The National Party has used its federal conference in Canberra to call on the Federal Government to eliminate subsidies for renewable energy.
The plan involves freezing subsidies at their current levels for 12 months, then phasing them out entirely over five years.
Former Nationals senator Ron Boswell spoke passionately in favour of the motion before it passed.
“Please don’t reject this, because the message that it sends out is the National Party is pro-renewable energy, and it isn’t,” he told members.
But some Nationals spoke against the motion and argued that wind and solar farms had created jobs and boosted economies in regional areas.
Member for Mallee Andrew Broad cautioned his colleagues against appearing entirely opposed to renewables.
“People in our patch are adopting renewable energy in their own homes,” he said.
“So we want to be very careful that we’re not against renewable energy and that we’re sending that signal.”
Unclear where Barnaby Joyce’s support lies
Barnaby Joyce speaks at the Nationals’ national party conference in Canberra. (ABC News: Lucy Barbour)
While the motion to scrap subsidies passed, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce would not be drawn on whether he personally supported it.
“What we are seeing at this conference quite clearly is that people are concerned that we have a power crisis looming, and they are right,” he said.
“I believe that we have to comply with our international obligations, we have international obligations.
“But what I do take on board is the sense of commitment by the National Party to make sure we are not absconding from the reality of our economics.
“That is, baseload power is overwhelmingly driven by coal fired power and we’ve got to make sure that that can be maintained.”
The Government is grappling with how to keep the lights on and electricity prices down.
This week the energy market operator warned of more potential blackouts this summer.
The Coalition is currently considering a clean energy target, which would force companies to produce more energy through low emissions technologies, like renewables and gas.
But some in the Government’s right wing are fiercely against that idea, including Queensland Nationals MP George Christensen, who spoke in favour of scrapping subsidies for renewables.
Mr Christensen said he thought the motion needed to go further.
“We should also be talking about targets, renewable energy targets,” he said.
“The reality is when we moved from one form of technology, say the horse and cart to the car, there wasn’t a government in place taxing, regulating or subsidising the car.
“It happened because it was a new form of technology that was better and ultimately it became cheaper and more cost affordable.”
The Nationals also voted in favour of pressing the Government to look at building a new “clean coal” plant on the now de-commissioned Hazelwood site in the Latrobe Valley, in Victoria.