Labor premiers savage Turnbull's energy plan

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull during his tour of the Snowy Hydro Tumut 2 power station during his visit to the Snowy Mountains region to give an update on Snowy Hydro 2.0, on Monday 28 August 2017. POOL Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull during his tour of the Snowy Hydro Tumut 2 power station during his visit to the Snowy Mountains region to give an update on Snowy Hydro 2.0, on Monday 28 August 2017. POOL Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

The Turnbull government faces an uphill battle getting states to sign up to its new energy plan, as Labor premiers savage it as a capitulation to Tony Abbott and victory for the coal industry.

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.

The plan to force energy companies to meet mandated standards of reliability and emissions reduction will require changes to national electricity law, which is state-based legislation that sets the rules for the market.

Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg briefed his state counterparts on the policy over the phone on Tuesday ahead of a face-to-face COAG meeting planned for late November. But initial reactions were not positive.???

South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill slammed the plan, and said it proved Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was incapable of standing up to his party's right wing and the fossil fuel sector.

"The Prime Minister is powerless, the Prime Minister is impotent," he said. "This is a complete victory for the coal industry."

Mr Weatherill indicated he was still weighing "going it alone" on a more robust, state-based clean energy target, something the Commonwealth has warned against because it would further fragment the electricity market.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews was also scathing, taunting Mr Turnbull and describing him as Tony Abbott's spokesman.

"The Prime Minister needs to stand up," he said. "I'd settle for him pretending to be a leader but he's not even doing that. The fact that he's prepared to let Tony Abbott junk Alan Finkel's work, it's unspeakable, it's appalling."

Victorian Energy Minister Lily D'Ambrosio was even more strident, saying the "backward plan" put thousands of jobs at risk and shattered investor confidence.

"His modelling is dodgy and his claims about reducing power prices can't be believed," she said.

"There has been no consultation with the states and we continue to learn about the policy via media leaks. We will closely consider our next steps after receiving the detail that this announcement is sorely lacking."

If one or more of the states baulk at the plan, the federal government can seek a workaround in the Federal Parliament. But it believes that, while the states will make lots of noise about the plan in the coming days, they are ultimately likely to support it.

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

"We welcome the proposal by the federal government to provide greater certainty for investment by integrating climate and energy policy," a spokesperson for Energy Minister Don Harwin said. "We are currently reviewing the proposal."

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.

Mr Turnbull indicated he might convene a special COAG meeting to discuss the plan with state leaders.

- With Peter Hannam

This story Labor premiers savage Turnbull's energy plan first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.