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Interview with Kieran Gilbert and Laura Jayes, AM Agenda, Sky News

2 February 2019

Subject: Energy


KIERAN GILBERT: Joining us on the program now, we've got the Energy Minister Angus Taylor. Before we get to your portfolio area, I want to ask you about the big story that's going to dominate the focus of - well, not just the media - but I think many, many voters in that response to the banking royal commission. The Government was slow in taking this up - you need a forceful and detailed response, don't you, come Monday?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Sure, but we haven't received it. We'll receive it, and then we'll make it public on 4 February and you know, it does deserve a good response. Look, at the end of the day, the thing that is happening in many of our sectors - whether it's banking or energy or others - is we need businesses to get more focused on their customers, Kieran. You know, it's a pretty simple principle, it's a very simple principle. It's one that has been lost in recent years. You know, I've spent years in the business sector working with these sorts of businesses. I learnt a long while back if you stay focused on your customer, the right things happen. We have seen businesses lose focus on their customers in key sectors like banking and we need to see a return.

LAURA JAYES: Minister, you've received 66 submissions from companies that will underwrite new energy generation. How many of them were putting forward submissions for new coal-fired power?

ANGUS TAYLOR: There was around 10 but there was broad range. There was a lot of gas projects, waste-to-energy, and hydro - so a broad range. This is the point, this is the crucial point - we have a huge number of people who want to invest in our electricity sector. People understand, investors understand that we need balance. Coal is going to be around for a long while. Gas is going to be around for a long while. Hydro has got an important role to play and we've seen record investment in renewables. But if you lose balance, if you do what the Victorian and South Australian governments did, which was to set very aggressive targets for a small subset of technology - variable renewable technologies - then you'll end up turning the lights off. We saw it last week in Victoria, plain as day, 200,000 houses, big businesses. Portland had to shut- I mean this is totally unacceptable and it's what you get when you move away from a balanced electricity system - the submissions are balanced; we want to see balance.

KIERAN GILBERT: So you won't do the flip side of that? And that is your preference, coal?

ANGUS TAYLOR: No. We want balance. We want balance but let me tell you, Kieran, what's missing from the grid to get balance is more dispatchable, 24/7 power. Power that's there when the wind doesn't blow and the sun doesn't shine. Power that's there when you flick on the switch. Power that's there for the Portland aluminium smelter. Power that's there for all the businesses in Central Queensland where I've just been over the last few days.

KIERAN GILBERT: It's not just coal that provides it, is it?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Yeah. It's a range of, there's a range of technologies but when you set a variable renewable target at the state level, which is excessive, without regard for reliability, then you end up in trouble. Our intervention is necessary because of the crazy behaviour of these state governments.

LAURA JAYES: Okay. You've got 66 submissions - you say 10 of those are coal. I'm assuming that hydro, gas, renewables made up the balance of that. What happens with these submissions now? What's the process and when will you make a final decision? And what factors are playing into what submission you accept?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Let's be very clear about this. The only submissions that we'll accept are ones that provide dispatchable power and the reason is because there's been a loss of balance in the system. So in the next two, two-and-a-half years or so, we're going to see $15 billion of investment in solar and wind - a 250 per cent increase. What we need to balance that is dispatchable, 24/7 power that's there when you need it. That is right at the heart of what we're doing. Of course, we want to put the least possible burden on the taxpayer. I mean that's absolutely crucial and we want to make sure that these are projects that are going to succeed. It can happen as quickly as possible.

KIERAN GILBERT: Could it be renewables with batteries? Is that something you'd look at?

ANGUS TAYLOR: You know Kieran, when you do these interviews everyone wants you to say that you love some technology or hate some technology. I'm not interested in picking technologies. I'm interested in getting the outcome and that means lower prices, keeping the lights on and I'm confident because of the enormous investment in renewables we'll reach our targets, emissions targets. The challenge here is to keep the lights on and I have got to tell you, when Daniel Andrews sets ridiculous targets and then fails to take responsibility for trashing his electricity network, you see why we need balance in the system and you see why this program that we're running, the 66 submissions, is so important to the future of Australian businesses and households.

KIERAN GILBERT: Energy Minister Angus Taylor, first time of 2019. Thanks for joining us.