC, such as a price safety net from July 1, increasing competition in the sector and stamping out price-gouging.
The energy minister said coal has an important role to play in Australia’s energy mix, and expressed concerns about investing in new renewable projects.
“One of the things that has happened when renewables have come in is we’ve seen the withdrawal of big baseload generators like Hazelwood (power station),” he said.
“And there’s no question that withdrawal drives the price up.”
Mr Taylor said it was up to the market and investors to determine the cost-effectiveness of renewables.
The electricity sector is likely to reach its commitments under the Paris Agreement without a further government push.
A report released on Thursday found emissions in the electricity sector fell three per cent below 2005 levels, largely due to the Renewable Energy Target.
However, the ClimateWorks study says Australia is not yet on track to meet its overall emissions reduction targets under the Paris agreement.
Reduced land clearing across the country helped with overall emissions reductions, masking growing emissions in industry, building and transport, the report found.