Clover Moore’s Proposed Green Soviet

Stone the crows! Green energy should be free – just like healthcare.

If there is one thing environmental activists abhor more than economics it is what they call consumerism and everybody else refers to as civilisation – air conditioning and computer games, television and hot water, fridges, labour saving gadgetry and so forth. It is the lifestyle as well as the power that drives it which is bad. As Rohan Jain puts it:

Green is not something you can buy. Green is a way of life. Treasure everything. Think permaculturally. Live sustainably in all ways.[i]

But this is exactly what green believers don’t do – “committed greens” know “what behaviours are likely to be required in a climate and resource-constrained future and can pay to make the transition”, and yet they consume like the rest of us.  [ii]

And they will keep at it, by going local and taking themselves off the grid.

This is ironic given the potential cost of alternative mains power will come down. Utility-scale wind can cost US networks 3.3c per kilowatt hour, compared to coal at 6.6c.[iii]3 But wind farms are politically ambiguous, loved by inner city green lefties, loathed by their country cousins, and the politicians who need their support.  [iv]

So the green “small is beautiful” dream is for people to run their air conditioners via solar panels supported by ever-more efficient batteries that store the electricity they produce.5[v] Green research group the Rocky Mountains Institute estimates that solar plus batteries could provide grid price parity in California and New York within the decade.  [vi]

Even better, government has created a precedent for subsidising people’s own personal power. Home owners with solar are picking up $200m a year from Canberra in installation subsidies and state government payments for the power they kick back into the grid.[vii] This is all good news for green families and businesses with residences and workplaces that can accommodate power producing panels.

But it is awful indeed for everybody else, because reduced consumption of network generated electricity means the cost of producing it and maintaining the distribution network has to be paid by fewer customers.

Even worse for anybody interested in leasing the NSW distribution network, the technology is also emerging for micro-grids, powered by wind, solar and waste gas, which power communities, off the main system. [viii]

Imagine Clover Moore with her own power source, she would probably try to secede from the Commonwealth. And caw not at the Crows – the lady mayor has a plan for an independent power source for her green soviet, with all the City of Sydney’s electricity generated by renewables and tri-gen (recycled thermal power) by 2030. [ix]

But surely this is a logical conclusion of the Green dream – a community with its own power independent of big polluters, leaving people without the capacity to install solar panels on their roof and batteries in their garage stuck with the expensive and as customers decrease, increasingly unreliable, public product.

Which should be a bit of a worry for Greens. The prospect of access to electricity depending on individual income and initiative will unsettle anybody who believes the state should provide the same basic service to all. In David Mitchell’s new novel the first thing the powerful do as the Irish economy collapses is steal people’s solar panels.[x] Individual power supplies certainly would never do for green health care, which is based on a publicly funded universal service. [xi]

Not to worry, there is a way of creating green energy independence for all. How long before Greens start advocating state supplied solar panels and batteries for everybody, backed up by micro green grids? After all, the state already subsidises people with solar panels and once economics is taken out of energy supply there is money to burn.



For policy writing and editing contact the Crows




[i] Rohan Jain, “The credo of green consumerism,” Green Overdose, July 8 @ recovered on November 30

[ii] Peter Newton, “Green hypocrites: Behaviour change in a consumerist society,” The Conversation April 19 2013 @ recovered on November 30

[iii] Diane Cardwell, “Solar and wind energy start to win on price v conventional fuels New York Times, November 23 @

[iv] James Glenday, “Windfarms are ruining the landscape and are ‘appalling’, Treasurer Joe Hockey says,” ABC News September 17 @ recovered on November 30

[v] William Grace, Exploring the death spiral, Australian Urban Design Research Centre, October 2014 @ recovered on November 30

[vi] Ricky Mountain Institute, The economics of grid defection, nd @ recovered on November 30

[vii] Mark Ludlow, “Hidden solar subsidies costing households $200m,” Australian Financial Review, November 25

[viii] Morgan Saletta, “Move over big power – the micro power revolution is here,” The Conversation, November 26 @ recovered on November 30

[ix] City of Sydney, Decentralised energy master plan: renewable energy 2012-2030, December 2013 @ recovered on November 30

[x] David Mitchell, The bone clocks (2014)

[xi] The Greens, Preserving universal health care, nd @ recovered on November 30