Tuesday, December 13, 2016

National gives up on energy efficiency

Today the government released its draft New Zealand Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy 2017 - 2022 for consultation. While the accompanying PR tries desperately to talk up how the NZEECS will "enable our transition towards a smarter, lower-carbon and more productive economy", reading the draft, it is clear that it will do the opposite: National is giving up, completely, on energy efficiency and conservation.

Compare the new draft with the existing strategy (appended to the New Zealand Energy Strategy 2011-2021). The old target of improving commercial and industrial energy intensity by 1.3% a year has been weakened to 1%. Targets for an overall improvement in light vehicle fuel efficiency have been replaced with one for the uptake of electric vehicles. All other targets have simply been discarded, in favour of some vague, targetless waffle about improving energy efficiency without any concrete steps to do so. Targets for more geothermal energy, to insulate homes, improve minimum energy performance standards for products, and improve public sector energy use have simply been discarded. They still retain the energy strategy's 90% renewable by 2025 target, but the maths shows we have no hope of achieving it, and they certainly don't propose any policies to change that picture.

We know why this has happened: targets mean accountability, which is not something National wants in this area. Like child poverty, this is simply 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. The only reason they've produced even this weak document is that they are statutorily obliged to do so - and even then, its so piss-weak that its unclear whether it meets the statutory requirements around contents and targets. They simply do not take this seriously, and are making it clear for everyone to see.

The problem is that they need to take it seriously. Climate change is happening now, and we need to radically decarbonise our economy to prevent it from becoming absolutely catastrophic. The NZEECS could and should be a primary vehicle for doing that. But National's yokel-like hostility to the problem and its required solutions is preventing that. And as they're the party of denier farmers and sociopathic polluters, I can't see that changing. If we want real action on energy efficiency, decarbonisation or climate change, we need a new government.