A clean energy target doesn't do much for pensioners

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He said despite the initial disagreement about the implementation of a Clean Energy Target, there was still scope to involve high efficiency coal power generators - a claim which Abbott said was nonsensical considering coal power would not be subsidized and therefore unfairly punished.

One-third - including Tony Abbott - expressed misgivings, another third were broadly supportive, while the remainder were non-committal but asked questions.

Dr Finkel told Fairfax Media that the policy was created to get the results of lower carbon output, but without the instability of supply or uncertainty of investment outlook experienced to date. Ministers, apart from the minister with carriage of the issue, don't speak on these occasions.

Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg said afterwards it was too premature to write off any policy change and there were compelling arguments for a CET which, he said, was not a tax on coal nor a price on carbon.

"He was probably the strongest critic throughout the whole meeting".

He emphasised that no decisions have been made and that it was early days. "Rather, it was an information-gathering session".

Affordable, reliable energy - it used to be a way of life in Australia. A number of MPs, especially from outer suburban and regional areas, said affordability was what mattered most to their electorates.

That's despite recent economic modelling making it clear that doing nothing in the electricity sector and continuing with the policies brought in under Abbott would hurt new coal developments and push power bills up.

Finkel contends that electricity prices will be lower under a Clean Energy Target, as opposed to the current Renewable Energy Target regime, because this will enhance reliability of supply. There were also queries about the status of the Paris targets.

"Business-as-usual is not an option for us because we are dealing with a less stable, higher-priced system", Mr Frydenberg told ABC TV on Sunday.

"We are seeing an increase in solar and wind energies, but we need to ensure that the transition (to clean energy) is concern", the minister said.

Under a CET, existing generators would see out their natural lives and coal use would only fall slightly under a CET. But he flatly rejected the Abbott suggestion that the Finkel plan amounted to a tax on coal, saying it was "absolutely not".

"Dr Finkel has been very careful to point out that he isn't putting any prohibitions on new developments, including those involving coal". He is putting in place incentives for lower emission generation.

Wind is now cheaper per megawatt hour produced than brown or black coal, even including "firming costs" - a measure of how much gas-fired capacity is needed to cover occasional periods when the wind fails across multiple regions.

The LNP backbencher George Christensen has signalled he won't vote for a new clean energy target because it won't end the decade long climate wars - because Labor will "out Finkel us on Finkel". An advantage, because they get a section of a permit, which is like a payment.

Michelle Grattan does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.

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