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Jay's "frenzied rhetoric" on energy just hot air, says Turnbull

Politics

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has accused Jay Weatherill of “frenzied rhetoric” – at odds with private discussions – on his proposed National Energy Guarantee, as the Premier today doubled down on his vow to oppose the measure ahead of crucial COAG talks next month.

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Energy ministers will gather at a Council Of Australian Governments forum to discuss the contentious plan, with Turnbull telling reporters in Canberra today: “I think you’ll find a lot more common sense emerging from COAG than some of the media statements would suggest.”

But those statements continue to hold the line, with Weatherill emphatically telling InDaily in a statement today: “South Australia cannot support the proposed NEG – it’s merely a shell with no detail.

“What matters is the numbers you put in it, and whether those numbers are serious about transitioning to a renewable energy future,” he said.

“What we do know is the Prime Minister is being held hostage by Tony Abbott and the coal interests, who want to stay in the past.”

The standoff continued as SA senator Nick Xenophon today warned the Coalition its public display of affection for coal could prove a “kryptonite moment”, after federal Treasurer Scott Morrison yesterday used a Productivity Commission review to argue Australians can’t expect higher wages growth without making productivity gains.

But he chose to ignore the commission’s call for a “proper vehicle” to reduce carbon emissions by implementing a single carbon price.

Xenophon today reminded the treasurer of the time he brought a lump of coal into parliament to make a point about fossil-fuelled power.

“Was Scott Morrison holding coal or was it kryptonite?” Senator Xenophon said.

“On this issue, I believe the commission is right. You need to have an efficient mechanism to reduce carbon pollution.”

The commission said it was time to stop the piecemeal and stop-start approach to emission reduction, arguing a proper vehicle was needed for reducing carbon emissions that puts a single effective price on carbon.

SA Liberal frontbencher Simon Birmingham said the Government was committed to the technology-neutrality of its national energy guarantee energy plan.

“We have clear advice now from those most knowledgeable, most experts. We accept it. We urge the states, territories and Labor Party to get on board and accept it,” he told reporters.

But Labor senator Doug Cameron said the Government had no energy strategy, arguing Morrison was moving from “one thought bubble to another”.

“We do need to make sure we are at the forefront of technology for electricity generation in the future,” he said.

That did not include measures such as extending the life of ageing coal-fired power stations beyond their scheduled closure.

Senator Cameron worked as a maintenance fitter for seven years at the Liddell power station in the NSW Hunter Valley, which the Government is seeking to keep open beyond its scheduled 2022 closure.

“It was a problem then, it’s a massive problem now,” he said.

Weatherill insisted today “the publicly-owned power plant and the world’s largest battery will both be in place this summer”, arguing “we’ve seen a reduction in wholesale prices in SA – which will flow on to households – since the release of our plan”.

Meanwhile, organisers of the annual Australian Energy Storage Conference and Exhibition have announced the event will be held in Adelaide next year.

Conference organiser Sam Staples said the relocation from its Sydney base recognised that “Adelaide and South Australia have positioned themselves as the national leaders in the push to modernise our energy systems through the uptake of clean and efficient technologies”.

“The state is well on its way to becoming 100 per cent renewable, and energy storage is the key to achieving this benchmark,” he said.

Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis said the move was “a strong endorsement of our leadership in renewables and storage and will allow us to showcase the sector to suppliers, customers, engineers and innovators from across Australia and the world”.

The last Sydney conference attracted about 300 delegates and almost 2000 visitors, with organisers expecting a similar turnout next year.

The conference will be held at the Adelaide Convention Centre on May23 and 24, 2018.

-with AAP

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