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Labour’s “Clean Energy Policy” Promotes Predatory Investment

Opinion – Molly Melhuish

Labours Clean Energy Policy is a triumph of corporate energys predatory investment at the expense of energy efficiency and local energy. A $4 billion dam in Central Otago is to provide jobs for the boys, while funding for warm homes is …

Labour’s “Clean Energy Policy” is a triumph of corporate energy’s predatory investment at the expense of energy efficiency and local energy. A $4 billion dam in Central Otago is to provide jobs for the boys, while funding for warm homes is reduced to a single token project.

The corporates are desperate to grow their businesses. Their main spokesperson is Transpower, who in 2017 proposed doubling today’s generating capacity- mainly wind farms and geothermal power stations plus gas fired peakers. The corporates control the business plans of the regulator, the Electricity Authority, whose pricing policies are openly predatory against energy efficiency and local solar energy.

The Authority’s new transmission pricing methodology actually rewards and encourages more electricity use at peak times, ensuring new power schemes will be needed to supply that power. It has removed “Avoided Cost of Transmission” payments to local hydro generators who could supply extra peak energy at very low cost.

Government’s Electricity Price Review was captured and supports the corporates’ plans; it recommends repeal of the Low Fixed Charge Regulations. This means every residential consumer, even the most frugal, are to be charged up to $2 per day daily fixed charge. This would create a guaranteed revenue stream for the electricity corporates, allowing per-unit charges to be reduced to make consumer investment in solar energy or home insulation uneconomic. That would negate the whole purpose of the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority.

High fixed charges are a tax by another name. Like the historic “salt taxes” of several countries it picks an essential service, and taxes everybody to fund the expansion of their empire.

Government’s Winter Energy Payment aims to mitigate the damage by ensuring power bills of beneficiaries will continue to be paid – transferring money into retailers’ coffers. This is corporate welfare just as much as low-income consumer welfare.

Since 1986 the corporates have been building an iron cage of law and regulation, within which they can promote their interests without fear of legal challenge or even lobbying by small-consumer and sustainability interests. The Major Electricity Users Group are safely inside the cage, and most members enjoy discounted electricity prices. Local energy and energy efficiency advocates used to be on electricity advisory groups but have been repeatedly eliminated.

I know because I represented Power for Our Future, Grey Power, and the Domestic Energy Users’ Group in a succession of electricity advisory groups, each of which was shut down, and recommissioned under a different name without me.

Bulk electricity supply and transmission are vulnerable to storms, floods, fire, and failure of large power stations. Local energy offers resilience to failures of bulk energy supply; it also employs many, many more people. Energy efficiency investments come at half the cost of bulk electricity supply and is by far the most effective at reducing climate-harming emissions.

Corporate capture of Government’s energy policy processes must be reversed, by a public uprising to smash the iron cage and bring on investment in affordable low-carbon energy at the expense of today’s corporate welfare.

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