Thursday, June 22, 2017

Finkel Review emerges from a box built from near impenetrable terms of reference

Dr Alan Finkel spoke tonight about the importance of making changes to Australian energy that would have a decadal influence.

Australia's chief scientist, Dr Alan Finkel, ar
tonights session art the Carrillo Gantner
Theatre at the University of Melbourne.
Australia’s Chief Scientist and his panel may well have travelled the world and talked with many influential people about energy systems, but it appears they may well have only looked “inside the box”.

That box, however, was surrounded by a near impenetrable terms of reference constructed from materials from the neoliberal-like economic status quo.

Subsequently, recommendations listed in his “Finkel Review”, most of which have been adopted by Australia’s Coalition Government, still echo what exists.

It is centralized and could easily be the target of monopolisation, stripping away the needs and concerns of individual consumers - the idea of truly democratising Australia’s energy systems was not on the agenda at all.

Listening to Dr Finkel tonight became increasingly clear that every Australian premises should be its own power station.

That is every house, business, factory, hospital, post office, police station, and school should be solar powered, with battery backup, to allow it to stand alone, but be linked to the grid allowing it to share power when it had excess and buy in power when in need.

It would be the ultimate democratisation of energy.

It’s possible, both technically and physically, and the only thing frustrating the idea is the political and social will needed to make the change.

Rather than spend recklessly on a centralised power system that has the potential to be captured by corporate interests and so become a monopoly resulting in unfair, unreasonable and exorbitant prices for consumers, governments should be creating a process that see every premises become a power station.

With every premises being its own power station the control of power costs rests solely with the occupants.

It would cost millions of dollars, if not billions, to build a centralised power station, regardless of technology used and creating a power station at every premises would be equally expensive, but along with being more resilient, sustainable, and more effective it would be clearly more democratic.

Driving the nascent internet were thoughts that the U.S. military needed a communication system that was diverse and not vulnerable to any centralised attack, a power station at every premises brings the same qualities.

Australia would still need a grid system enabling power to be shared between users, with the sharing controlled and monitored by a “smart grid”.

The move to a decentralised power system that depended upon renewable energy sources would play a key role in slowing the worsening of climate change and make people more aware of their power needs and uses.

Writing in his book, “Just Cool It: The Climate Crisis and what we can do, a post-Paris agreement”, Professor David Suzuki said: “Climate change is one of the greatest challenges humanity will face this century.

“Confronting it will take a radical change in the way we produce and consume energy— another industrial revolution, this time for clean energy, conservation, and efficiency.”

Tonight’s presentation was at the University of Melbourne’s Carrillo Gantner Theatre and was presented by the Grattan and Melbourne Energy Institutes. 

More than 500 people listened to Dr Finkel.

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