The head of Australia’s largest steelmaker and one of the country’s biggest manufacturers has backed calls for Low Emissions Targets (LETs). BlueScope CEO, Paul O’Malley, says such a target is the best way to ensure both affordable and secure energy supplies within Australia, while also meeting our emissions reduction targets.

While O’Malley supports the closure of coal-fired power stations, he says that doing so gradually via an LET will ultimately prove more effective than if it were to be done through an emissions intensity scheme, or EIS.

O’Malley fears that this latter option would bring closures forward much faster, thereby putting the future of manufacturing at risk with little or no benefit to the environment. At the same time, it would also jeopardise the continuity of our electricity supply.

Speaking on Sky News, O’Malley backed clean energy targets, and stressed that it was “absurd” to provide affordable and reliable energy rather than reducing this country’s carbon emissions.

He said that the issue of energy security needed to be addressed or “Australian jobs would go overseas”.

“We need reliable and secure baseload power,” he told The Australian. “There are problems with renewable technologies… They don’t provide baseload power.”

From a corporate perspective, BlueScope is on record supporting ‘multiple technologies’ in order to reduce carbon emissions, rather than just from renewables.

O’Malley’s statements come ahead of more public posturing by both the ALP and Coalition over carbon emissions. The much-anticipated report from Australia’s chief scientist, Alan Finkel proposed a Clean Energy Sector or CET, designed to cut pollution and encourage more investment in the renewable sector.

"It shouldn't matter what the technology is. We should use what's there,” said Finkel to a question on the ABCs Q&A program. 

All this has added to an increasingly shrill political environment over the issue. Former prime minister, Tony Abbott, has turned up the political heat with a number of thinly-veiled public warnings to current PM Malcolm Turnbull, arguing a new low emissions target should deliver cheaper power and not "clobber" the economy.

"As prime minister, I made the point that we would use our best endeavours to get emissions down by 26-28 per cent, but we weren't going to clobber the economy in order to reduce emissions," he told radio 2GB.

Echoing the BlueScope CEO, Abbott said the nation's power system should be run to provide "affordable, reliable energy, not primarily to reduce emissions".

 “Emissions reduction was a secondary consideration,” he said.

ALP leader Bill Shorten has offered to end the decade-old ‘climate war’ between the two main parties, saying that Labor supports reliable and affordable energy supplies that also bring down carbon emissions.

For his part, O’Malley has called solar and wind “fantastic technologies”. He also supports Finkel’s mandatory storage recommendations to accompany the renewable energy quotas.