Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull addressed the Smart Energy Summit in Sydney, using the platform to urge the Government to revive the National Energy Guarantee (NEG).

Mr Turnbull described the NEG as “fundamentally a very good technology-agnostic policy, which united climate and energy policy, and would enable us to bring down prices and keep the lights on.

“It was a vital piece of economic policy … the abandonment of the national energy guarantee creates a vacuum of energy policy at the federal level, and of course that provides the opportunity for the states to get on and lead.

“I’ve strongly encouraged my colleagues to work together to revive the national energy guarantee. It was a vital piece of economic policy and has strong support. None stronger, I might say, than that of the current Prime Minister and the current Treasurer.”

The Federal Opposition has promised to adopt the NEG if elected; and also lift the emissions reduction target from 26 per cent to realistic 45 per cent by 2030. That particular target is not endorsed by Mr Turnbull, who believes that Labor has failed to demonstrate it “will not push up prices”.

When asked why, during his time in office, he failed to lock in a renewable energy target, Mr Turnbull said “There is a huge gulf between members’ views on energy – there is a significant number who don’t believe climate change is real and say we need to get out of Paris.

“You have a very entrenched difference of opinion, and as you saw with NEG, these people are prepared to cross the floor blow up the government to get their way.

“[But] I am passionate about the goal of a move to a clean energy future and zero emissions and the way we get there is through smart energy.

“Renewable energy backed by storage is the cheaper form of energy generation, now we are in the midst of a transition from coal fired power to intermittent power.

“From a dumb one-way grid to a smart system where retail customers become both consumers and suppliers of megawatts of power and through intelligent demand response.

“The challenge is to get from fossil fuels to a clean energy future … truly there has never been a more exciting item to be in the energy industry.

Smart Energy Council chief executive, John Grimes, described the NSW Smart Energy Summit an historic event that facilitated “a fair dinkum discussion of Australia’s clean energy transition”.

“This is the challenge of our time, and we are backing Australian innovation that benefits the whole economy,” Mr Grimes said.

“Australia has always been a leader [now] there’s a real sense that the politics may just be changing and that Australians old and young want to see real action on climate change, with strong support from [many] governments for renewable energy.”

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