Monday 15 February 2016

Green subsidies

Christchurch Council's been giving out grants for more energy efficient buildings. Will Harvey at The Press asked me for comment on one of these; his story is here. He covers my comments accurately.

I'd said:
Christchurch’s energy grants scheme, which covers some of the cost of putting in more environmentally friendly heating or electricity options, makes a lot more sense than early versions of the downtown plan that would have required building owners to meet environmental standards in order to have permission to build to seven stories. And it makes a lot more sense than having overly stringent energy efficiency standards built into the building code. Different choices work for different buildings and for different purposes, and building code mandates can make buildings just too expensive.

But, even still, it seems a bit odd to provide strong subsidy for things like ground-source heat exchangers as a demonstration project. If other businesses take as lesson that the technology is not viable without a subsidy, does that really provide that useful a demonstration? The grant could make sense if there are engineering issues that need to be solved to use this technology at all downtown, with the first project then reducing the cost of all subsequent ones. But, otherwise, it is a bit hard to see the case for it.
Jordan Williams is also quoted there, saying it's pure corporate welfare. I didn't say it wasn't, but there are worse things Council could have done in this space.

I also note that my parents, in Canada, put in their own ground-source heat exchanger to heat their shop and processing plant. It's harder to draw heat out of the ground in Canada, where you have to bury the pipes well below the frost line. And, electricity is far cheaper in Canada than here, so the potential benefits of switching out are smaller. But they didn't need a subsidy to do it. Bit strange that folks in NZ would need one.

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