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States are taking leadership on clean energy amidst Federal policy 'vacuum': Qld Energy Minister -

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MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Mark Bailey is the Energy and Water Minister for Queensland and he'll be one of the state ministers at today's COAG (Council of Australian Governments) energy meeting in Melbourne.

I spoke to him earlier.

Mark Bailey, good morning.

MARK BAILEY: Good morning.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Victoria's Energy Minister has already described this meeting as a stunt. Do you agree?

MARK BAILEY: Look, I think the timing of it is interesting, you know. We've only had a very preliminary report from AEMO (Australian Energy Market Operator), heavily qualified that no conclusions can be drawn.

So, you know, I think that until we've got a final report that outlines fully what the systematic review of what happened in South Australia is, it is going to be a bit of a talk fest.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: She says that her state had been encouraged by the former environment minister, Greg Hunt, to develop its own policies beyond the federal Renewable Energy Scheme and that the last meeting of COAG Energy Council, held only a couple of months ago, had already agreed to look at the economic and operational impacts of renewable energy targets: the ones that exist already, including the state-based schemes.

Is that right?

MARK BAILEY: That is correct, absolutely. And what we've got here is a Federal Government that has got no policy after 2020 when it comes to the Renewable Energy Target.

Their policy is to do nothing after 2020. That is entirely inconsistent with our commitment with the Paris Agreement and in terms of acting on climate change.

The reason the states are doing the heavy lifting here, up to 2030, is because the Federal Government has basically vacated the space.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: So you're saying your target, which has been described by the Federal Energy Minister as too ambitious, is based on what you think you need to do to reach your obligations under the Paris Agreement?

MARK BAILEY: Absolutely. You know, Germany is producing 32 per cent of its energy today from renewables. California is producing 30 per cent of its energy today from renewables.

There is no reason why Australia can't do exactly the same thing. And what we're seeing from the Federal Government is the continuation of Tony Abbott's policies on renewable energy.

I think people expected better out of Malcolm Turnbull.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Well, they're saying that the nation needs a national approach to energy. You wouldn't... They'd be right there, wouldn't they?

MARK BAILEY: Well, we do need some national leadership in this regard and they can learn a lot from states like Queensland, where we've got a very rigorous process around identifying pathways to our 50 per cent target by 2030 - and we're talking about a 14-year timeframe here.

We've got an expert panel driven by Colin Mugglestone. You know, he's an investment banker, infrastructure specialist from the private sector.

And we'll be outlining in coming weeks that independent expert panel's pathways that they've identified: panels full of energy specialists, people respected in the field.

That is the rigorous way to go here. I think the Federal Government has got a lot to learn from Queensland's process.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: It's a very ambitious increase, though, isn't it? You currently generate, what: just 4.5 per cent of your power from renewables and in 14 years you want to get to 50 per cent?

MARK BAILEY: Well, the Federal Government got that wrong as well. We generate about seven per cent...

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Well, OK: seven per cent. It's still an increase of 43 per cent?

MARK BAILEY: Well, this is over a 14-year period in an energy market where technology and information technology is absolutely galloping.

Battery storage costs are plunging because the big car makers are moving into electric vehicles, so battery storage is becoming more viable all the time. Solar costs are still plunging all the time, as are wind.

So, you know, the cost of renewables are dropping all the time. Dispatchable renewables is becoming more and more viable as time goes on. These are all things that the Federal Government seems to be absolutely oblivious to.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: So the Minister says your 50 per cent target: he points that out specifically and says that it's a risk to energy security. You obviously don't agree with that?

MARK BAILEY: Well, it's that kind of nonsense that is irresponsible and non-factual.

Queensland has got one of the most robust energy systems in Australia. We're four times the size of South Australia. We've got a very young fleet of base load power in many locations. And of course, we're built for cyclones. We get cyclones every summer. We've got a very strong system.

But, of course, no power system is absolutely foolproof. If you've an extreme enough weather event, no power system in the world can - you can guarantee that nothing will happen.

But we are well geared up and we've got a high level of reliability in Queensland. For the Federal Government to be running around, scaremongering around that, is really irresponsible and childish.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: But what's it going to cost? Because presumably this lift from seven per cent to 50 per cent is going to be very expensive. The Federal Government's analysis, published in The Australian this morning, estimates the capital cost at $27 billion. How much of that is going to be passed on to consumers?

MARK BAILEY: Oh look, that report in The Australian this morning: I just absolutely dismiss that. You know, Josh Frydenberg can manipulate some figures from his department. He's got no credibility whatsoever.

What we're seeing in the marketplace is falling costs for renewables across the board. We're seeing technology absolutely gallop in terms of the possibilities. We're seeing dispatchable renewables become more viable all the time.

And you know, these falling costs are not being taken into account by the Federal Government. So you know, this report: I just absolutely - it's got no credibility in the energy industry.

Our process in Queensland will outline in the next few weeks a number of different pathways to our 2030 target. It will be a substantial piece of policy work and I think the Federal Government can learn a lot from when it gets brought down in coming weeks.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Will electricity prices rise?

MARK BAILEY: Well, I don't want to pre-empt the report. But once again, I say the falling costs of renewables is a factor that needs to be taken into account. And I look forward to the independent panel's report being brought down in Queensland in coming weeks and the Federal Government will have a lot to learn from it.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: OK. It sounds like there is some confusion: well, there is not a national approach to how Australia will reach its obligations under the Paris Agreement. No defined pathway yet. Would you be looking for a more concrete guide from the Federal Government from this meeting?

MARK BAILEY: Absolutely. And I've asked for the agenda to include what the Federal Government propose to do after 2020. Their policy at the moment is to stay at 23.5 per cent after 2020 and this is in the context of countries that are already doing 30 per cent today.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: So you go into this meeting asking for the Government to actually increase its 23.5 per cent, do you?

MARK BAILEY: Well, they've got to outline what they're going to do between 2020 and 2030. They've got no policy at the moment. Their policy at the moment is to do nothing.

And in that vacuum, it is the states that are moving in to give the leadership in terms of providing a transition onto clean energy. And it is time the Federal Government started walking the walk on this and backed up their own agreement in Paris, because at the moment they're not on target to achieve that.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: OK. Mark Bailey, we'll leave it there. Thanks very much for joining us.

MARK BAILEY: Thanks, Michael.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Queensland's Energy and Water Minister, Mark Bailey.