Federal Election is go: So where do the parties stand on energy policy?

Federal Budget energy measuresBudget 2019: no change on energy funding.

Well, it’s finally on. Prime Minister Scott Morrison visited the Governor-General this morning and announced an election for May 18. One thing is certain: Federal Election energy policies will figure highly over the next 37 days of campaigning.

That he was only in his position due to a failure of the Coalition’s energy policy couldn’t possibly be lost on the PM.

It will be an election based on economic policy and the budget, according to Morrison. But it was his party’s chaotic handling of the NEG and subsequent ousting of Malcolm Turnbull that saw him installed in the top job.

Now let’s take a closer look at how the energy policies of the major parties stack up…

The Coalition’s energy policies

The party’s primary platform is “lower energy prices” for all Australians. Here’s how they hope to achieve it with the following Federal election energy policies:

  • Introducing a default market price for electricity – a default price would undercut excessive standing offers for customers.
  • Using so-called big stick legislation to break up energy companies who rip off consumers. The government shelved the legislation in March after the Greens gained cross-bench support to amend the bill.
  • Backing new power generation investment through the ‘Underwriting New Generation Investments’ program.
  • Scrapping the ‘loyalty tax’ for households and businesses, whereby energy retailers gouge customers who fail to seek better deals.
  • Handing out one-off payments of $75 for singles and $125 for couples to help offset power costs. Announced on Budget night, this measure initially failed to include pensioners and Newstart recipients. This mistake was quickly rectified by an embarrassed Treasurer 24 hours later.

The Australian Labor Party’s energy policies

Labor also plans to lower power prices. But its message is one of climate action, and is in stark contrast to the Coalition’s policy on energy. Labor has committed to a 50 per cent renewable energy target by 2030, and says this will drive job creation and lower prices.

Labor’s platform on energy and climate includes the following Federal election energy policies:

  • Reducing national carbon emissions to 45% below 2005 levels by 2030.
  • Implementing a National Energy Plan to support the transition to cleaner, cheaper forms of energy.
  • Investing in renewable energy and battery storage. Labor will offer $2,000 rebates for solar batteries for 100,000 households, with a target of one million batteries by 2025.
  • Creating a $5 billion Energy Security and Modernisation Fund. The fund will build and upgrade Australia’s energy transmission and distribution systems, including links to Renewable Energy Zones.
  • Reducing pollution by extending the safeguard mechanism to Australia’s biggest polluters. However, Labor will extend special treatment under the mechanism to some emission intensive trade exposed industries (EITEs), such as steel, aluminium and cement.

The Greens’ energy policies

Although they don’t have the numbers to form a government, the Greens do influence policy, particularly environmental and energy policy in progressive electorates. And if they hold the balance of power in the Senate, their voice in Federal energy policy will be substantive. The Greens’ climate and energy policy is in their Renew Australia plan.

  • Unsurprisingly, the plan involves a total transition away from coal to renewable forms of energy.
  • It would shatter the ‘oligopoly’ of the three major energy retailers by creating a public retailer, Power Australia. This entity would be directly owned by the Australian government and provide renewable-generated energy to customers.
  • The plan also sees massive investment in upgrading ageing transmission infrastructure to open new Renewable Energy Zones.

And finally, a case study… Warringah!

The beachside electorate of Warringah, currently held by former-PM Tony Abbott, is shaping up as a contest on climate change. The last-minute approval of the Adani coal project has done Abbott no favours. Research shows nearly half (47%) of Warrigahites have concerns over climate change

Abbott has previously claimed climate change “was probably doing good” for the planet. He’s also likened efforts to combat it to “killing goat to appease the volcano gods”.

Now he’s facing a challenge from Zali Steggall. The Independent supports the ALP’s emissions target, but says if elected, she will push for an even higher target of 60 per cent.

She responded angrily to reporters when asked about her ‘left-leaning’ views on climate:

“The idea that climate – and our long-term sustainability – is a question for the left is ridiculous,” she said.

As the election rolls on, we at Energy Matters will be keeping you updated with Federal election energy policies announcements.