Energy report sparks new coal debate

Jennifer Rajca
Energy report sparks new coal debate

Federal Labor is warning negotiations over a new proposed clean energy target will fail if the government insists on fresh coal generation.

Coal backers in the coalition are already speaking out about the findings of a major climate report by the chief scientist, less than 24 hours after its release.

Alan Finkel, who briefed the prime minister and premiers on his 212-page report into the electricity market on Friday, recommends a clean energy target.

He anticipates such a policy, which would improve the reliability of electricity and replace the existing renewable energy target in 2020 - could save households $90 a year and businesses even more.

The opposition's climate spokesman Mark Butler says the party is open to Dr Finkel's recommendations, but insists the government can't "rig" the definition of clean energy to include coal-fired power.

"It's a nonsense," he told reporters in Adelaide on Saturday.

"If that is the basis on which Malcolm Turnbull wants to start negotiations with other parities, including federal Labor, then negotiations are not going to go very far."

Mr Butler said if the proposal falls over because the likes of Tony Abbott and Barnaby Joyce push for broader definitions of clean energy, Australians will continue to see plummeting security and sky-rocketing prices.

Labor is keeping an open mind on possible targets and will continue discussions with business groups.

Western Sydney Liberal MP Craig Kelly wants a fresh review to be done on the effects to the economy of the proposed policy to drive down emissions.

Mr Kelly says he would not support a benchmark emission target of 0.6 tonnes of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour - the level used by Dr Finkel to model economic effects.

"I would want to see whatever target that we go for, I want to see several different attempts at modelling just to see exactly what costs that would have on electricity in this nation," he told ABC radio.

The backbencher expects there will be varying views within the coalition on the target.

"But I think overall we have to be very conscious of the damage that we can do to the economy if the target is too low," he said.

Former cabinet minister Eric Abetz has also hit out at what he labelled "creative assumptions" by Dr Finkel.

Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg admits a lot of colleagues have firm views on the issue and he refused to pre-empt any decision by the partyroom, which is due to next meet on Tuesday.

"I'm very confident that people on my side of politics understand the necessity of providing more investment certainty," he told ABC's Lateline program.