Key LNP members have signed up to the Monash Forum – a group dedicated to new coal projects.

Federal LNP figures Tony Abbott, Kevin Andrews, Eric Abetz, Craig Kelly and George Christensen have joined the new internal lobby group.

The group has pledged to test the Prime Minister’s claims that the National Energy Guarantee (NEG) does not disadvantage coal.

Reports say former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce and over a dozen highly-ranked Liberals and Nationals have signed up to the new lobby, but have not yet been confirmed.

The manifesto for the Monash Forum was reportedly passed around between backbenchers last week.

“It says the government is building a Snowy 2.0 so why can’t it build a Hazelwood 2.0,” Mr Kelly said of the manifesto.

“The group wants to see the replacement of Australia’s existing coal-fired power fleet with new high efficiency, low emissions coal-fired power stations,” he told News Corp reporters.

Mr Kelly told The Australian that the group would push for the government to build high efficiency, low emissions (HELE) coal-fired power plants under the NEG.

The Monash Forum manifesto insists that coal is the best option for affordability and reliability.

“We’re not opposed to renewable energy provided it’s economic without grants or mandatory targets and provided it doesn’t prejudice the reliability of supply. We accept that, in time, coupled with more efficient and larger scale batteries, renewable power is likely to form a bigger proportion of Australia’s power generation. But that time has not yet come, and we’re sceptical of any claims made for the viability of renewables that requires continued mandatory use or taxpayer grants,” the manifesto states.

“As well, we want to see our country’s resources put to good use. For the best part of a century. Victoria’s vast reserves of brown coal have powered much of southern Australia and should continue to do so.

“The coal that we gladly export and that generates much of the electricity used in China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and India should continue to generate power here too. If it’s right for other countries to use our coal, how can it be wrong for us to do so?

“Yet the political risk caused by emissions reduction policies, especially the extreme ones implemented or proposed by the Labor Party, means that no private company is likely to build another coal-fired power station here in Australia, even though coal continues to be our lowest cost source of reliable base-load power. This is not so much market failure as government failure.

“We support the Turnbull government’s decision to explore the construction of Snowy 2.0, a pumped hydro scheme to generate 2000 megawatts of power. It makes sense to use cheap off-peak power to pump water uphill that can then flow downhill to generate peak power. Even so, cost estimates are $4 billion and climbing and that’s before the extra transmission capacity is built to get this extra power where it’s needed.

“If the government can intervene to build Snowy 2.0, why not intervene to build Hazelwood 2.0 on the site of the coal-fired power station in Victoria that’s now being dismantled?

“All the transmission infrastructure already exists; all the environmental permits have already been obtained; and a new, low emissions coal fired power station can certainly be built for no more than $4 billion.

“There may be other good sites for new, expanded or refurbished coal-fired power stations. There is a strong case for keeping NSW’s Liddell power station open beyond its current closure date of 2022, as the Turnbull government has recognised. But nothing is going to happen without government intervention, as AGL’s rebuff to the government over Liddell clearly indicates.”