Electricity prices and energy security will be defining issues in the political year ahead, Malcolm Turnbull predicts.
Conservative backbenchers – notably Tony Abbott – have been urging the prime minister to take the fight to Labor over energy policy, as well as to dump the renewable energy target.
Mr Turnbull said energy policy was not an abstract issue because higher electricity bills hurt household budgets.
“The battlelines have been drawn: it is clear that the coalition stands for cheaper energy,” he told the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday.
“We are approaching this issue clear-eyed, pragmatic and objective. Labor’s approach is driven simply by ideology, heedless of cost or the thousands of jobs that it will destroy.”
Mr Turnbull has pledged to keep the 23 per cent renewable energy target intact, noting it was reviewed and cut from 27 per cent under Mr Abbott’s leadership.
On Wednesday he revealed the Clean Energy Finance Council and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency will now prioritise funding for large-scale storage and other flexible capacity projects, including pumped hydro.
Chief Scientist Alan Finkel will also provide advice on the role they can play in stabilising the electricity grid.
Mr Turnbull said it was an indictment on state governments that they had been pushing more renewable energy into their grids without thinking about how to back up variable sources such as wind.
“We have really underdone on storage in Australia,” he said.
The prime minister called on all governments to co-operate on achieving the trifecta of affordable, reliable and secure electricity.
Labor wants the RET lifted to 50 per cent by 2030, which Mr Turnbull dismissed as “a mindless rush into renewables”.
“Bill Shorten’s energy plan whether it is a 50 per cent RET by 2030 or double our Paris emissions reduction target by 2030 is a sure recipe to deliver much more expensive and much less reliable power,” he said.
Mr Shorten on Tuesday told the National Press Club there were real jobs – for blue collar workers, engineers and designers – in renewables.