On March 14, IPART, the NSW Utility regulator made public a decision that put a price of 6-8 cents for energy exported to the grid, compared to the current cost of 30-44 cents for any power consumed from the grid.
The argument is in two parts, if I can put a complex report into a few dot points:
- The distribution infrastructure, poles & wires make up over 50% of the costs of electricity, and
- The times of peak demand do not coincide with times of strong sunlight, and therefore the power imported to the grid is of less value.
It seems to me that vested interests have got hold of the argument.
If it was truly that we were seeking to reduce our reliance on coal fired power stations, the ones the pollies tell us are better in private hands so the capital requirements are not a drain on the public purse, would it not be sensible to do two simple things:
- Use tariffs to shift the time of peak usage, (This assumes that households are the drivers of peak demand, which seems questionable to me, industry is a much larger user of power than households) this simply means people put their dishwashers on before they go to bed, not as they finish the meal, and ditto for dryers.
- Encourage the “crowdsourcing” of power, which takes the pressure off the network systems. The march of technology seems to imply that in a very short time we will have cheap batteries that will be able to recharge during daylight, storing power for use later. Put simply, put the generation points next to the consumption points.
We mostly accept that crowdsourcing of all sorts of things is the most efficient way of getting them, from ideas, to finance to goods. So why don’t we do it with power?
Why do we insist on insulating a legacy system that we are moaning is from the last century from the winds of change, when the alternative is obvious, and policy decisions elsewhere seem to indicate that the contrary outcome is in our long term interests. This is not necessarily an argument for subsidy, that is an emotive word, but it is an argument for reducing the responsibility for power generation from the public sector to those using the power, taking advantage of C21 technology.