MPs slam $200m taxpayer grants to power company
POWER company AGL - enemy No.1 for some Turnbull Government MPs for "green extremes" - has been blasted for receiving grants to build renewable projects while zapping Australians' hip pockets.
Outspoken Coalition MPs, who could sink Malcolm Turnbull's signature energy policy, have argued $200 million in grants for AGL was a slap in the face to taxpayers.
Bolstering calls for taxpayer investment in new power stations, including coal, MPs argue the subsidies are insulting, especially after AGL refused to sell or keep open the Liddell coal-fired power station.
The 2013 grants by the Gillard government were outlined in AGL's annual report, reigniting backbencher criticisms.
Senator Eric Abetz seized on the report yesterday.
"These schemes where taxpayers are paying millions of dollars for the privilege of higher power prices in the pursuit of ideological purity are a real concern,'' he said. "Further, the fact that taxpayers have propped up AGL but then had AGL ignore taxpayers' concerns over the closure of Liddell is more than disappointing.
"If it's good enough to fork out hundreds of millions for higher prices, the Government should adopt the ACCC's recommendation and ensure that cheap and reliable power is fully backed by government underwriting if needed."
Energy backbench committee chairman Craig Kelly accused AGL of taking "green rent-seeking to new extremes".
"As they are gouging consumers they have pocketed over $200 million in a government handout," he said.
An AGL spokesman said the grants were used to establish Australia's first two large-scale solar farms.
"They were reported widely that year but were recorded again in this year's report as ownership of those plants at Nyngan and Broken Hill, was transferred," he said.
Billionaire Sanjeev Gupta supported the Government's National Energy Guarantee while launching a $1 billion renewable energy project in South Australia yesterday.
He labelled Australia's energy market "a mess" and said business needed certainty.
"Any policy … is better than uncertainty and ongoing ambiguity because that is what hurts business,'' he said.
It is understood the Government is not concerned if Mr Abbott crosses the floor on the NEG because it believes it will be able to secure the support of some of the crossbench.