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Renewable transition on ministers' agenda

AAP logoAAP 18/08/2016 Elise Scott

Ensuring stability in Australia's electricity network as renewable energy increases will be the focus of energy and resources ministers at the first COAG energy council meeting since the election.

Amid a power crisis in South Australia, where electricity prices have soared, new Energy and Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg wants to talk to his state counterparts about instability caused by the intermittent nature of renewables.

"When the wind doesn't blow and the sun doesn't shine, energy isn't being produced," he told Sky News.

South Australia is leading the states and territories in renewable energy, with a target of 33 per cent by 2020 and a $10 billion earmarked for low carbon investment by 2025.

But with renewable energy unable to be stored and therefore intermittent, the state relies on an interconnector between Victoria and SA to connect it to the electricity market.

That interconnector has been periodically out of action due to an upgrade.

Mr Frydenberg says energy instability as a result of renewables is why Labor's 50 per cent clean energy target by 2030 is "completely unrealistic".

However, he admits the cost of battery storage for renewable energy is coming down.

Friday's meeting follows a report, commissioned by activist group GetUp, which accuses the big three energy companies AGL, Origin Energy and EnergyAustralia, of price-gouging consumers.

The research shows South Australians are being ripped off more than other states, with power bills $425 higher in SA than in the regulated market of the ACT.

Green groups want to see the ministers commit to a zero-emission energy sector by 2050 and transition away from coal.

Clean Energy Council chief executive Kane Thornton said change to the electricity system was required to allow more renewable power to flow in.

A group of 11 community groups, including the Australian Conservation Foundation and GetUp, are urging the ministers to develop a plan to phase out coal-fired power stations.

"The clean energy revolution is here, but it needs a plan to avoid disruption, look after communities and stop power price spikes that happen when companies play the market," ACF chief executive Kelly O'Shanassy said.

The COAG meeting also follows a move by Treasurer Scott Morrison to block the sale of NSW's Ausgrid electricity distributor to two Chinese bidders, which has angered the Chinese government.

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