Barnaby Joyce says building a new coal-fired power station is a moral imperative.

The former Nationals leader, now an outspoken backbencher, says people around Australia cannot afford their power bills after years of rising prices.

“That for me is the greatest moral problem of our time in Australia, that we have now created a nation with the dearest power prices in the world for which people are truly suffering,” Mr Joyce told Sky News.

“We've taken them back a century and a half to a time of candles because of our policies.

“We've got to recognise that and we've got the be able to break this zeitgeist down and if we say we're going to build a coal-fired power station, get out there and do it.”

The government has created a shortlist of 12 power projects it may underwrite, which include gas and hydro projects and a coal station upgrade.

It is paying $10 million for a feasibility study into ways to meet the energy needs of heavy industry in north and central Queensland, including a coal-fired power plant at Collinsville.

After the study was announced, Mr Joyce tweeted “We have got ourselves a coal fired power station for Qld”.

He also wants the government to move forward with its so-called ‘big stick’ energy laws to break up companies that misuse their market power.

Legislation for those laws failed to pass parliament before the election.

“Now you said you're going to do it, get out there and do it,” Mr Joyce said.

“There is no policy that Canberra can come forward with that will change the climate back but, by God, you can make people poorer, you can make them more miserable and you have no right to do that.”

Energy Minister Angus Taylor has added emissions reduction to his energy minister responsibilities.