Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Leaving it to the market

Last month, in my analysis of Gerry Brownlee's Draft New Zealand Energy Strategy [PDF], I commented that the document suffered from a massive disconnect between goals and action. The government had set long-term targets, some of them quite tough - but had no plans and no policies to reach them. Instead, they were simply leaving it all to the market. Today, that analysis was confirmed in Question Time by Gerry Brownlee:

Dr KENNEDY GRAHAM (Green) to the Minister of Energy and Resources: What phased milestones does he have, if any, to achieve his aspirational goal of 90 percent electricity generation from renewable sources by 2025, as stated in his draft energy strategy?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister of Energy and Resources): The questioner fails to recognise that the Government does not determine the investment decisions that will be needed to increase the availability of renewably generated electricity. The Government does, however, set the regulatory and policy environment in which those investment decisions are made. The Government’s changes to the Resource Management Act and the introduction of the emissions trading scheme are significant encouragements to the development of New Zealand’s considerable renewal energy potential. Phased milestones would be possible only if we lived in a command and control - style economy; we do not.

In other words, there are no milestones. Brownlee then goes on to admit that funding for marine energy has been cut, and that they have put far less money into solar than they said they would. His big "victory" - 73% renewable generation last year - was the result of good weather, rather than anything the government did. And that seems to be his "policy" - hope that we keep getting good weather, and hope that the market will shift towards renewables while the government sits on its hands. That's not a policy - its a pipedream. But its about the level of action we can expect from this government on anything other than screwing workers and giving tax cuts to the rich.