COAG energy ministers sign off on progressing the NEG

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The key policy is determining Australia’s large scale renewable landscape beyond 2020 has cleared its latest hurdle. The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Energy Council gave its approval for the Energy Security Board to prepare a final design of the NEG today.

The COAG meeting, which comprised the federal, state and territory government energy ministers, was presented a “high level” overview of policy as it currently stands, by the Chair of the Energy Security Board Kerry Schott.

The Commonwealth Government, which will be responsible for setting the emissions target for the electricity sector under the NEG, also presented a paper to the COAG meeting. It included a “treatment of emissions-intensive export exposed industries.”

The goal is to gain final sign off from the states in August, and to implement the policy through 2019 and 2020. The energy ministers to speak again about the plan in a conference call in June.

The progress of the policy will be perceived as a win for the federal government and Energy Minister Josh Frydenburg. In a statement, he described the decision to move into the final design phase for the policy as a “big step forward”.

Frydenburg’s statement reads: “There was a lot of good will in the room, and while there is still much work to do, there was a commitment to getting an outcome in August.”

In the lead up to the meeting, state governments such as Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia had called for a more ambitious emission reduction target. The government has proposed a 26% reduction target on 2005 levels, and it appears on this it has not budged.

While states will be free to pursue more ambitious emissions reductions and renewable energy targets under the NEG, the notion that these would be additional to the national program looks to have been conceded at today’s meeting.

The Smart Energy Council, the former Australian Solar Council, has reacted angrily to the outcome of today’s COAG Energy Council meeting. It said that the meeting simply kicks “the can down the road”.

“This is diabolical for the renewable energy industry,” the Smart Energy Council said in a statement. “The Turnbull Government has made no concessions on their pathetic emissions reduction target. The National Energy Guarantee is worse than doing nothing. It means no new investment in large-scale renewable energy projects, apart from what State Governments and the Renewable Energy Target are already doing.”

Prior to today’s meeting, the Clean Energy Council joined a host of industry groups in calling for work on the NEG to continue.