Having the electricity rug pulled from under us

illustration Michelle Baginski

A lot can be learned from Persian rug sales.

Firstly, there is always a promise of massive concessions.

Nothing full-price.

Huge, huge, HUGE bargains.

Prices SLAAAAASHED.

Rugs “walking out the door!” etc.

This is clearly all talk – typical of advertising when trying to get rid of a whole heap of surplus product. When a retail business is winding up, it’s time to cut losses and bow out gracefully by selling everything you can in an attempt to maintain a scrap of dignity and to break even.

However, it seems this sensible logic is reversed when it comes to electricity “sales”. It seems that the Federal Government is searching for ways to make fossil-fuelled electricity indispensable at a time when it’s clearly going out of fashion.

Electricity consumption by the average Australian through the major retailers has been falling since the Federal Government began providing incentives to invest in solar power. As a result, the flow of money in the direction of the retailer is also slowing.  The rationale behind the widespread roll-out of solar energy generation is working – carbon emissions are going down and people are saving money.

Furthermore, solar thermal provides limitless clean energy and JOBS. If embraced as a national modus operandi, it could provide employment stability for many people at a time when Australian jobs are in jeopardy, particularly as manufacturing is rapidly going out of fashion.

The problem is renewable energy is working too well, which is bad for big mining and electricity retailers.

In 2007, the renewable energy target set by the Labor Government was 20%. Seeing as we’ve overshot the target and achieved 27% renewable energy since the introduction of a price on carbon, the Federal Government has “congratulated” us by instating Dick Warburton, a stoic disbeliever in human-caused climate change, to lead the review on our renewable energy target.

Huh?

It seems that it was never expected that Australia would embrace the concept of renewable energy with such enthusiasm. Thus, we are being threatened with a review process ripe with anachronistic attitudes that will seek to ensure that the Australian public keeps buying fossil-fuelled electricity. This will hit us hard in the pockets and stymie our positive contribution to ending human induced global warming.

There’s a key difference between Persian rug sales and electricity provision  – whereas Persian rugs are a discretionary purchase, our free-market economy is designed to run on fossil-fuel generated electricity, so purchasing electricity is largely not optional unless someone chooses to live an alternative lifestyle or generate their own electricity.

And pricing?

Well, let’s face it – you simply aren’t entitled to have a say because our government perpetuates a free market economy that benefits the rich.

Since the beginning of public asset liquidation in the post-welfare economy implemented to raise Government revenue, the Australian public has suffered and the divide between rich and poor has widened. We’re sort of become used to that now to some extent I guess, in terms of being offered a “choice” to pay for private healthcare rather than use the public system, for example.

The renewable energy target review is nothing more than a Federal Government response to non-renewable energy capitalists scared witless about the declining popularity of their product.

In an attempt to tackle climate change, the Federal Government made some very sensible choices, chief of which was to encourage the self-determination of Australians by facilitating self-sufficiency in terms of energy production and consumption through solar panel installation rebates.

Unfortunately, the wonderful idea of tackling climate change through strategies to reduce carbon pollution has proven to be counter-intuitive due to existing social structures that favour privatisation of public services. It’s a race to the bottom of a dirty energy coal-mine…and then back up to the top of a man-made mountain of cash. Electricity retailers are panicking because they are losing money due to a disconnect between the interests of the economy and the environment, and the Government is responsible for this division.

Instead of punishing us with their panicking, why not adapt to a more sustainable modus operandi? Rather than liquidating fossil fuel energy stock (just like you would a big ole pile of Persian effing rugs that no one wants), and re-invigorating the economy and the environment by investing in renewable energy technology, the Government is looking to castigate us through the renewable energy review.

Climate change and global warming, which by their very definition are environmental issues, have been turned into political and economic issues through the medium of privatisation of electricity by successive Governments that simply can’t decide whether they want to be big or small in terms of their range of motion.

In theory, medium-level government intervention in a free-market, post-welfare economy doesn’t work. The concepts are dichotomous by definition alone. The free market is deregulated, so it will never operate to its full potential while a government regulates and intervenes only when it suits them.

If electricity prices rise again thanks to this review, I won’t even be able to afford to buy a discounted Persian rug to insulate my house and keep me warm this winter, let alone solar panels.

Could be some chilly winters ahead, even if global warming is slowly heating up the planet!

 

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One Comment;

  1. Rainer the cabbie said:

    Great piece Polly, this cracker had true flavour to it. Organic ?

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