ACT government refuses to back Turnbull energy plan until more detail is given

Australia’s states and territories are extremely unlikely to sign-up to the Turnbull government’s “weak” new energy policy until more detail is provided, the ACT’s energy minister says.

State and territory governments were briefed on the proposal during a heated phone call with federal Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg on Tuesday night.

ACT Energy Minister Shane Rattenbury said there was an immense sense of frustration from COAG members during the call.

“We got a six page letter outlining this strategy with no economic modelling, and they are telling us this is the model we have to adopt,” he said. 

“The conference call was palpably angry, both at the weak nature of the proposal, and the poor process the federal government has gone through.”

Although there were suggestions the federal government wanted the new plan agreed ahead of a COAG energy ministers meeting in November, Mr Rattenbury said was unlikely to happen.

“The states and territorys are saying, ‘Hang on, how can you expect us to sign up to this’.

“We would be very reluctant to sign it off. We would need to see more detail and make sure there is sufficient ambition in this program.”

Mr Rattenbury said the lack of detail in the proposal made it hard for governments to take it seriously.

“What we are seeing is a proposal that is business as usual, it locks in a role for coal and gas,” he said.

“It feels more like a wish and prayer than a serious proposal.” 

The ACT government remained committed to moving to 100 per cent renewable energy and continuing to reduce the territory’s emissions, Mr Rattenbury added.

Despite pitching the policy as a salve to price-weary power consumers, the federal government also conceded the predicted savings had been based on preliminary analysis, with detailed modelling yet to be carried out.

The Turnbull government has sought to reset the national energy debate by announcing energy companies will be forced to meet mandated standards of reliability and emissions reduction, which would reduce the risk of blackouts and drive prices down.

The government will need all the national electricity market states – NSW, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and the ACT – to agree to its national energy guarantee to implement it.

Labour governments from South Australia, Victoria and now the ACT have spoken against the proposal.

“There is frustration among the states and territories at a number of things,” said Mr Rattenbury.

“The way the commonwealth has put this package together without our consultation and presented it as a fait accompli.”

The conservative NSW government has been more receptive to the plan, saying it was a strong supporter of electricity market reform.

Australian Energy Council chief executive Matthew Warren endorsed the policy but said COAG agreement would  be critical.

“Without that we won’t achieve policy stability and we will continue to see the investment uncertainty that has occurred over the past decade in the energy sector,” he warned.