Edward Mandla
Energy Efficiency Master Plan

Published On: 23/02/2015

Last week, I focused in on the fact that we had spent one hundred and fifty thousand dollars on a good report from Pitt & Sherry. Ruining a good recipe, we then decided to add our own flavours and to create our own 140-page dish that no one can quite digest.

I suggested there was an opportunity for staff development with a course on word economy and readability.

I’ll come back to this ruined recipe shortly but I thought I take it up a level first. We justify spending tens of millions of dollars on our energy schemes based on push polling of 500 people we did eight years ago where a majority of people felt that in the next 20 years we ought to reduce greenhouse gases. The people who didn’t answer, “Yes” have most likely departed this planet.

There are probably over 150,000 enfranchised votes in the next election and its time we retested our mandate on the tens of millions of dollars that have and are proposed, to be spent.

The time to chase these energy pipe dreams is when our core competencies are being consistently met. When the homeless are housed, the development applications are processed on time, the garbage is collected, the rats are gone and our residents and ratepayers basic expectations are being met, then we can start worrying about things we know little about and spending millions of dollars on them.

Now back to the recipe.

We’ve once again gone and engaged a Consultant who appears to have done a tradesman like job of advising us on a particular subject. We have then gone well outside the advice or recommendations and gone on a frolic.

We’ve proposed an intervention, red tape, mandatory new compliance rules, council workers tramping around offices with clip boards ready to issue notices.

It was acknowledged last week that the result of this “intervention” would be to make housing less affordable and to increase office rents. All this on a night, when the homeless have staged a protest on the Town Hall steps.

The trap we have fallen into on this matter as well as others is this. Just because we think something is important does not mean it is. Just because we would like something to be a particular way does not make it so.

As I read the documents I was reminded of George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Squealer the Pig would utilise a baffling vocabulary of false and impenetrable statistics to convince the farm animals everything was as it should be. He’d be proud of our 140 pages.

An example of this is the remarkable declarations throughout our material on this matter that are not supported by the consultants report or go well outside it. Perhaps the best example is that there has been a “decoupling between economic growth and energy usage” or that there are enormous efficiency dividends for business to be had in the Sydney LGA out of energy efficiency.

Firstly, energy use is a small component of total costs in the Sydney LGA, so I don’t know where this huge dividend is supposed to come from.

Secondly energy usage is falling and has been on its own for years for a good reason. Price signals work! When the cost of electricity, energy, tangerines or anything else goes up, people find a way to use less of it and they don’t not need any help from us. I have visited the plant rooms of buildings and seen the installation of regenerative elevators and other efficiencies and not once did someone say “I did it because Council told me how or why”.

As the report says, buildings have become more energy efficient without any “Council Intervention”. And a far as I can see, we have a questionable mandate to blow tens of millions of dollars on these Master Plans.

Edward Mandla
February 2015

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