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PM remains agnostic in the face of coal evangelism

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Malcolm Turnbull insists his government will remain technology-neutral if it financially backs new power generation, as coalition MPs seize on a new report to make the case for coal.

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The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission recommended the government underwrite new power plants to help companies who haven’t been able to get finance.

That’s part of a suite of measures the competition watchdog says will reduce power prices by about $400 a year for the average household.

Some Nationals and Liberals have claimed the recommendation to underwrite power generation is vindication for their push to build new coal-fired power plants.

However, Turnbull said the ACCC’s report had made it clear being “technology agnostic” was the key to driving down prices in Australia’s broken electricity market.

“Picking one technology over the other will only result in higher prices,” the prime minister told ABC radio today.

“We’re not advocating one technology or another. We don’t need to subsidise one technology or another.”

Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg said the recommendation to help power generators had a lot of merit, as it would address a market failure.

“What they’re saying is the government needs to step in here to provide some sort of assurance,” Frydenberg told the Nine Network.

He said that could include coal, gas, renewable energy or battery storage.

Labor’s energy spokesman Mark Butler said there was no appetite in the business community to invest in new coal-fired power generation, with or without government support.

“The coal ideologues in the Coalition partyroom have effectively hijacked what is quite an important and serious recommendation,” Butler told ABC radio.

Deputy Nationals leader Bridget McKenzie said science should determine which technology would get the best outcomes for power bills.

“We have to walk away from the evangelical attachment to one particular fuel source for power generation over another,” McKenzie told Sky News.

Turnbull said there was strong support for the vast majority of the ACCC’s 56 recommendations, but the government would carefully consider the report, which sets out a blueprint to cut electricity bills by 25 per cent.

“My focus is, unrelentingly, on getting energy prices down,” he said.

Acting Greens leader Adam Bandt said Australia should exit coal-fired power in favour of renewable energy to cut pollution.

“If you’re so-called technology agnostic then you’re committing a climate crime,” Bandt told Sky News.

– AAP

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