Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Chauvel on energy policy

The annual Power and Electricity World Conference is happening in Auckland today. Normally the Energy Minister gives the opening speech to the audience of New Zealand's top energy and electricity-sector executives, but for some reason Gerry Brownlee has chickened out. So instead, they gave his slot to Labour's Charles Chauvel, who has made good use of it. In addition to criticising the government's lack of a plan for the energy sector (deregulation and leaving it all to the market isn't a plan, its an abrogation of responsibility), he has also taken the opportunity to signal Labour's direction in energy policy.

Some of this is expected: restore the New Zealand Energy Strategy and biofuels obligation, and tighten up the ETS to send a real market signal for the adoption of renewables. But there's also some solid new policy, such as:

  • gradually replacing all baseload thermal generation with geothermal, supplemented by wind and other renewables. We have the resources and the expertise to do this, and by focusing on geothermal, it neatly sidesteps any quibbling from electricity companies such as Genesis who do not believe in wind.
  • using ETS revenues to fund "complementary measures" (which means emissions reductions). Previously the government has been reluctant to do this because our neo-liberal policy community doesn't believe in complementary measures (plus Treasury hates any suggestion of revenue tagging).
  • a proper smart meter standard which gives domestic users access to lower tariffs when industrial usage is low.
This is good stuff, and it shows that Labour is still committed to a sustainable future - unlike National.