THIS nation's energy debate is characterised by profound differences of opinion, both philosophical and practical.
Despite its political grounding as the party of free enterprise, the Liberal Party is still pushing for "big stick" legislation to allow a Commonwealth government to break up recalcitrant energy companies.
On the Labor side, the May election loss means that all major policies are again up for grabs, with Hunter MP Joel Fitzgibbon wanting the party to rein in its more "progressive" instincts on energy policy, and to align itself with the Morrison government's less ambitious emission reduction targets.
Voters in Fitzgibbon's coal-rich electorate turned to One Nation at this year's poll, and the veteran MP has previously said the ALP's mixed messages on coal were unpopular throughout regional Australia.
Now, he says removing the difference between Labor and Coalition emission targets will help to focus pressure on the government and what it is doing - or not doing - on climate change.
In a speech on Wednesday night at the Sydney Institute, Fitzgibbon said Labor's equivocation on Adani left the party in "no-man's land, satisfying neither the right nor the left".
Now arguing that Labor can support new coalmines and reduce domestic emissions, Fitzgibbon says the party needs to remind voters that even an ambitious renewable target of 50 per cent by 2030 means that the other 50 per cent will still be coming from non-renewable sources, namely coal.
Policy goals are important, but they have to recognise real-world limitations.
As things stand, batteries and other power storage technologies such as pumped hydro do not have the capacity to balance a grid covering South Australia, Victoria, Tasmania, NSW and Queensland.
Until this happens, baseload generation must surely remain. In the meantime, we have a multitude of voices - politicians, activists, power companies and a surprising number of energy regulators - all with often conflicting ideas as how to best move forward.
One of the more prominent, Kerry Schott, chair of the Energy Security Board, is scheduled to speak in Newcastle later this month.
Given the Hunter's continuing role as the pumping heart of this state's electricity system, her address to the Hunter Business Chamber will be closely watched, indeed.
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