Renewable Targets Lead COAG Agenda

Thursday, October 6th, 2016
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State and territory ministers will consider uniform renewable energy targets and a formal review of the national power market at an emergency meeting in the aftermath of the South Australian blackout.

Federal Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg will head an urgent COAG energy council meeting in Melbourne on Friday to discuss what went wrong last week when the entire state lost power in the midst of damaging storms.

On the agenda will be the merits of a “formal, more broader review” of the National Electricity Market and the potential for strengthening infrastructure to protect against extreme weather events.

The federal government also wants states and territories to sign on to one national renewable energy target, stripping them of the freedom to set their own goals.

“We want reliable and affordable energy supply as we transition to a lower emissions future,” Mr Frydenberg said on Thursday.

“But at all times energy security is paramount.

States, territories and the federal government needed to co-operate to “harmonise” renewable energy targets, he said.

The blackout prompted the coalition to question the stability of SA’s energy grid, which relies on renewables for 40 per cent of its power.

Mr Frydenberg and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull have accused Labor states of setting unrealistic and aggressive goals for political purposes with no road maps to get there.

Premier Jay Weatherill accused the prime minister of deflecting the issue onto renewables due to fear he would be blamed for the blackout.

Electricity interconnection between states will also be pushed at Friday’s meeting, with South Australia keen to build a power link to NSW.

The COAG energy council last month agreed to fast track testing for the interconnector amid soaring South Australian power prices.

An interconnector with Victoria is the only link SA has to the national grid – which it uses more heavily when the wind stops blowing and the sun stops shining.

NSW Energy Minister Anthony Roberts has this week backed the new interconnector, saying it would boost competition while also improving energy security.

The SA government also says the link would ensure no renewable energy is wasted.

Integrating more renewables into the National Electricity Market will also be on the table on Friday.

An initial report from the Australian Energy Market Operator into the SA blackout found extreme weather led to the interconnector overloading.

It comes as energy groups urge ministers to work together as the nation transitions to a lower emissions economy.

In a joint statement, groups including the Australian Energy Council, Business Council of Australia and the Australian Industry Group, call for both sides of politics at both state and federal levels to take responsibility for the state of the national electricity network.

Solutions must be “strategic, efficient, nationally co-ordinated and consistent”, the groups said on Thursday.

Friday’s COAG meeting is expected to be attended by ministers from all states and territories except the ACT, which is in caretaker mode, and the Northern Territory.

Also on the agenda is:

  • discussion on the strength of infrastructure and gaps in the National Electricity Market
  • an AEMO briefing on the blackout
  • a briefing from the CSIRO on battery storage
  • potential rule changes as more renewables come online
  • energy frequency control
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