Malcolm Turnbull lays out his thoughts on renewable energy in his NPC address

Australia’s prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has laid out his thoughts on renewable energy, electricity pricing and supply, as well as on “clean coal” and gas, describing energy as a “defining debate of this parliament” in his National Press Club address on Wednesday.

Energy security was a major theme in Turnbull’s hour-long speech, with a particlar focus on the popular conservative complaint that the rapid roll-out of renewable energy and withdrawal of coal-fired power from Australia’s electricity network was destablising supply.

“If you doubt the importance of energy security, take a visit to South Australia. ….But the problem goes beyond South Australia,” Turnbull said.

“Families and businesses need reliable power. This mindless rush on renewables is not good enough. Australia should be able to achieve the energy trifecta of energy … All governments and industry should work together to achieve those three goals …of secure and affordable power while delivering on our emissions pledge.”

On the subject of the federal government’s 23 per cent by 2020 renewable energy target, Turnbull noted that the RET was only intended as a short-term policy mechanism.

“The renewable energy target was never intended to be perpetual. It was designed to act as a pull-through of technology, to provide accelerated demand on the assumption that that demand would inspire more investment and development. Now, whether it’s a coincidence or not, the reality is that the levelised cost of renewables has declined.”

The PM also used his speech to criticise the Opposition’s renewable energy and climate policies, describing Labor leader Bill Shorten’s energy plan as “a sure recipe to deliver much more expensive and much more unreliable power.”

On energy storage, Turnbull said Australia was lagging behind the rest of the world, and that his government aimed to bring it up to date on the technology.

“Large-scale energy storage will support variable renewables, and it will enhance grid stability and we’re going to get on with it.”

“Last week, at my request, ARENA and the CEFC agreed to work together on (advancing) battery storage and pumped hydro (research and development in Australia),” he said.

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Jeff Sykes