The Federal Government announced at the weekend $6 million would be spent on two feasibility studies for new electricity generation projects, including a coal-fired power plant at Collinsville in north Queensland.
Mr Christensen criticised Mr Sharma, dubbing him an “inner-city Liberal MP”, for saying a new-coal fired power station should not be underwritten by government.
“Despite claims by one inner-city Liberal MP on Sky News this morning, the Morrison Liberal National government is providing funding to coal-fired power projects, principally because they provide stable and reliable baseload supply,” Mr Christensen said in a statement.
“When the Collinsville clean coal-fired power project is ready to be constructed, it will be eligible for consideration under the Morrison Liberal National government’s Underwriting New Generation Investments program, which supports targeted investment that will lower prices, increase competition and increase reliability in the energy system.
“That is exactly what a coal-fired power plant at Collinsville will do. That funding program is open until 2023 and the Collinsville project will be eligible for such support. I note that one coal project is already being considered for support under the program.”
He said the election promise had helped the government win the regional Queensland seats of Herbert, Dawson, Capricornia and Flynn.
“These seats have allowed us to retain government. It is therefore very encouraging to read recent reports that the Prime Minister has stated he will not be ‘bullied’ by ‘inner-city’ interests when it comes to climate policy and his support for reliable and affordable power,” he said.
Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, visiting Canberra to listen to Indonesian president Joko Widodo, added fuel to the flames by describing the Nationals MPs pushing for a new-coal fired power station as “nuts”.
Mr Turnbull said new coal generators were not commercially viable and would lead to higher emissions and power prices.
“The cheapest form of new generation is a combination of renewables plus storage. Literally that is no longer even a remotely contentious proposition,” he said.
“So those people who are advocating that the government should fund coal-fired power are basically making the case for higher emissions and higher energy prices. And that is nuts.”
Liberal MP Dave Sharma said on Monday morning he did not think the government should use taxpayer funds to underwrite new coal-fired power stations.
But he conceded there was a case for using public funds to extend the life of existing coal-fired power assets, and that private investment could still fund new coal-fired power stations.
“I can’t see us being in a position where the government is underwriting a new coal fired power station,” Mr Sharma told Sky News.
“Certainly there’s a case to be made and I support it for extending the life of existing coal fired power assets, and if the private sector wants to come in and do this well this is a different proposition, but I don’t think the government should be in the position of doing this.”
Senator Canavan in today’sCourier-Mail compared renewable energy to “dole bludgers”, who only turned up to their jobs when they want to.
“I see some are saying that we should not help coal fired power stations provide jobs because we should leave it to the market,” Mr Canavan tweeted.
“Well if that’s the view be consistent and argue against the billions we give to renewables every year.”
The Renewable Energy Target used to support new renewable projects will end this year.
Mr Zimmerman said he agreed with Mr Sharma.
“We are doing a feasibility study. We have made no commitment,” Mr Zimmerman said on Sky News.
“We have no commitment to fund a coal fired power station and I don’t think we should.”
“From my perspective, it’s not the business of the Commonwealth government to be building or funding coal fired power stations.
Rob Harris is the National Affairs Editor for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, based at Parliament House in Canberra