Monday, 17 February 2014

Power to the people

Congratulations to the Green Party on their excellent proposal to give loans to homeowners to put solar power into their homes. This is an initiative I have personally been advocating for years. Hopefully David Cunliffe and his rather slow moving crowd will jump on board with this as well.

I am not surprised that Jianqi’s government has seen fit to ridicule the whole idea on (FFS) the grounds of expense! For a bloke who is supposed to know about money Jianqi is surprisingly dim when it suits him. Of course he is being ably aided and abetted by Simon the Pixie in his role as Energy Bunny – er I mean Minister.

Russel Norman’s policy involves the government loaning homeowners up to $15,000 to install photovoltaic panels on their houses. I gather that an average house can be set up with an adequate system for about $10,000 so this is a potentially good scheme. The loans would be repayable at the rate of around $900.00 per year via local body rates payments.

The interest rate of 4.1 percent that Russel Norman is proposing is the same as that at which the Government currently borrows money to fund all kinds of wasteful endeavours. The major difference here is that the money would actually be used for something that would bring tangible and worthwhile returns for both the voters and the Government.

Simon the Pixie has argued that the scheme would effectively be a Government subsidy because it involves a lower rate of interest. So what? At least it would be a subsidy which would save the entire country money in the long term.

The Government tells us that solar power is “more expensive than buying power off the grid”. Duhh! Maybe it might be until you have paid for your system, but how about taking a longer term view eh? I would be intrigued to see an argument that showed that over 10 years it did not work out cheaper for a homeowner and then get progressively cheaper to the point where it cost virtually nothing once the loan was paid off.

Simon The Pixie has also said that solar is “not a priority because of the abundance of cheaper renewable energy such as hydro, geothermal and wind”, which is a statement so extraordinary in its stupidity that I can’t believe even he said that.

In the first place hydro involves a lot of messing about with waterways and that can often involve unacceptable disruption to both the land and its natural inhabitants including plants and animals.

Geothermal is fine, but it is not readily available all over the country which means the construction of distribution systems which once again are likely to involve further disruptions to the environment.

Wind is good and even more renewable that the other two, but once again you are dealing with a system that requires distribution on a large scale whereas the very localised nature of solar power makes it much more practical and it poses no major disruption to the environment. Whether your house has an iron roof or a whole lot of solar panels really doesn’t make a lot of difference to the surrounding landscape.

The savings from the scheme the Greens are proposing would begin in the very first year and within a short time they would be providing most of those who took up the offer with free power for most if not all of their needs forever more. So what could possibly be wrong with that?

Well, I think I know ‘what is wrong with that”. It would mean smaller profits for the major energy companies and the industries that support them and ..... oh yes... the shareholders. But not the Mum and Dad investors that Jianqi and his merry men and women told us would buy these power shares, but the people who actually did buy them – those whose annual earnings sit in the top 1 percent of the population, along with major corporations and overseas investors. Boo- bloody hoo. In any case these people are in a position to cope with any loss of expectations they might suffer because of this and instead buy shares in solar technology companies.

There is also a prediction that this could result in 1000 new jobs although I am a bit more wary about that aspect as in my experience whenever politicians predict more jobs they tend to over-inflate the figures for effect. However it is quite clear from the comments made by those whose business it is to analyse these issues for a living that the basic figures regarding savings do stack up, and if you add in the lack of any environmental impact, then it is easy to see that we must go down this path. We should have started it decades ago, and there is certainly no sensible reason not to do it now.

I see the proposed scheme also involves setting up a system where homeowners would be able to sell their excess power to the grid for a reasonable price. But without legislation to compel the energy companies to honour that I suspect you would see very little movement there. However it would be an opportunity for enterprising folk to set up small scale power companies in various locations around the country to buy up and store that excess power to sell back to local bodies for their infrastructural needs such as street lighting and traffic lights.

I say let's power up. Power to the people and let’s see how many of us can short-circuit the power companies.

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