The rise of China, Russia's aggression, Covid and the perception that the world must reduce and eliminate fossil fuel emissions are beyond intervention by Australia, although we feel the effects. Our housing crisis and our soaring electricity bills are not, the blame for these can be laid at the feet of our governments and it is the more disadvantaged that suffer the most from our failed policies.
Our housing crisis has been long in the making. Clearly though, from classic economics the principal reason for the unaffordability now is the supply shortfall. Governments are expected to plan for our collective future, and in this very important area they have dismally failed. Governments have access to census data and to planning approvals and have control over rezoning. Why have they not seen the trend to unaffordability over at least the last two decades?
Being of a cynical disposition I can only assume that is was because the politicians at the time did not see this issue in their advantage for the next election.
The Mascot Towers disaster shows that governments, at least in NSW, thought that laissez-faire was the way to go. Under present arrangements, if a building collapses, no one is to blame. What a cop-out for the developers, builders and politicians who usually have financial interests in these activities anyway. This needs to change.
Conclusions – housing crisis
Lack of government action over say two decades has led to the present housing crisis, and this is being compounded by our immigration intake. Instead of having to import skilled workers we should be training our own people. There are many capable young people out there who are not given the assistance they need to gain a trade or useful other profession, quite different to those who have well-off parents.
There is no short-term fix to our present predicament. It is a major challenge for governments. We need to go up in densely populated urban areas instead of acres of bungalows with no infrastructure. Training our own people would eliminate future skill shortages.
It is beyond my understanding that Australia is now embarked on a transition away from fossil fuels in a manner that has not proved successful in the EU, UK and US. I understand the conceptual appeal to get electricity from sunlight and wind. It appears to be cheap. The proponents of this refuse to accept the technological limitations of these intermittent renewable energy resources, possibly because they do not understand the technological constraints and limitations that exist. Stand-alone intermittent generators are technically feasible but potentially economically ruinous. It will be hard to abandon the intermittent renewables idea as our salvation from fossil fuels, given the money spent and the reputations that will be ruined. The national rollout of intermittent facilities is far slower than planned. It reminds me of the tortoise cartoon: "I am glad I am going so slowly as I might be going in the wrong direction".
The purpose of an electricity generation facility is not so much to generate electricity, but more specifically to provide a specific quantity of electricity at a given time to a particular place. The intermittent renewables cannot do this, their operation is subject to the vagaries of the weather. They cannot deliver in response to demand. This is not a minor technical difference between renewables on the one hand and fossil and nuclear on the other, it is of great economic significance. Stand-alone renewable generating systems need either a number of different types in parallel, with often large distances between generators or massive storage, the huge capital costs of which are highly likely to make the electricity unaffordable. The Australian public is not given any indication of the costs that will be imposed on them from the present flight into fantasy land, except being told that intermittent renewables are cheap. When the costs of this folly become known, the present proponents will be gone and the taxpayer will be left to pick up the bill. Forget about a AAA credit rating. Again, the Australians who will suffer the most are those less capable and vulnerable.
Some have claimed that intermittent renewables are cheap. The reality is that cheap energy is an oxymoron. Also note our promised reduction in electricity costs have been replaced by an increase of 25% or more in some cases. It is said we need faster installation of intermittent renewables to reduce electricity costs. It is far more likely that increased installation will raise costs.
Taking this a little further, Australia is hypocritical and suicidal (economically speaking). We flog millions of tonnes of coal to other countries and claim that we are clean and green but we are not. The emissions from the coal we export have the same climate effect as if it were combusted on our continent. We are increasing our electricity bills, without making a real contribution to emission reduction because we are exporting emissions, which blind Freddie would see is futile and somewhat suicidal. We are still dependent on coal for a significant slice of our export earnings. We need to get real and spend more of our export earnings on housing, education and health instead of taking risks with investment in intermittent renewables alone. We need to look at alternative methods of electricity generation.
Perhaps Australia is no longer the Lucky Country and should join Gamblers Anonymous.
Conclusions – electricity
Society expects reliable, affordable and now carbon-free electricity. Australia has committed itself to a policy that has failed in other parts of the world and has dismissed nuclear out of hand, although prepared to engage with nuclear submarines. Intermittent renewables have their place in our future generating mix but as stand-alone generating systems they are not fit for purpose.
Other options need to be investigated in parallel so that our future electricity is reliable, affordable and carbon-free and we can be competitive in the world.
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