VICTORIA'S short-term answer to a transformed electricity sector will be increased investment in gas and renewable energy, according to Premier John Brumby. But he says carbon capture and storage - or ''clean coal'' - will be a ''crucial medium-term technology''.
Responding to revelations in The Age that leaked cabinet documents show Victoria will rely on fossil fuels for decades, Mr Brumby said the policy statement setting out the state's energy future had been delayed until next year.
''Because the (emissions trading scheme) has not yet gone through the Federal Parliament it wouldn't be appropriate to make a detailed energy statement, so we'll make that next year,'' he said.
The Premier said the Government was getting advice from several departments before finalising the ''Future Energy'' statement.
The documents obtained by The Age canvass whether the state and Commonwealth should consider contingency options to deal with the risk that ''clean coal'' proves a more costly and limited option than hoped. They say renewable energy will progressively replace fossil fuels, but the state will rely on both for decades.
Mr Brumby said the state was already a leader on wind energy, hoped to be a leader on solar power and was also home to large investment in gas, pointing to the development of a 1000-megawatt gas plant at Mortlake.
He said it would take years before carbon capture and storage was ''proven and in place''. But given the state's overwhelming reliance on brown coal, it was the Government's role to look at ways to make it ''cleaner'', including encouraging projects to reduce its water content.
Asked if he was concerned that The Age had run stories based on confidential Government documents, including revealing that it was considering a brown coal export industry, Mr Brumby said: ''To the extent that it contributes to a broader debate about energy policy for our state that's a good thing.
''Even in relation to coal, which is what The Age has focused on so heavily, the reality is that coal produces the bulk of energy in our state, and coal produces the bulk of the energy around the world.
''So you would really have your head in the sand if you didn't try and look at ways of reducing the emissions that come from the generation of energy by coal.''