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Independent review into nation's energy security


UPDATED: State and territory energy ministers have signed off on an independent review of the nation’s energy security following a statewide blackout in South Australia.

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Federal Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg announced the review in his opening remarks to the COAG energy council meeting in Melbourne today, reminding ministers of their obligation to work together to ensure a stable electricity system.

South Australian energy minister Tom Koutsantonis said after the meeting that ministers had made “significant progress towards the reform and modernisation of the national electricity market”.

Australia’s chief scientist Alan Finkel would lead an independent review into last week’s blackout and the performance of national agencies before and after the event.

Koutsantonis said the review would also recommend reforms to the market to “more securely integrate greater levels of renewable energy as the nation transitions to a clean energy future to meet our international climate objectives”.

The review would deliver a preliminary report to COAG in December.

Koutsantonis said the SA and NSW governments had agreed to work together to progress the construction of a new interconnector between the states, to increase stability in the system.

Earlier today, the blame game over last week’s blackout continued.

Frydenberg has blamed “totally unrealistic” renewable energy targets in Labor states for instability in the electricity grid.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull believes those same states have an obsession with high targets for political purposes.

“They’ve set these heroic renewable energy targets,” Turnbull told FIVEaa radio on Friday.

“And rather than planning for energy security they just treat it as an assumption.”

But Koutsantonis says the renewable energy debate started by the federal government has nothing to do with facts.

The state government maintains the blanket blackout was caused by the last week’s storms and not SA’s reliance on wind and solar energy for 40 per cent of its power.

Koutsantonis says an outdated national energy market is preventing the transition to clean energy.

Queensland Energy Minister Mark Bailey believes the states are picking up the slack by setting high targets, accusing the federal government of not doing enough under its international climate change obligations.

The state is aiming for 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030, up from the present seven per cent.

“The states are doing the heavy lifting on climate change and they’re criticising us for it,” he told ABC radio on Friday.

Bailey accused Turnbull of childish scaremongering by questioning his state’s target, while calling on the federal government to outline its plans for renewable energy from 2020 and 2030.

“Their policy at the moment is to do nothing and in that vacuum it’s the states that are moving in,” he said.

The federal government wants the states to agree to a uniform national renewable energy target, believing individual goals are distorting the national energy market.

“They are essentially political statements that have been made by Labor governments without any regard to either energy security or energy affordability,” Turnbull said.

Frydenberg admitted the federal renewable energy target of about 23 per cent by 2020 had helped SA reach its high level of clean energy but said it was up to that government to ensure blackouts did not occur.

“My state government should ensure that the lights stay on,” he said.

Both Frydenberg and Turnbull admit the blackout was the result of the weather.

But federal Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese said the Turnbull government should apologise for playing politics with the once-in-50 years SA storms.

“Energy security should not be linked to this event,” he told the Nine Network.


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