We Need to Talk About Blackrock

Written By: - Date published: 9:08 am, August 9th, 2023 - 29 comments
Categories: climate change, Economy, energy, Environment - Tags:

It will take a whole lot of money to get to 100% renewable energy in New Zealand, but is Blackrock the right way to get there?

On the one hand …

Ernest Rutherford almost said “We haven’t got the money, so we’ll have to think.” He didn’t say “…so we’ll have to hire Blackrock.” But that was when we thought independently. We appear to have cut out the thinking part and actually for a country not endowed with thinkers or intellectual contest that’s quite lovely. Relax, everything is done for you: here’s the announcement. Be honest it’s just easier to just have all the hard work of thinking taken over by someone else.

Our big Gentailers are already investing massively in wind energy. Our public sector fund managers in NZSuperFund are already partnering with European expert energy fund managers on massive offshore wind.  Smaller local entities like Nova are really getting into solar investment. Isn’t the market doing a reasonable job already? Nothing wrong with a bit more market if that’s the case.

The larger point is to quote Richard III, ‘we are so far in that sin must pluck on sin’, meaning: private capital has been by necessity propping us up for a while so we had better get used to it. The classic cases being the two big PPP highways of Transmission Gully and Puhoi-Wellsford which have a mix of local and international funders, and local and international constructors, to take the debt servicing load.

We have been since National part-privatised our electricity companies already deploying private capital to make huge wind farms and geothermal plants and solar arrays, often in partnership with local iwi entities or companies. You’re soaking in it.

Maybe our ambition towards the next step in necessary infrastructure in energy means facing that we can’t afford it. If we really are going to shift to 100% Zero Combustion engine and 100% renewable generation, we just don’t have th money here to pay for it, let alone much incentive. Small relatively weak states with weak savings are simply like the Bennets sisters of Jane Austen and frankly have to marry up, or be more and more reliant on charity to exist. Jane Austen died young and pretty much broke and lonely.

On the other hand…

We should prefer local capital over international capital because then wealth gained gets to circulate here not back to foreign hands. Does government actively weight its investment decisions to secure local funders first over international ones? It certainly does require locals in all sorts of other projects and services. Just check out Amotai.

Was it really necessary, when it’s only $2 billion, to pull in Blackrock? Sure everyone’s got to make money, but did we really have to choose one of the largest and most rapacious fund managers in existence?

Proposing to bring in external funders did not work well for Labour in 2018 for light rail. It was in fact a complete disaster. Can we show we’ve learned?

How come New Zealand got to build an entire electricity generating system that lasted for 70 years without much private capital from one massive dam to geothermal and all those pylons and substations and network systems without Blackrock? Is this moment so special that the private sector is inherently superior to the public sector funders and implementers?

Also, the government would be able to afford to do more of its own investment rather than pull in private capital if it actually taxed capital. Government showed through the unplanned COVID response that it was quite happy to go large on public debt funded by future taxes. So go tax more. A political choice to consistently prefer external private funders and hence part owners over changing or increasing the tax base is a political choice that ought to be put to us as a public. Like in an election.

We ought to be allowed the debate at least, before the rest of what we have is privatised.

29 comments on “We Need to Talk About Blackrock ”

  1. roy cartland 1

    A pathetic $2B for the climate and we can't afford it… $40B for roads – totally! This country is fucked.

    • Phillip ure 1.1

      The 40 bill isn't for the nation's roads ..

      It is all to service a largely very wealthy area of auckland…

      An area that already has buses/ferries/bridge/road to service it's needs..

      The more you think about it..the more wacka-doodle it is…

      • roy cartland 1.1.1

        Thanks Phil – I had not thought of it that way, it's even worse isn't it.

        • Dennis Frank 1.1.1.1

          I'm reading it as Labour's vote of no confidence in it's own ability to manage big projects, but it could also be a neutral stance to make progress on a bipartisan basis given the odds-on likelihood that voters will hang parliament.

          Shaw said while BlackRock had a few questions to answer regarding where it was investing, he believed the fund would lead to less investment in fossil fuel and more in renewables.

          https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/495424/climate-policy-expert-cautiously-optimistic-over-blackrock-deal

          Good point there from James: now the USA is finally doing it's Green pivot properly, BlackRock could simply be following their govt lead to do an investing pivot accordingly…

          https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2023/06/19/fact-sheet-biden-harris-administration-makes-historic-investments-to-build-community-climate-resilience/

          • The Chairman 1.1.1.1.1

            Interesting Shaw didn't share the concerns of Greenpeace in that article.

            Makes one wonder if further pricing people out of being able to afford power is part of their (the Greens) plan to get us to reduce our power use?

            Can't have a warm, dry home if you can't afford the power bill.

            https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/131559436/kiwis-concerned-electricity-will-become-unaffordable-as-some-borrow-to-pay-bills

            • arkie 1.1.1.1.1.1
              • Scale up support for community energy solutions, including community and marae based clean-energy hubs, with solar and wind generation, local markets, battery storage solutions and peer-to-peer retail trading.
              • Fundamentally reform the electricity market structure to make it easier for renewable energy suppliers and distributed generation to be set up and operate with certainty, remove market structure incentives for fossil fuel use in generation, and require transparent wholesale pricing systems.
              • Ensure government dividends from energy companies are reinvested into clean energy generation including for community level systems (such as rooftop solar and shared battery storage).
              • Support households to improve energy efficiency and rapidly transition away from gaspowered heating and cooking.

              https://www.greens.org.nz/energy_2023

              • The Chairman

                How will scaling up support for community energy solutions distinguish between who can and can't afford to pay the full price. Moreover how will it help those that can't?

                The deal with BlackRock is reform of the electricity market, getting more renewables in place. Yet, it is expected to add to the cost of renewable energy while sending more revenue (in the form of profits) offshore. Therefore, how will this help in ensuring a just transition?

                How will transitioning away from gas powered heating and cooking (which is generally cheaper) going to help those struggling with costs?

                When will supporting households to improve energy efficiency extend to cheap or free double glazing? And full home (in walls) insulation?

        • Phillip ure 1.1.1.2

          @ r.c..

          Yep..!..a total nadir for labour..

  2. Mike the Lefty 2

    With its emphasis on private capital I am surprised that National, as a half-hearted sop to climate change voters, didn't think of it first. But then they are probably still basking in the road building sunshine-out-of-your-arse glory and planning how to take cellphones away from kids.

  3. AB 3

    How is it that Blackrock has all this investment capital sloshing round looking for a home – where has it come from? The most likely explanation is the 40-odd years of governments globally failing to tax large corporations and the wealthy at the level needed to create well-functioning societies. Instead this money accumulates at the top – and naturally it goes seeking a return in things like asset speculation and juicing the sharemarket, while a lot ends up in the hands of financial institutions and private equity firms where Governments end up borrowing it. In short: Governments have gone from taxing large corporations and the wealthy to borrowing from them – and paying them interest for the privilege. You could scarcely devise a more powerful engine of inequality other than re-legalising chattel slavery. But in 2023 governments have to work with the world as it is – especially weak, liberal-centrist governments in tiny countries that are disobedient at their peril.

    • Simbit 3.1

      They get $1,200 a fortnight from me, have done for 6 years. Canadian pension, returns down to 3.9%.

    • Blazer 3.2

      If you drill down…you will find Blackrock are major shareholders in big banks,including the Australian big 4.

      What they,Vanguard,State Street,BNP Paribas,HSBC,JP Morgan,Citigroup,have in multinational, large shareholdings will blow your …mind.

      They can tap ..trillions.

  4. Patricia Bremner 4

    Those assets you talk of Ad, were built by men living for years in camps and villages that took two hours or more to get to their nearest Doctor store or other family. I had many relatives work on various dams, of course no-one acknowledged Maori and land could be requisitioned for 'official use'. Different times different morals.

    • Gerald Freeman 4.1

      Yes different times, the Ministry of Works built the Upper Waitki scheme and provided a town, Twizel, on-site complete with schools, hospital, shops and all the other services. Otermatata also had these services for the Benmore project. Both of these projects were on time and budget. Then came Muldoon's government and the breaking up of MOW and the inefficiencies of the Clyde Dam project. The requisition of land is another matter.

    • bwaghorn 4.2

      My old grand pappy who I never met, dead at 67 with lungs shot from tunneling, tuai lakes and Shannon, plus gun emplacement in Auckland.

      One of the reasons I'm against privatization of our ancestors blood sweat and deaths.

  5. Phillip ure 5

    Why bother with upgrading our military…?

    Why not just call in the waegner group..?

    So ..we have yet another ill-thought out/barking fucken mad idea from labour..that they have signed us up for…

    (Is hipkins trying to outflank seymour on the right..?..)

    (They have so many of these brain-farts on days that end in 'y'..eh..?)

    But seriously..!…waegner..?..blackrock..?.. different facets of the same coin-side..?

    D'yareckon..?..

    And they have sold/privatised our national energy control for a measly 2 bil..?

  6. bwaghorn 6

    If only there was a way of taxing polluters ,we could take that money to invest in renewable energy!!

    Instead of dancing with the devil who no doubt will be better negotiators than anyone in nz ,so we'll be getting shafted.

  7. Blazer 7

    Blackrock one of the big 3 (State St,Vanguard),trillion dollar, Vampire companies that suck the profits out of their …hosts.

    Under a PPP, a private company takes responsibility for financing, building, and maintaining a major piece of infrastructure. The Government pays the company a fixed rate over a set number of years.

    Transmission Gully tale…' Costs officially blow out to more than $1b after Waka Kotahi agrees to pay another $191m to Wellington Gateway Partnership due to the delays.

    'August 2020: After months of negotiations, Waka Kotahi agrees to pay WGP an extra $208 million. It brings the total cost to $1.25b – $400m more than originally agreed. The opening date is moved to September 27, 2021.

    PArivate equity govt partnerships operate on the heads we win,tails you lose principle.

    ref-'Transmission Gully: Unfinished billion-dollar highway's bumpy road | Stuff.co.nz

  8. bwaghorn 8

    https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/business/495431/kiwisaver-assets-continue-their-rebound

    $98 billion in kiwisaver , if only it was investment money,!!

  9. James 9

    Some of the key assumptions in this post are wrong. Even when the entire electricity system was “owned” by the government a material portion of the funding costs were sourced from offshore. NZs infrastructure development has been supported by foreign capital from the start and will continue to do so as long as we run current account deficits. Capital thought funds like Blackrock is arguably better than foreign borrowing as there is no guaranteed return

    • Ad 9.1

      Show me the foreign funder equity stakes prior to John Key.

      • left for dead 9.1.1

        Nice to have popped back and find this Post,good stuff Ad.

        Micky Savage,maybe Ardern was reporting too her masters,?

  10. James 10

    I am not arguing that they had equity stakes. The government borrowed money, a material percentage of which came from offshore sources. As it was debt funding the government was obliged to proved an agreed return. Under the Blackrock arrangement the government would not be exposed to the same risk. Either way the government has only announced that Blackrock will set up a relatively small investment fund with a view to invest in renewable electricity generation projects in NZ. This does really change anything in the way the market operates, or the approach to funding new infrastructure.

    • Ad 10.1

      I can just recall the trouble Prime Minister Muldoon got into with the Aramoana Smelter financing in 1982-4. Also the letter that the IMF sent him.

      I don't agree that there has been no change to the way projects are financed by government, but I'm interested in the historic public projects funded by private debt you are aware of.

      It's why I wrote the post as a series of "one the one hand"…

  11. James 11

    NZ has been relatively capital poor since its formation. We have funded a large portion of both private and public investment via offshore debt and equity financing (debt for public). When I say that things haven’t materially changed I am referring to the current situation with the Blackrock deal. We already have offshore equity investment into the power companies. This is just another vehicle.

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