Shorten open to state energy deal

Labor has urged the prime minister to genuinely listen to the concerns of states about the government’s proposed energy policy, flagging the federal opposition could back it if the right deal is struck.

State and territory energy ministers will meet with their federal counterpart Josh Frydenberg in Sydney on Friday to discuss the design of the National Energy Guarantee.

Victoria’s Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio has called on the emissions reduction target to be re-set every three years and three years in advance, instead of five years, and for the targets to be set by regulations.

“Every time a future federal government may wish to change the emissions level, if they have to run the gauntlet of the federal Senate, that is no certainty at all,” she told reporters in Melbourne on Wednesday.

The state also wants a registry accessible by regulators and government to ensure the guarantee works in the best interests of consumers.

The ACT and Queensland have also raised concerns about a lack of ambition in cutting emissions and driving further investment in renewables.

Asked about federal Labor’s energy policy ahead of the next election, Mr Shorten told reporters in Sydney he had not given up hope an agreement could be struck on the NEG.

“We don’t think that the proposal of the government is all bad,” Mr Shorten said.

“I think what we need to see is a fair dinkum negotiation on Friday. What I don’t want to hear is that Mr Turnbull says one thing to the states on Friday and another thing to his party room next Tuesday.

“I’m worried that Mr Turnbull doesn’t control his own party, cannot convince people there that lower energy prices from more renewable energy is the way to go.”

Mr Turnbull has assured coalition colleagues of his support for the underwriting of new dispatchable power generation, which is proving to be a key factor in getting backing for the NEG in the partyroom.

“That’s a very good suggestion and I have no doubt that we will adopt that,” he told reporters in Alice Springs.

“It will need to be a lot of design in it. It’s technology agnostic, so it would benefit anything that was dispatchable – it could be hydro, it could be gas, it could be renewables backed by hydro or gas or batteries, it could be gas alone, it could be coal.”

Critics of the NEG in coalition ranks have stressed such a commitment is crucial, seeing it as a potential means of supporting new coal-fired power stations.

Tasmania’s Energy Minister Guy Barnett on Wednesday accused governments in Victoria and the ACT, which also says it can’t support the current plan, of playing politics.

“I have very serious concerns about their actions because we want them to get on board,” he said.

“If this deal is not signed up, then you can see higher power prices.”

Greens leader Richard Di Natale says the current policy is all about the politics and has been designed to get past the partyroom.

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