State governments are forging ahead with their own energy policy measures after the repeated failure by Federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor to convene a COAG energy policy meeting to address the absence of a national plan. The last meeting of the Council Of Australian Governments (COAG) took place last December in Adelaide.
The session ended in acrimony after Mr Taylor used an obscure clause to block a motion put by (then) New South Wales Energy and Climate Minister Don Harwin to restore an obligation to reduce emissions in national energy policy.
State Governments expected a COAG meeting this month
Some state government officials were expecting a meeting to be held this month in Melbourne or next month in Perth, but their expectations are unlikely to be met by Canberra. Mr Taylor is instead pursuing bilateral meetings with NSW and South Australian ministers.
COAG Energy Council’s terms of reference stipulate that ministers are to meet twice a year. Mr Taylor is now on leave, but acting Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Sussan Ley confirmed he has not confirmed the details of the next meeting.
Victoria’s Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio and NSW’s new Energy and Environment Minister Matt Kean both voiced frustration about the lack of direction and leadership from Canberra.
She was quoted by the Australian Financial Review as saying: “This is an important policy area and we want to work collaboratively with the federal government. I haven’t heard from Angus Taylor but would be happy to consider any proposals he may have.”
She said that Australia cannot afford another three years of chaos in Canberra without coherent energy policy from the federal Liberal government, adding: “It hurts jobs, increases power prices and does nothing to tackle climate change.”
New South Wales still supports National Energy Guarantee
Mr Kean said the New South Wales Government continues to support the National Energy Guarantee that was abandoned by the Morrison government. He said New South Wales still wants a national mechanism that integrates climate and energy policy. Queensland Energy Minister Anthony Lynham is said to be “very unhappy” about Mr Taylor not calling the latest COAG Energy Council meeting.
South Australian Energy Minister Dan val Holst Pellekaan said COAG should meet and that there was goodwill to constructively reform the operation of the national market. EnergyAustralia’s Catherine Tanna has also emphasised the need for coordinated policy action between Commonwealth and state governments.
Grattan Institute believes state governments can work together
Grattan Institute energy program director Tony Wood said: “No meeting of the council would create a pretty weird dynamic for the market bodies, although it’s really only the ESB that would be in limbo since their work plans are the creatures of the Energy Council.
He said state governments can get together anyway and hammer out a common approach in energy and climate that could be taken forward without the Commonwealth.
He said the idea of the states agreeing on an emissions target would be difficult. But progress could be made in several other areas, including the Energy Security Board’s work on the Integrated System Plan and post-2025 design of the market.
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