Coal vs renewables: No solution in sight for energy hike

LOOKING INTO ENERGY: Indi MP Cathy McGowan and Farrer MP Sussan Ley.
LOOKING INTO ENERGY: Indi MP Cathy McGowan and Farrer MP Sussan Ley.

The coal versus renewables debate has placed politicians on opposite sides when it comes to a solution, but they all agree on one thing – businesses cannot keep struggling with rising energy prices.

Indi MP Cathy McGowan this week pushed for a national energy policy, joined by all crossbench MPs in their first united stance during two terms of government.

Australian Textile Mills in Wangaratta cut jobs in a “restructure” in part because its energy price had risen by 141 per cent over the past year.

Speaking after a week where the issue was on the agenda in Parliament, Ms McGowan said the Snowy Hyrdo plan was good for the long term, but the government needed quick action with bipartisan support.

“We’ve got businesses now that need energy prices coming down,” she said.

“They’ve all come to see me and said ‘we can’t go on like this, it will lead to a loss of jobs’.”

Ms McGowan said the lack of clarity and politics made it difficult for businesses such as Mars Petcare in Wodonga trying to turn to renewable energy themselves.

“Renewable energy is the way to go for us,” she said.

“We just can’t as a nation continue to burn coal, it just has too much of an impact on our nation … I’m certainly not in favour of the government investing our taxpayers’ money in new coal-fire stations. If business wants to do that, that’s a different argument.”

But coal is still on the agenda for the Coalition, in conjunction with renewable energy.

Farrer MP Sussan Ley said the priority was to bring electricity prices down because the sharp increase had put some businesses at risk of closing.

“I’m supportive of renewables, but if we try to transition too fast to too much of our power being based on renewables we will price our local businesses out of the market and out of this country because our competitors have much lower costs,” she said.

“The investment that has been made in coal in the past has lead to electricity prices that people can manage so I’m very cautious about the future, I’m very anxious about the future.”