Sunday, March 28, 2010

Roads, water, smart meters and the 2010 Victorian state election

The phoney campaign for the 2010 Victorian state election is well and truly underway.  Unfortunately, this highlights the failings of politics and government to follow due process, public consultation and make appropriate decisions.  Some examples follow.

Smart meters
The business case for smart meters has not been proven, yet residents are being forced to pay for them whether they want them or not.  Greater benefits at much lower cost could have been obtained by installing simple in house energy meter displays to allow consumers to see real time how much power they are are using and therefore set about reducing it.  Unfortunately, these "in home displays" have been dropped from the mandatory section of the Victorian Government's smart meter specification.

The Brumby government has embarked on a carbon intensive and environmentally damaging water strategy that also has no solid business case.  The north south pipeline steals water from the chronically deprived Murray Darling basin and sends it over the divide to Melbourne.  The desalination plant will consume large amounts of energy, pollute the Bass Coast, and result in high net carbon emissions.  Meanwhile, water tanks, recycling and stopping logging in water catchments are all ignored, despite being more effective, cheaper and better for the environment.

The relaxing of stage 3A water restrictions is a political stunt for the election.  Melbourne's water storages are still too low for this.

The economics of the desalination plan just don't stack up, and due diligence has not been a feature of the business case or the planning/approval process for it.

The internal workings of Government - including sham public consultations - is revealed in the media strategy written by Planning Minister Justin Madden's media advisor and accidentally sent to the media.  Madden and Brumby have claimed repeatedly that the document is "unusual" and "irregular: and even that they have "seen nothing like it".  What a load of nonsense.  This sort of spin and manipulation is clearly common.

What has Victorian Attorney General Rob Hulls and the Brumby Government go to hide? Given a Ministerial advisor wrote at document that indicates planning processes would be subverted (for the Windsor), why should they be "excluded" from giving evidence to a Parliamentary Committee? This has a whiff of corruption about it.

Public transport
Decades of neglect and inadequate funding for Victoria's public transport by both Labor and Liberal governments have taken their toll.  Trains don't run on time, or at all, and are packed when they do.  Trams in the city are infrequent and now crowded to capacity.  Privatisation is a failure. The new Metro operator is as bad or worse than the previous one.

The majority of funding in the 40b dollar transport plan is still going to roads and freeways.

Logging old growth forests
The 2010 Timber Release Plan (TRP) for East Gippland published by the Victorian Government will dramatically increase old growth forest logging in 2010. It deliberately targets old growth forest areas from maps used during negotiations with environment groups about the government's 2006 election commitment to "protect that last significant old growth forest in East Gippsland" Download the letter to get the full story.

VicForests, under the control of the Victorian Government, has been taken to court by Environment East Gippsland to protect Brown Mountain.  The government refused to take appropriate action to protect endangered species such as the Potoroo from logging.   It is to be hoped the judge finds the government should do what the law says and survey for threatened species in forests before logging them.  Currently they don't - because they don't want to find them - which would mean they can't log the forests.

This track record is not good.  I think it may even cost them the next election.  Unfortunately, a Liberal/National government would most likely continue with all these flawed policies and practices.

So think about voting Green or independent and choose carefully where YOUR preference goes.


pooru said...

I understand the smart meters to allow charging in 1/2hr blocks, the rate depending on demand/supply.
Not having a readout for consumers means users can't see the charges till too late , i.e. when bill arrives ;)
Will the rates be displayed on the meters to indicate high demand, I don't think so. It will need information savvy usage, perhaps driving up power usage as people use computers to check going rates!
With PVgrid net metering you must be aware that when you use power it reduces the export, but with smart meters buying power at peak may offset previous net export in high demand! Smart Meters needs even smarter usage!
The good thing will be high cost of power will drive down usage but those without knowledge of grid system hit hardest.

Peter Campbell said...

Pooru, there has been virtually no community consultation (possibly none!) about smart meters. The scheme was devised by government and is largely embraced by the energy industries. Consumers won't be able to easily read their meters and make sense of what they read. The government has suspended Time of Use (ToU) metering until AFTER the election in response to social lobby groups raising concerns about the impacts on low income households.

Grant said...

Afternoon Peter
Much of what you say is correct, but unfortunately, as the horse is bolted, nothing could be done about the desal plant etc. and it is obvious that Morwell etc will need to continue to generate power for this facility and also peak power requirements (unless somebody has the guts to start a nuke plant). Remember that the OZ population is planned to increase by 60%, so we can expect power requirements to need to increase by at least 40% (with more energy efficient usage).
As for electricity smart meters, these, or some other method needed to be found to have variable power charging as we do not generate enough local power to meet peak demands, so have to purchase from more expensive generation methods.
Public transport in Melbourne will progressively get worse, even if the Government ran it, as no Gov, Vic, or Canberra, would be able to afford the billions required to,
a. duplicate tracks
b. split road and rail levels at crossings (so trains will need to be at the best 6-10 minutes apart on most lines)
c. widen rail bridges for additional lines
d. purchase and demolish properties on various lines to allow additional tracks
e. purchase properties to allow additional lines, where rail corridors were not left
e. widen cuttings and built up rail tracks
f. move tram lines from busy road corridors (like toorak rd where trams will always get jammed up behind cars and trucks)
To me the only answer to our transport dramas is to reduce the requirements by having business move out of the CBD into satellite suburbs, so everybody is not trying to travel to a central hub. The Gov will never reduce the vehicle traffic dramas without huge expenditure on roads to cover the approx 900,000 new vehicles that go on the Australian roads each year (remembering that with good times possibly coming again, and population growth, this figure will probably to rise to over 1.5 mil each year). In the last 20 or so years, I can remember 2 major surveys undertaken by Govs (Fed and Sate) on private vehicle usage. One was by the Fraser Gov who was concerned about the public impact on large oil increases. They found that the Australian public would even reduce the quantity and quality of food purchased so they could use their car. The second was by the state on transport going to places of employment. They found 75%+ of people used their private vehicles to go to work, and 80% of the 75% would never use public transport, even if it was free.
In reference to timer harvesting, there needs to be a careful look at this, but we need to be very careful that we still harvest for our requirements, else timber will be imported from countries where there is effectively no controls on logging. Timber from a number of these countries is already being imported for the building industry.
Anyway in many fields I see things getting worse before they get better, especially with the huge population growth planned.

Peter Campbell said...

Grant, I agree some of the changes we need are very significant. However, they can be done. Bordeaux recently installed an entire network. They built the London Underground and Paris Metros in cities that were already densely populated. After years of "blind faith" in cars I think it is now obvious (as it was in LA 2 decades ago) that they are not suitable for mass transit. People are ready for convenient effective alternatives such as greatly improved public transport and cycling facilities.

But the Victorian Government is basically just still building roads.

There is enough plantation timber resource available now to cover all Australia's pulp and timber needs. We should ban imports of unsustainable timber from native forests, rainforests and the like.