Nats — Come on baby, light my fire(s)

I’ve been asked why I haven’t posted on the Nats’ energy policy. In short, I used to know a huge amount about electricity industry policy (I’m not being immodest — I was paid to by the Ministry of Energy). But not having kept up, I’m painfully aware of how little I now know.

Fortunately, Jordan Carter has a brilliant guest blog that is clearly written by someone who is right up with the play. Everybody should read it.

On the face of it, National’s energy policy is yet another attempt to allay fears of radical change by adopting some of Labour’s clothes, whilst avoiding critical detail that would allow proper analysis of what’s being suggested. It’s all spin, but Granny rushes to legitimise it:

“Broad long-term agreement on energy matters is a decided plus for a country that has become uncomfortably accustomed to the threat of power shortages. The National Party’s support yesterday of the Government’s 2007 energy strategy, notably the target of 90 per cent renewable electricity generation by 2025, and an emissions trading scheme is, therefore, welcome. This is not an instance where the National Party should be criticised for saying ‘me, too’. Security of supply is too important for that.”

The detail on the “renewables” and ETS is simply not there, and even the Herald’s editorial writer must know that that is where the devil lurks. But the  promise to overturn the ban on new base-load thermal power stations is the most immediately troubling policy proposed.

Gerry “Panic!” Brownlee has announced that, “the lesson from this winter is that thermal electricity generation is essential in keeping the lights on.” That may have been true this winter. Here’s how close we came to the “Emergency Zone”…

But what we need to know is what capacity is coming along over the next ten or so years. (Remember, to get a thermal station up and operational takes many years from planning stage; hydro often takes longer — not that there is a lot of acceptable potential hydro left.)

Jordan’s guest blogger examines the security of supply issue and finds, first that National have played another statistical sleight of hand (using as their base year for dry year security margin a year when new capacity spiked in preparation for old plants shutting down), and secondly that there is plenty of capacity “highly likely” to come into play. More than enough:

“Right now, our dry year security margin is higher than it’s been for most of the 10 years. When the “highly likely” projects come on stream in a few years’ time, we’ll have a greater supply margin than we’ve had for 20 years.”

I guess if nothing else this gives the Greens plenty of justification for supporting a Labour-led government even should the Nats come close to winning 50% of the vote.

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3 Responses to “Nats — Come on baby, light my fire(s)”

  1. macdoctor01 Says:

    I guess if nothing else this gives the Greens plenty of justification for supporting a Labour-led government even should the Nats come close to winning 50% of the vote.
    Did I miss something? Are the Greens ever likely not to support Labour?

    MacDoc, If National/ACT is, say 10 points ahead of Labour but the Greens and NZ First together have just more than 10%, then the Greens could go with Labour but would be likely punished severely at the next election. Even the Greens have a basic survival mechanism.

  2. macdoctor01 Says:

    But the point is that they don’t need justification to support Labour – they would need strong justification to support the Nats.

  3. jafapete Says:

    MacDoc, You are quite correct that the Greens would, all other things being equal, need a great deal more justification to their own supporters for supporting National.

    I meant that the Greens would be able to argue sufficient cause to justify to the voting public their support of a major party in government that was clearly less popular than the alternative. Sorry for any confusion.

    But then, perhaps the public opprobrium of supporting a less popular and less legitimate choice would not matter to the Greens, in the same way that it does not appear to be having a major effect on NZ First’s support right now.

    The only test of anything like this situation was in 1996, when NZ First supported a party that many were not expecting it to. And it did suffer from that, along with the effects of a messy disintegration in Parliament.

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