Friday, March 31, 2006

Energy efficiency obsession

I see that Energy Minister Trevor Mallard and Government Spokesperson on Energy Efficiency Jeanette Fitzsimons (didn’t know that existed) have announced the ending of the current National Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy (NEECS). Unfortunately a new one is going to be developed, which will be one of the most pointless exercises engaged by bureaucrats in the next year or so.
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Why?
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Because the last one did bugger all. This government is obsessed with strategies, which are meant to direct bureaucrats, and they are usually destined to not be successful or be so broadly defined to look like every year is a step “along the path”. The new NEECS is to feed into a new Energy Strategy (see what I mean?).
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Let’s start from first premises. The objective of NEECS is to “set the agenda for government programmes to promote greater energy efficiency and renewable energy”.
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Why?
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Is energy efficiency good? Well, yes it is. Wasting energy is unproductive. Most businesses don’t like to waste any inputs into production, so they strive to be more efficient across the board. This includes everything from turning off lights, to buying more efficient machinery, to closing down inefficient operations. In respect of energy, as long as it is priced efficiently (i.e. not subsidised or not overpriced), then energy users will decide whether it is more efficient to use it or not. For example, an emphasis on energy efficiency alone may mean extra expense in labour to monitor lights or whatever. So the government doesn’t need to promote energy efficiency. If you are stupid enough to leave all your appliances on, then you pay more for electricity – nobody subsidises you. If there isn’t enough electricity to meet demand, the price should go up to encourage you to be more efficient.
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In short, there is not the slightest need for the government to give a damn about energy efficiency if electricity, gas, coal and petrol are priced according to supply and demand.
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Is renewable energy good? Well, it doesn’t really matter. If it is a non-renewable resource, when it is becoming scarce the price goes up and others are found. In itself, renewable energy sounds good – but it is rather irrelevant.
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So, in short, NEECS has little value – the appropriate answer to energy efficiency is to get out of the way, and let users pay and energy producers have freedom to seek whatever sources of energy they wish. To help that, the government ought to privatise its remaining electricity SOEs.

5 comments:

Seamonkey Madness said...

All well and good, until the Maui reserves are used up and we have to go back to good old coal.
Whats that? We've shipped all the bleedin' stuff of to China? Well what the bloody hell are we going to do now? Increase the spot (or in reality the medium-long term) price of electricity, so that only those can afford our commodity can afford it.

Nice one.

The NEECS would have been (kind of) worthwhile if they'd actually done anything. Implementing some of this so-called researched strategy for a start would have good. For example, semi-self-sufficient apartment blocks that have been popping up all over (Western) Europe would have been a good start, or the subsidising of solar panels on new buildings? All of these are shunned, partially because they are seen as 'Green Party' technology and only tree-hugging nutters should have them.

Another crapload of tax-payers money down the drain.

libertyscott said...

Well price signals should sort that out though, Maui has been known for ages and nobody is saying stop using domestic gas. There is plenty of coal here and in Australia.

As to the smart buildings that can produce their own energy, in due course that is something that the manufacturers and retailers should encourage and market. There isn't much need for the government to do it. The problem is that so many of those selling such inventions want government help so are lazy in marketing. I'd definitely consider it for a new home.

Seamonkey Madness said...

Sorry if you misunderstood, but my point with the whole Governmment subsidising tangible, energy-efficient technology in housing, is that it is money well spent and has something to show for the investment (the beginnings of an energy-efficient infrastructure + the saving of money on power bills), instead of throwing taxpayer money into something that hasn't produced any results. They should have at least had some initiatives and direction for policies after all those years.

Oh, and have fun in Switzerland and NZ. =)
I'm off to both in the next three months (NZ permanently).

Anonymous said...

Given the size on the government now, maybe the NEECS should have been targeted towards the various departments - where the price signals being sent by the electricity market are virtually useless. Who care if the price of power goes up, what driver is there for efficiency, as the budgets will be increased to compensate.

libertyscott said...

That is a great idea anonymous, the state sector should be the focus for energy efficiency.

and thank you Seamonkey.