They will have to pry the air-con from my cold dead hands


The tropical summer is not yet here, but life already is starting to feel like in some tropical, third world, busted-ass banana (bender) republic:

Queenslanders could be forced to keep their air conditioning no lower than 26 degrees in a bid to prevent blackouts across the state.

With a long, hot summer predicted, there is set to be a major crackdown on power use with homes and businesses targeted.

And high on the list of priorities is limiting air con usage during heatwaves, with residential and commercial buildings to be told to refrain from lowering the temperature to prevent a power shortage.

Oh listen, I generally keep my air conditioning at 24 degrees anyway, so I wouldn’t be hugely affected. And I don’t like waste, so I’m all for people turning off the damned lights when they leave the room or not letting the aircon run 24/7. But this is also a matter of principle. We allegedly live in a developed, industrialised economy with a high standards of living; furthermore one that is extremely resource rich and an energy exporter, be it gas, coal or uranium. And yet, we are facing power shortages, as if we were Romania under Ceausescu or Iraq after liberation. But we don’t have megalomaniac communists in power (at least I hope not), and neither has our energy infrastructure been bombed by the invading forces, or is being constantly blown-up and sabotaged by the insurgents. So what gives?

Just think of what has occurred over the past year or two: while energy prices for consumers have sky-rocketed, the reliability of the supply has actually decreased. Despite my use of energy not having changed (no, I haven’t suddenly started growing pot in the attic; no, I don’t even have an attic), I’m paying significantly more to Origin every quarter. But indirectly I’m paying more for everything to everyone, because energy is an input that goes into a cost of just about every product or service – hell, you’re paying more to read The Daily Chrenk in your computer, just unfortunately not to me.

And it could actually be worse than we suspect:

The International Energy Agency (IEA) may be underestimating Australian household energy bills by 25% because of a lack of accurate data from the federal government.

The Paris-based IEA produces official quarterly energy statistics for the 30 member nations of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), on which policymakers and researchers rely heavily. But to provide this service, the IEA relies on member countries to provide it with good-quality data.

Last month, the agency published its annual summary report, Key World Statistics, which reported that Australian households have the 11th most expensive electricity prices in the OECD.

But other studies – notably the Thwaites report into Victorian energy prices – have reported that households are typically paying significantly more than the official estimates. In fact, if South Australia were a country it would have the highest energy prices in the OECD, and typical households in New South Wales, Queensland or Victoria would be in the top five.

Just think about it – the worst in the whole developed world. That this is happening in the year of Our Lord 2017 is a gross indictment of all our governments and their repeated policy failures over the recent years.

How is that governments – on all levels and of all stripes – which consider themselves responsible for every aspects of our lives, somehow managed to create a situation where there just isn’t enough base power to run a modern economy and modern lives in one of the wealthiest countries on this planet?

We have an absurd situation now where coal is considered evil, so no one will build new coal-powered power stations, even though it’s the cheapest and most obvious option in a country like ours. Nuclear energy, if anything, is considered even more evil as well as too expensive to set up. But all the “alternative” and “renewable” sources of energy are nowhere near cheap, reliable and widespread enough to replace the fossil fuels and provide Australia with the energy we need. That moment will eventually come, and I look forward to it, but governments should be spending all their relevant monies on genuine scientific research and development to speed up the coming of that day, instead of wasting billions in subsidies while waiting for Godot. In the meantime, the population growth and the economic growth are outstripping the old, reliable sources of supply, which are, in effect, forced to stand still, or even worse, are being decommissioned, with nothing to replace them.

So by all mean, people, let’s not turn our aircons to ridiculously Arctic temperatures, let’s switch off the lights we don’t use, let’s dim the office lights at night – in fact, the energy efficiency as a whole is probably the biggest single item where we can achieve savings, at up to a quarter of our overall energy consumption – but let us not kid ourselves that turning down the dials in our suburban homes is a solution to the our 21st century power woes.

I believe that whichever political party, whether at the state or the federal level, can offer the people a sensible energy policy that keeps the prices down and supply reliable will win the next round of elections.