The federal energy minister is acutely aware the clock is ticking for finding a solution to rising electricity prices and dropping reliability.
And Josh Frydenberg is determined it will take a lot less time than it took to create the problem – more than a decade – to fix the system so it’s working for Australian households and businesses once again.
However, in a speech he will deliver to an energy summit in Sydney on Monday, he acknowledges that doing so and cutting the nation’s emissions is likely to come at a financial cost.
Mr Frydenberg and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull have flagged their intention to develop by year’s end a version of the clean energy target recommended by Chief Scientist Alan Finkel.
The minister will say on Monday their considerations are framed against a backdrop of falling costs for renewables and storage, greater efficiencies that can be found in thermal generation and the need for sufficient dispatchable power in the system.
The government’s approach will continue to be seeking and heeding the best advice from experts and market bodies.
“It is challenging but possible to simultaneously put downward pressure on prices and enhance the reliability of the system, while meeting our international emissions reduction targets,” he will tell the AFR’s national energy summit.
“Should reliability and affordability be compromised, public support for tackling climate change will quickly diminish and previous gains lost. This is in nobody’s interest.”
Competition and consumer watchdog Rod Sims – one of the experts the government is taking advice from – warned last month that energy reliability, affordability and cutting emissions were three separate problems that would likely require three distinct solutions.
Mr Frydenberg will remind the summit of actions the government has already taken, including reaching a deal with gas producers to supply more to Australian businesses and energy generators in coming years, and requiring electricity retailers to help customers find the best priced deals.
He will highlight the need for more demand-side response – electricity consumers, often big industrial plants, agreeing to cut their usage during times of peak demand – and the important role of storage, equating the “hidden” costs of pollution from thermal generators with the burden of renewables without back-up.