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Josh Frydenberg offers to brief Atlassian's Mike Cannon-Brookes on energy plan

Josh Frydenberg offers to brief Atlassian's Mike Cannon-Brookes on energy plan

Jerusalem: Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg has brushed off Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes' criticism of the new National Energy Guarantee, saying it had been prepared by industry experts, enjoyed near unanimous support and addressed the long-running competing tensions between energy and climate change policies.

In an exclusive interview with The Australian Financial Review in Israel, Mr Frydenberg offered to brief the tech entrepreneur on the NEG and energy policy, predicting Mr Cannon-Brookes would be "pleasantly surprised" to learn how much the government had invested in clean energy technology.

Mr Frydenberg also said he would push ahead with an energy council ministers meeting to brief the states on the NEG on November 24, despite Queenslanders going to the polls the next day.

Mr Cannon-Brookes, who propelled himself into the energy debate in March when he challenged entrepreneur Elon Musk to help solve the South Australian power crisis, said on Monday the NEG was "unhelpful" and more a political fix that would lock in the use of fossil fuels instead of spurring development of renewables.

But Mr Frydenberg highlighted the "near universal support" the NEG enjoyed from the big power companies, major business lobby groups and employers like BlueScope and BHP as evidence the government was on the right track.

"They clearly see the National Energy Guarantee as a real circuit breaker in what has become a very damaging decade-long debate over the integration of energy and climate policy," he said.

"Clearly the Energy Security Board - which in the words of the Chief Scientist are the most authoritative voice in energy matters in Australia - they see the National Energy Guarantee as a credible, workable, practical solution.

"I would be pleased to sit down with him [Mr Cannon-Brookes] at any time to talk about all aspects of energy policy. He is a very successful entrepreneur and has a legitimate right to contribute to the debate.

"Mike might be pleasantly surprised to learn more about the billions of dollars the Coalition government has invested in cutting edge clean energy and energy efficiency technology, including batteries, demand side response and large scale renewables."

Mr Frydenberg said because the Queensland government would be in caretaker mode, he expected bureaucrats would stand in at next month's energy council meeting, where the states will be presented with modelling on the plan.

The minister is in Israel as part of the government's delegation for commemorations marking the 100th anniversary of the battle of Beersheba but is also meeting his Israeli counterpart, Yuval Steinitz, as well as meeting local energy companies.

Mr Frydenberg said Israel was at the cutting edge of clean energy technology and had invested heavily in battery storage and solar cells, while major solar thermal and pumped hydro power projects were under construction, creating opportunities for the two countries to share knowledge.

Israel has no oil or coal reserves and given the regional volatility the country endures, it placed a high value on energy independence.

"Israel has earned the reputation as the start up nation for its highly innovative approach and heavy investment in R&D. For a small country it punches well above its weight in new technology," Mr Frydenberg said.

"It has had to become innovative in the energy space because it must provide for itself to the greatest extent possible but Australia too has been highly innovative in regards to clean energy technology and we are now beginning to see the fruits of billions of dollars in investment in the CEFC and ARENA."

One exception to Israel's energy resource scarcity has been the discovery and development of large natural gas fields in the Mediterranean over the past decades. While Woodside abandoned plans to buy a stake in a field in 2014, Mr Frydenberg said there were opportunities for other Australian players to invest in Israel, which he would raise in talks.

Australian Financial Review

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