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PM faces mutiny in Abbott power push

Chief Scientist Alan Finkel delivers a speech recently on his review of national energy security
Chief Scientist Alan Finkel delivers a speech recently on his review of national energy security DEAN LEWINS

THE threat of a leadership- wrecking mutiny is forcing Malcolm Turnbull to blunt the most significant recommendation he has received on electricity security.

The Prime Minister has been warned as many as five MPs might cross the floor in the House of Representatives should he attempt to legislate the Clean Energy Target, news.com.au has been told.

This would be a reminder of his removal as opposition leader in 2009 by Tony Abbott. The flashpoint issue then was support for the Emissions Trading Scheme proposed by Labor's Kevin Rudd.

Mr Turnbull is considering a range of adjustments to the Clean Energy Target proposal from Chief Scientist Alan Finkel in his review of energy security, which was delivered in June.

The possible changes range from the cosmetic - a name change - to the detailed - a bigger role for coal generation.

The bid to placate potential rebels who remained unhappy with the new CET version could push resolution of the matter beyond the Christmas deadline set by Mr Turnbull.

And this would mean a further delay in the establishment of a clean energy benchmark as the power industry pleads for greater certainty from the government so it can invest in confidence.

An indication of a possible Liberal rebellion came on Tuesday when Mr Abbott told colleagues at a regular meeting of Coalition MPs the proposed CET could not operate in addition to boosts to renewable energy production, reflecting an argument this would increase prices to consumers.

He said: "If we draft a clean energy target on top of the Renewable Energy Target, that will be a difficult position to sustain.”

Mr Turnbull told Parliament on Tuesday a CET was "under consideration”.

"We need to ensure that the energy market design provides a suitable framework for investment that doesn't simply get new generation, but gets generation of the right kind,” he said.

Yesterday, Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg declined to discuss government revamping of a CET, but he challenged assertions a delay would dampen power generation investment.

"The Labor Party says there is not a lot of investment going on. I can tell you there is a record level of investment going in new generation, particularly renewables,” he said.

"There is $7 billion worth of investments under way, 4000 megawatts of supply to the market. What we need to do is get the right mix.”

The Finkel report said: "In addition to incentivising reliable generation into the market, a goal of the Clean Energy Target is to lower long-term emissions. For example, a mix of wind, solar and coal generation would be equally acceptable as a mix of wind, solar and gas generation as long as the emissions reduction trajectory is achieved.”

At the time Mr Turnbull said: "Well it would certainly work, there is no question

it would work and we

are looking at it, giving it very favourable consideration.”



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