Clean, Green & Clever: NZ Institute’s last prescription

Written By: - Date published: 2:33 pm, May 9th, 2012 - 33 comments
Categories: Deep stuff, thinktank - Tags: , ,

Ever since I went to his Fabian lecture in February, I’ve been meaning to write about Rick Boven’s last major work before leaving the NZ Institute to its Business Roundtable merger.

It’s a major piece of thinking, and a piece he can be proud of signing off with.

He charts an uncertain future – one with major risks, dangers and one we’re all too little prepared for.

We’re certain to face a significantly changed climate, a world scarce in resources, over-populated and with limited leadership.

Energy predictions expect us to use much more than we do today; environmental predictions expect that not to be an option.  We’ve hit overshoot on a global scale.  Nature’s under-valued resources are already being depleted permanently.

So how does New Zealand improve its lifestyle in the midst of all this?

Although he doesn’t use the words, it sounds quite similar to David Shearer’s “Clean, Green and Clever.”  Or the late great Paul Callaghan’s presentation on New Zealand’s economic future:

We’ll actually be a very desirable place to be – relatively low-density population, non-horrendous predictions for climate change effects, already first-world economy.

But we don’t want more tourism jobs – each one of those makes us poorer, as they are worth a lot less than average NZ wealth generated from work.  Farming, fishing, forestry?  Will make us slightly richer, but won’t get us to OECD average – and it’s not like it can be scaled up much either: we’re already talking about the rest of the world being depleted, so we don’t want to replicate Rapanui here again too.

Hi-tech manufacturing is the way to go – those jobs at Google and Apple are the ones that generate teh most revenue per hour worked.

But all this sits in a gloomy world, desperate for food and technology to sustain itself.

Somehow Rick Boven maintains optimism – with the power of individuals to spread ideas and change society and make up for the leadership deficit driven by short election cycles and businesses incentivised for short-term profits.

Can we change from 20th century economics with its belief in infinite resource and waste-sink, and focus on solely growing GDP to an environmental 21st century economics that understands our constraints and focuses on risk?

View the presentation here.

33 comments on “Clean, Green & Clever: NZ Institute’s last prescription”

  1. Draco T Bastard 1

    Can we change from 20th century economics with its belief in infinite resource and waste-sink, and focus on solely growing GDP to an environmental 21st century economics that understands our constraints and focuses on risk?

    Well, we can – if we’re willing to accept the limits which our economists and politicians tell us don’t exist.

  2. BLiP 2

    . . . So how does New Zealand improve its lifestyle in the midst of all this?

    Although he doesn’t use the words, it sounds quite similar to David Shearer’s “Clean, Green and Clever.” what the Green Party has been saying for decades. Or the late great Paul Callaghan’s presentation on New Zealand’s economic future . . .

    FIFY

  3. DH 3

    The problem I see with the green movement is the business model doesn’t seem to be there. Being clean & green is all very nice but it’s not much good if everything becomes so expensive no-one can afford it. On top of that a business exists to make a profit and if greentech costs are so high they can’t compete against dirtytech the businesses will keep on folding.

    It’s a sad fact of business life that you won’t sell many of your (more expensive) goods just because they have a green sticker on them…. the majority of people will keep on buying the cheapest.

    People keep saying “we need to embrace green technology… etc” No-one seems to come up with any ideas on how to actually make a dollar out of it.

    • Shane Gallagher 3.1

      “What you environmentalists have to understand is that the destruction of the planet may be the price we have to pay for a healthy economy.”

      There I fixed your bit of satire for you. 🙂

    • Colonial Viper 3.2

      People keep saying “we need to embrace green technology… etc” No-one seems to come up with any ideas on how to actually make a dollar out of it.

      Force polluting industries and designers/sellers of wasteful, inefficient or toxic products to shoulder the full cost of the externalities they create.

      • DH 3.2.1

        Sure, but that was my point. We have no control over other countries, we can only legislate to businesses who are resident here. Impose extra costs on local industry, costs that their competitors don’t have, and you start closing down NZ industry bit by bit. No-one should deny it would result in considerable job losses, you can’t impose extra costs on local manufacturers and expect things to stay the same.

        Green technology has to replace the lost jobs and no-one is offering any ideas on where those jobs are going to come from.

        • Carol 3.2.1.1

          Actually, I don’t think we need more jobs. There’s enough jobs. But we have this absurd situation that some people work extremely long hours, while others don’t have a job. and some people earn way more than they need.

          If standard jobs were more like 3 or 4 days a week, and there wasn’t such an income disparity, there’d be enough jobs and money for all.

        • Colonial Viper 3.2.1.2

          Sure, but that was my point. We have no control over other countries, we can only legislate to businesses who are resident here.

          Tarriff the bad actors when they try and bring product into NZ, and start the process of growing localised NZ industry creating local NZ jobs.

          And screw the WTO.

          • DH 3.2.1.2.1

            I’d thought of that & discarded it because it only applies to imports. We still have to export and who will buy our goods when they’re more expensive than anyone else’s?

            • Draco T Bastard 3.2.1.2.1.1

              Who cares? We’re better off keeping the resources and shifting the workers displaced by declining work into R&D.

              We cannot export our way to wealth.

        • Matt 3.2.1.3

          Those jobs can come from green technology which is heavily subsidized for the short-mid term, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. China subsidizes the hell out of solar, dumps cheap panels and distorts ‘the market’ (is anyone believes in such things anymore) making it difficult for anyone else to compete unless they are backed up by similar subsidies.  

          The plan is subsidize now, keeping competition – specifically competition that cannot weather the huge long term red ink in an industry that requires huge capital infrastructure (think the under-subsidized Solyndra) out of the market, so when the day comes that no one can deny the need for solar, there will only be one country to buy from.

          There are so many industries they do this with that it’s about time people stop parroting free-market fairy tales and start some gloves off, in-it-for-the-long-haul long term strategic planning.

          Oh and by the way, don’t sell your power companies.

          • DH 3.2.1.3.1

            There’s a small problem with that argument. No-one in NZ makes solar panels and going green will make them even more expensive to manufacture here. Who would establish a plant here, there’s no business opportunity in it.

            • Draco T Bastard 3.2.1.3.1.1

              The government could but it won’t as it only caters to multinational corporations.

              • Matt

                It’s not about solar panels, they are just an example of accepting a short term cost to position yourself well for the long term. 

                And yeah, governments are uniquely positioned to do it but won’t due to dogma and a failure of vision. 

                • DH

                  Ok. Well fossil fuels presently account for about 12,000 gigawatt hours of power generation each year. You’d average about 1000watts per watt annually from a solar panel. That adds up to a requirement of at least 12billion watts of panels to replace fossil fuel generation. Manufactured cost would be around the $1 per watt mark if made in NZ, cost of panels alone $12billion. On top of that you need to invert the DC of the panels & that costs 30-40% of the panel price typically, add another $4billion. And then there’s the cost of setting up the plant, realistic total cost of $20billion.

                  Not undoable but still a lot of money, there’s also the costs of changing the generation profile so hydro & thermal run more at night & less during the day.

                  You say the Govt should pay for it but the Govt doesn’t pay for anything. We pay for it and where is the dosh going to come from?

                  • Colonial Viper

                    You say the Govt should pay for it but the Govt doesn’t pay for anything.

                    False. Government makes up 40% of the NZ economy. It gets its money from taxes on the population, and provides economic and social services which allows the population to participate in the economy to create wealth in the first place.

                    You’d average about 1000watts per watt annually from a solar panel.

                    Nope, your number is low, by a lot.

                    energywise.govt.nz suggests a figure which ranges from 888 kW/h pa to 1750 kW/h pa. (Average 1319 kW/h pa…32% higher than your estimate)

                    And then there’s the cost of setting up the plant, realistic total cost of $20billion.

                    Given that your number is 32% too high, the cost you are looking for is more like $15B.

                    The NZ economy is a $200B p.a. economy. $15B is a lot of money but spread over 10 years at $1.5B pa its nothing.

                    where is the dosh going to come from?

                    We take it from low quality spending, we take it from those who can afford it, and we print the rest. Its not that much which is needed.

                    • DH

                      Actual cost would be double the $20billion, I haven’t covered half of it. Installation would cost a pretty penny, as would changes to the national grid to carry the load differentials.

                      1000watts average would be about right. A panel mounted at 45degress to the sun loses 30% of its generation capacity. To get the max you need solar tracking and for a typical installation that costs more per watt than the panels do… chuck another $5-8billion on the tally for that.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      Why am I going with your estimate instead of the estimate of energywise.govt.nz? They did not mention the use of solar tracking and all those other extras that you seem to add to the list.

                      I haven’t covered half of it. Installation would cost a pretty penny,

                      A cost on the economy on one side is income pm the other side. No problem there.

                      Your numbers are way overblown and you keep trying to push them up for some reason.

                      NZ is a $200B pa economy and $15B is easily do-able over 10 years.

                    • DH

                      I use NIWA stats and real figures from known sites. I don’t know where Energywise get their info from so can’t say what it’s based on but I expect it’s theoretical. But in simple numbers NIWA historical statistics report Auckland as one of the best for solar with a daily average of 4.2 Kw/m2 of solar irradiation. A 1000watt panel directly facing the sun all day should generate 4.2 x 365 = 1533 Kw/hrs or 1533watt/hrs per watt of panel each year. And that’s the most you’ll get, with tracking.

                      A good north facing roof in Auck will typically do about 1200-1300, and that’s in one of the best areas. Christchurch only receives 3.7 Kw/m2 of solar irradiation; 12% less solar energy than Auck. A lot of roofs aren’t sited well and they’ll generate a lot less power, the countrywide average of 1000 is a number I’m comfortable with.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      The bottom line is that PV will remain relatively niche for the moment; wind is where the big game is. $2B of wind can generate

                      DH is also taking the piss by corralling the discussion into massive investment in PV generation.

                      By the way DH, we could get Chinese PV panels for a fraction of the prices you quoted. NZ wouldn’t go into PV panel manufacture because PV panels are a mass produced commodity product.

                  • Draco T Bastard

                    Manufactured cost would be around the $1 per watt mark if made in NZ,

                    Bollocks. Price has dropped considerably and the government building a plant here would get the latest tech and as automated as possible. That means it won’t actually cost any more than building them anywhere else.

                    Not undoable but still a lot of money, there’s also the costs of changing the generation profile so hydro & thermal run more at night & less during the day.

                    It’s called a smart grid and why we need to re-nationalise our power.

                    You say the Govt should pay for it but the Govt doesn’t pay for anything.

                    We are the government and we pay for everything including the rich pricks.

                    We pay for it and where is the dosh going to come from?

                    Same place it always comes from – the printing press.

                    • DH

                      That’s the selling price, not the manufactured cost. They’re still not down to a manufactured cost of 50c US per watt although they expect it reach that within a few more years. Setting up a plant here would have a manufactured cost higher than the Chinese; if it didn’t we’d be doing it already. NZ$1 per watt would be about right for a single plant producing for the NZ domestic market.

                      Arguing over a few cents is splitting hairs anyway. That article you linked to says it currently costs $8000 to install 2.5Kw of panels. That’s $3.20 per watt – translating into a cost of $38.4billion for 12gigawatts.

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      From the second link I provided:

                      When all’s said and done, if you buy Twin Creeks’ equipment, it is promising a cost of around 40 cents per watt, about half the cost of panels currently coming out of China (where the vast majority of solar panels are made).

                      Last time I looked, 40c was less than 50c.

                      NZ$1 per watt would be about right for a single plant producing for the NZ domestic market.

                      See, the thing that you’re doing here is guessing while also trying to make the idea look bad. You come across as the type of person who believes that NZ can’t do anything at all and that we should just leave it to our betters (being either the US and/or China).

                      That’s $3.20 per watt – translating into a cost of $38.4billion for 12gigawatts.

                      Yep, that’s based upon individual installations and keeping everything else the same. Prices will change if the government builds its own manufacturing plant, uses local resources and puts in place a decent installation plan.

                  • Matt

                    Ha. 

                    “it is not about solar panels”

                    “OK. Let me proceed discussing solar panels ad nauseum”

                    [lprent: That isn’t uncommon. I have seen topics diverge into anything. The engineering qualities of burning skyscrapers keeps popping up in the oddest topics for instance. Or the problems of peak oil. Or religions like McCarthyism… But there is always OpenMike and if anyone gets too irritating they may find it safer to only comment there. Bu we do keep an eye on diversions and how far they go. ]

                    • DH

                      Threads often go off on a tangent Matt, it’s the way of open forums.

                      No it’s not about solar panels. It’s about how everything has a price and we don’t always have the money to pay it. If NZ is to go more green we really need a way to turn that to our advantage both socially and economically. Spending more taxpayers money won’t necessarily achieve that, there has to be some concrete gains from the money spent.

                      We’re not a rich country, we’ve been stripped to the bones by a succession of bad governments. When big money gets spent now the numbers have to add up IMO.

                      [lprent: Yep. We let topics drift provided we can’t see deliberate attempts at diversion trolling. If we do then if we’re nice we will move threads to OpenMike. If we are in a hurry or have had a bad day (or even if we just feel like being mean) then we pick a perpetrator or two and donate them some personal attention. If they are lucky we just give them an educational ban. If they are unlucky then they find out why moderators personal attention is immoderate – it is designed to discourage repitition of the offense. I find the uncertainty adds a certain urgent spice to people’s comments that are walking too close to our moderation attention levels. And no – you aren’t on our radars (yet) ]

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      We’re not a rich country,

                      Wrong, we’re a very rich country but we’re using our resources badly (instead of research and development we go for service industries like McDs) and selling them off to foreign ownership.

                      When big money gets spent now the numbers have to add up IMO.

                      The numbers do have to add up but it’s not about money, it’s about resources (NZ can afford all of it’s own resources no matter what because we already own them) and their distribution. Money used as a tool to distribute those resources means the government printing the money and spending it where it needs to be spent to achieve what is desired. Unfortunately, our economists and politicians think that the government is needs to get the money first (borrowed from rich people at interest) and that the whole point of the economy is profiteering rather than ensuring everyone has a good living standard.

        • prism 3.2.1.4

          DH That’s where the Clever bit comes in. Think Pink Floyd’s banner song We don’t need no education, We don’t need no thought control. Actually we need the opposite, particularly getting informed and educated thoughts and the control should be over our preferred prejudices so we can recognise the wider picture and then make clever decisions. Then we won’t sit like nellies blubbing how we can’t do anything about anything, except go with the latest TINA.

    • Draco T Bastard 3.3

      It’s a sad fact of business life that you won’t sell many of your (more expensive) goods just because they have a green sticker on them…. the majority of people will keep on buying the cheapest.

      Then you outlaw the dirty tech.

    • Has anyone TRIED to come up with ways of making green tech profitable? Of course no one is going to come up with solutions if they don’t first TRY.

  4. Colonial Viper 4

    Both the Greens and Labour continue to wildly miss the point.

    Growth can no longer be quantitative, it can only be qualitative. The only real and sustainable “green growth” is native forest. Anything else is going to lead to a mass die off of people, eventually.

    You want 2.5% pa “green growth” for the next 100 years? Newsflash: that means a population and an economy in NZ 12x bigger than the one today. That’s the power of the exponential function.

    Capitalism is going to continue incentivising the most rapid use of resources and highest levels of consumerism possible. Your “resource scarcity be damned”. This is because everyone wants more sales and more profits, which means you have to make and sell more units than ever before.

    Capitalism (and capitalist Governments and capitalist political parties) will never say: can that overseas holiday, keep your smartphone for a year or two longer, trade in your V8 for a 1.6i, choose a smaller flatscreen TV not a larger one, and just work 4 days a week not five. Even though each of those things would significantly reduce our material burn rate.

  5. TimD 5

    DH, please furnish with examples in the current greens policy?

  6. Gareth 6

    As resources deplete won`t peoples ability to use apple,gooogle type products decrease. Wouldn.t it be better as resources become scarce to become a food producer etc? I’d say we should be looking into making ag and hort as sustainable as possible, be a good idea to try a get something to help with up coming phosphate shortages.

  7. prism 7

    I haven’t yet listened to the Fabian lecture or seen the links. But one question occurs – what good will the NZ Institute be if its under the umbrella of big business?

    In my simple mind I had the idea that is was meant to be objective and take the place of the Planning Council. That group that once existed making thoughtful points with informed vision, some government (that on the one hand thought it knew everything already, and on the other disliked the topics raised and the uncomfortable questions they spawned) chose to wipe out.

Links to post

Leave a Comment

Show Tags

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

  • Why has Pike footage been hidden for so long?
    New footage of workers servicing a robot in the Pike River drift appears to show that going into the drift doesn’t pose the danger the Government and Solid Energy claimed, says Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little. ...
    4 hours ago
  • Nats’ housing policy fails to keep pace with population growth
    Auckland got less than half the new houses it needed in the past year to keep up with record population growth, says Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford. ...
    2 days ago
  • Urgent action needed on dirty rivers
    The Our Fresh Water Environment 2017 report re-confirms that we need urgent action to clean up our rivers. Meanwhile, National is standing by as our rivers get even more polluted, says Labour’s Environment spokesperson David Parker. “This report is yet ...
    3 days ago
  • Where there’s smoke and mirrors, there’s Steven Joyce
    Steven Joyce’s much vaunted pre-Budget speech is simply an underwhelming response to the infrastructure deficit National has created, says Labour’s Finance Spokesperson Grant Robertson. “Steven Joyce has belatedly come to the realisation that everyone else has a long time ago, ...
    3 days ago
  • Time to stamp out cold, mouldy rentals
    New figures show a small number of landlords are letting down the sector by renting cold, mouldy rentals. These houses need to be brought up to a decent standard for people to live in by Andrew Little’s Healthy Homes Bill, ...
    4 days ago
  • Time for fresh approach on immigration
    Latest figures showing another record year for immigration underlines the need for an urgent rethink on how this country can continue to absorb so many people, says Labour Leader Andrew Little. “New Zealand needs immigrants and is all the better ...
    4 days ago
  • Bring back the Mental Health Commission
    The People’s Mental Health Review is a much needed wake up call for the Government on mental health, says the Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little.   “I applaud their proposal to restore a Mental Health Commission and their call for ...
    6 days ago
  • And the band played on…
    Making Amy Adams the Housing Minister five months out from the election is just the orchestra playing on as National’s Titanic housing crisis slips below the waves – along with the hopes and dreams of countless Kiwi families, says Labour’s ...
    6 days ago
  • Hotel no place for children in care
    ...
    1 week ago
  • Maybe not, Minister? Nick Smith’s housing measure suppressed
    Sir Humphrey: Minister, remember the Housing Affordability Measure work you asked us to prepare back in 2012? Well, it’s ready now.Minister Smith: Oh goodie, what does it say?Sir Humphrey: Nothing.Minister Smith: Nothing?Sir Humphrey: Well, sir, you asked us to prepare ...
    1 week ago
  • Inflation data shows many New Zealanders are worse off under National
    The latest inflation data from Statistics New Zealand shows that too many New Zealanders are now worse off under the National Government, said Labour’s Finance Spokesperson Grant Robertson “Consumer Price Inflation (CPI) is now running at 2.2 per cent, and ...
    1 week ago
  • Another emergency housing grant blow out
      Emergency housing grants data released today show another blow out in spending on putting homeless people up in motels, says Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford.   ...
    1 week ago
  • Families struggle as hardship grants increase
    The considerable increase in hardship grants shows that more and more Kiwi families are struggling to put food on the table and pay for basic schooling, says Labour’s Social Development spokesperson Carmel Sepuloni. ...
    1 week ago
  • More tinkering, no leadership from Nats on immigration
    National’s latest tinkering with the immigration system is another attempt to create the appearance of action without actually doing anything meaningful, says Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little. ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Suicide figures make for grim reading
    The 506 suspected suicides of Kiwis who have been in the care of mental health services in the last four years show that these services are under severe stress, says Labour’s Health spokesperson David Clark.   “If you do the ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Pay equity deal a victory for determination and unions
    The pay equity settlement revealed today for around 55,000 low-paid workers was hard-won by a determined Kristine Bartlett backed by her union, up against sheer Government resistance to paying Kiwis their fair share, says Labour Leader Andrew Little. “Labour welcomes ...
    2 weeks ago
  • DHB’s forced to make tough choices
    The Minister of Health today admitted that the country’s District Health Boards were having to spend more than their ring fenced expenditure on Mental Health, says Labour’s Health spokesperson David Clark.   “The situation is serious with Capital and Coast ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Nats break emergency housing pledge – deliver just five more places
    Despite National’s promises of 2,200 emergency housing beds, just 737 were provided in the March Quarter, an increase of only five from six months earlier, says Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford. ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Research underlines need for KiwiBuild
    New research showing the social and fiscal benefits of homeownership underlines the need for a massive government-backed building programme like KiwiBuild, says Labour’s housing spokesperson Phil Twyford. ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Social data security review too little, too late
    The independent review into the Ministry of Social Development’s individual client level data IT system is too little, too late, says Labour’s Social Development spokesperson Carmel Sepuloni. “The Minister of Social Development has finally seen some sense and called for ...
    3 weeks ago
  • More questions raised on CERA conflicts
    With the admission that three more former CERA staff members are under suspicion of not appropriately managing conflicts of interest related to the Canterbury rebuild, it’s imperative that CERA’s successor organisation Ōtākaro fronts up to Parliamentary questions, says Labour’s Canterbury ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Labour to tackle Hutt housing crisis
    Labour will build a mix of 400 state houses and affordable KiwiBuild homes in the Hutt Valley in its first term in government to tackle the housing crisis there, says Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little. “Housing in the Hutt ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Farewell to John Clarke
    This wonderfully talented man has been claimed by Australia, but how I remember John Clarke is as a young Wellington actor who performed satirical pieces in a show called “Knickers” at Downstage Theatre. The show featured other future luminaries like ...
    GreensBy Catherine Delahunty
    3 weeks ago
  • Valedictory Speech
    Te papa pounamu Aotearoa NZ Karanga karanga karanga; Nga tupuna Haere haere haere; Te kahui ora te korowai o tenei whare; E tu e tu ... tutahi tonu Ki a koutou oku hoa mahi ki Te Kawanatanga; Noho mai noho ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Buck stops with Gerry Brownlee
    The fact that the State Services Commission has referred the CERA conflict of interest issue to the Serious Fraud Office is a positive move, but one that raises serious questions about the Government’s oversight of the rebuild, says Labour Canterbury ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Teachers deserve a democratic Education Council
    Teachers around New Zealand reeling from the news that their registration fees could more than double will be even angrier that the National Government has removed their ability to have any say about who sits on the Council that sets ...
    3 weeks ago