Monday, April 04, 2011

A strategy for failure

Last year, the government released its draft National Energy Strategy for consultation. The strategy proposed replacing Labour's 2007 strategy to shift us to a sustainable, low-emissions energy future with a dream of finding oil. While it retained Labour's goal of 90% renewable energy by 2025, and set higher targets for renewable energy, it proposed no actual actions to achieve them. The strategy assumed, and the Minister later confirmed, that these things would happen by the magic of the market (despite modelling from the Ministry of Economic Development telling them the opposite). In which case why have a strategy at all?

Over the weekend the government mistakenly released the final version [PDF] over the web. So, what's changed? Apart from the photo of the Minister on page 1, virtually nothing. The plan still puts finding oil first and the environment last. It still proposes no concrete actions to achieve its goals. It even claims that this is appropriate:

The decision to not list specific programmes will ensure that the strategies remain relevant over the next five years. The 2011 NZEECS sets clear targets, objectives, policy directions, acceptable means, and names the government agencies responsible for facilitating delivery. Details of government energy programmes are available elsewhere. This approach is also more honest. Goals will be achieved not due to lists in the NZEECS, but due to ongoing Cabinet commitment to prioritise energy efficiency across its overall work programme to meet its obligations and targets set out in the NZEECS.
Which is bullshit. Lets be clear: the absence of specific actions in both the NZES and NZEECS is for one reason and one reason only: so the government can't be held to account for not doing anything. This is not an area of policy interest for them. They think "energy efficiency" is something espoused by Greens and hippies, rather than just a damn good idea. They're statutorily obliged to produce an energy efficiency strategy, and they'll obey the letter of the law (though their lack of concrete actions seems to violate s10(2)(d), which requires the strategy to include "means by which those policies and objectives, and any such targets, are to be achieved"). But they're not going to take it seriously.

Like their climate change policy and their policy for handling the recession, this is simply a strategy for failure. The common purpose behind all three is to make it look like National is doing something, while in reality doing nothing. But we've seen where doing nothing got us on energy: massively increased greenhouse gas emissions, an electricity system that systematically underinvests and falls over in a drought, and skyrocketing household power prices. National's "plan" is for more of the same.