Coalition elder statesmen have joined with Conservative Party leader Cory Bernardi in urging the government to facilitate the entry of new coal-fired power stations alongside the national energy guarantee to drive down electricity prices and secure reliability as they seek to avoid a new round of government infighting over energy.
Senator Bernardi has long been calling for an open tender for new supply through a power purchasing agreement and, although technology-agnostic, he suggests that coal will easily emerge as the most competitive. Former Nationals senator Ron Boswell has made a statement uncannily similar to Senator Bernardi's proposition.
Howard government resources minister Ian Macfarlane yesterday urged the Coalition to consider covering the commercial and carbon risks for any private sector investment in a new cleancoal-fired power station and insisted the major energy users be compensated for their role in ensuring reliability of supply under the energy guarantee.
The intervention in the debate came amid mounting concern in the Coalition that internal divisions on the energy guarantee could distract from the government’s Senate victory last week after it passed its $144 billion personal income tax package. Some MPs are now strongly pushing for a special deal behind the scenes, arguing in favour of incentives to drive investment in coal-fired power as the best way of minimising the internal opposition to the energy guarantee.
Earlier this year, Senator Bernardi told Paul Murray Live on Sky News his proposal for a long-term government energy tender - conditional on bringing new, baseload power online - will fix the energy market's woes.
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