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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 23rd year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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NZ's energy future

7 September 2017

Energy is going to be crucial to the future of this (and every other) nation so you'd expect that governments would be working hard on creating a plan for future energy generation and use.

Sadly, I see little evidence that this is the case here in NZ.

Many other countries (such as Germany, USA, Australia etc) have offered their people huge inducements to either fit solar generation to their houses and/or to invest in EVs -- as a way of shaping and directing their energy production and use.

Here in NZ there are no such initiatives so I guess we're relying on "market forces" to do that job.

The sad thing is that market forces only really work when the market is big enough to create real competition, rather than the oligopolies that we so often see here in little old NZ.

So today's question is: should the government introduce policies and measures towards moving Kiwis towards renewable energy sources and low-emission energy use?

I'm writing about this today because I've seen the press releases for the new Nissan Leaf.

The Leaf is a bit of a sleeper in the world of EVs.

It hasn't had all the hype and media attention that the Teslas have received but I know that there are Leaf owners within the ranks of Aardvark's readership and when you look closely, it has become a surprisingly popular car here in NZ, mainly due to their affordability as an ex-Japan used import.

The earlier model Leaf was more a commuter car than something you'd want to take the family away on holiday in -- but the new version changes all that by more than doubling the range.

I wonder how much better we'd be off, as a nation, if the NZ government provided the same subsidies for EV purchase as other countries (especially some states in the USA) have done of late.

Why would we be better off helping people into EVs rather than their $10K ex-Japan Toyota Corolla used import?

Well virtually all our transport fuel is imported from overseas (Singapore I believe) which means that we're parting with valuable overseas funds in order to take little Johnny to school in the morning and to do the shopping on a Saturday.

A nation's fiscal wealth is generally determined by its balance of trade ledger and if we're going to be spending a snotload on imported fuel then that will help drag that ledger into deficit.

According to this 2015 report from MBIE, "Domestic transport contributed the largest observed increase in energy consumption, increasing its demand for petroleum and diesel based energy by 7 PJ, or a 4% increase over the calendar year". Transportation using fossil fuels is clearly an increasing burden on our balance of trade so mitigating this would definitely improve the fiscal wellbeing of our nation.

If we took the anticipated savings in overseas spending that would be reaped by converting more of our vehicle fleet to EVs, why could that saving not be applied to making these EVs more affordable and attractive to Kiwi drivers?

The longer we leave the conversion to EV, the longer those legacy dino-juicers will be on our roads and the more we'll keep spending on expensive imported fossil fuel.

Of course our generation capacity is also limited so either we stop subsidising the huge aluminium smelter down south and repurpose the power that it consumes -- or we also introduce incentives for people to add solar or wind generation to their homes and businesses.

With a smart use of our public funds, I'm pretty sure we could wean ourselves off our present addiction to fossil fuels for transport and simultaneously slash our overseas oil bill and our carbon emissions. I see no downside to this.

So why aren't any of our political parties (aside from the Greens perhaps) using this as a key component of their policies in the lead-up to the elections that are just a few weeks away?

The less of our valuable export earnings that we have to send back overseas to buy fuel, the richer the nation becomes -- which means more money for social services and development.

Our nation's economy is a big pie. All the existing parties seem intent on simply coming up with new ways to slice that pie -- in the vain hope that somehow, the sum of the parts will be greater than the whole.

Not going to happen!!!

What they seem to be overlooking is that only an improved balance of trade can make that pie bigger -- by having us earning more from overseas and/or spending less overseas.

Surely slashing our oil bill would contribute to that goal?

What a shame we have politicians whose heads seem to be made of wood.

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