Friday, March 19, 2021

Matt Burgess: The Climate Commission’s transparency problem

It is now three weeks and three days since the Climate Change Commission extended the submissions deadline for its draft emissions budgets by two weeks.

The extension was prompted by concerns about the Commission’s refusal to release selected data from its models.

The extension pushed the submissions deadline just beyond four weeks, the required turnaround time under the Official Information Act (OIA). We immediately lodged an OIA request with the Commission for “all data on the marginal abatement costs of electric vehicles”. The Commission’s response is due in five days.

Our request aims to solve an enduring mystery behind the centrepiece of the Commission’s emissions strategy, their proposed ban of petrol and diesel light vehicle imports from 2032. Under the Commission’s plan, only electric vehicles (EVs) will be imported after that date.

The question is how the Commission’s models, which optimise for least cost reductions in emissions, could have arrived at a strategy to go hard and early on EVs. EVs are currently expensive relative to conventional vehicles. The Commission’s analysis implies EVs will only become competitive in their own right in the late 2030s. Research suggests that, for now, EVs are among the least affordable ways to reduce emissions.

On its face, the better strategy is to reduce emissions via other channels first and shift to EVs as costs come down.

So far, the Commission has refused to release all of its assumptions. It has not given a plausible explanation. Speaking to Parliament’s Environment Committee on 25 February, the Commission’s Chair and Chief Executive implied the data had already been released or does not exist. But is this actually the case?

It is conceivable the Commission has used negative costs in its models to prop up its EV strategy. In 2018, a study by the Ministry of Transport (MoT) found the Feebate policy, an EV subsidy, reduces emissions at a negative cost. MoT counted all of the benefits of EV ownership, mostly fuel savings, but appears to have counted only some of the costs.

If this is the case, then the Commission’s EV strategy, one of the more draconian policies ever seen in this country, might not survive five minutes of scrutiny.

Transparency is essential. As the Chair of the Major Electricity Users Group said, “If the modelling is robust enough for the Commission to use to make far-reaching recommendations, it should be robust enough for scrutiny.”

Matt Burgess, a Senior Economist at The New Zealand Initiative, was the Senior Economic Advisor to the Minister of Finance and Chief Executive of iPredict.


DeeM said...

With bodies like the Climate Change Commission (CCC), and their equivalents around the world, what they usually fail to disclose is the huge amount of energy and level of emissions produced in the manufacture of EV's compared to ICE's. Also the big environmental problems from the heavy metal mining to make the batteries. Many studies led by experts in the field of engineering, chemistry and physics have looked at this issue and all have concluded that wide-scale implementation of EVs would see an enormous surge in mining around the world and would create a massive environmental waste problem when the batteries reach the end of their relatively short lives.
The same issues also apply to wind and solar technologies.
There are far better ways to reduce emissions than adopting battery driven technologies. About 10x the energy is used to manufacture a battery than it will store in its life.
The CCC deals in ideology NOT practicality, efficiency or financial competence. The organisation is a propaganda tool for our socialist government to present the facade of scientific rigour to the public.
It is not fit-for-purpose and unfortunately our country will suffer from the needless and draconian recommendations which I have no doubt will be adopted wholesale by Jacinda and cronies.

Ross said...

The CCC needs to do some basic calculations on how much extra electricity is required to replace the petrol transport fleet with EVs. The information is readily available on MIMBI (sp?) website. I did the calculations a couple of years ago and then it showed that about a 75% increase of our existing power generation was required. Wind and solar will NEVER meet that need and given environmentalist are not keen on new dams there is only one option.
That option is nuclear so if the CCC cannot tell us where a nuclear plant will be built and when construction will start, they should pack their bags.

Also the same nonsense has been discussed in the UK. Someone did the figures on the amount of cobalt, copper and few other necessary raw materials that would be needed just for the UK and it is something like 2 x the world production of cobalt and similarly a large percentage of the worlds copper production.

Anonymous said...

The CCC is just a bunch of dreamers looking to introduce draconian measures that in reality won't solve much at all. The only thing I agree with is the elimination of lightweight diesel vehicles. To replace my existing near new petrol SUV with a fully hybrid model of the same make is about 50% higher than the petrol version. Plus the battery would only give around 200 to 250Km of travel compared to around 600 or more km on a full tank of petrol. Full Hybrid (EV's) vehicles will gradually increase in number over time as the price drops and battery efficiency improves. Currently, no road user tax applies to EV's but in due course, all EV owners will be hit with road user taxes.

The recent big freeze in Texas showed just how vulnerable they were to be highly dependent on electricity from wind turbines. The same sort of thing could easily happen in the South Island of NZ. Careful consideration needs to be given to where these large scale wind turbine farms are located.

The changes that the UK are introducing also include building another nuclear power station to supplement to increased future demand for electricity. Nuclear power is seen as very efficient and produces virtually no carbon emissions. Modern reactors are deemed very safe and have a long life. Whilst we may not want a nuclear power reactor in NZ, consideration should at least be given for further hydro production of electricity.

The CCC is pushing hard to get their recommendations accepted by the socialist Labour Government and into law before most people wake up and realised they've been conned.

Mary-Ann said...

I have made a submission on the Government’s document and pointed out all the flaws with EVs as was pointed out in previous comments. The same with just relying on wind, soar and hydro energy.