Save Now, Pay Later – The Hidden Cost Of Lower Electricity Bills


In this article, Ian McPhail of the University of Southern Queensland reviewed the ease with which Australians have gotten comfortable to the modern conveniences provided by electricity without considering the consequences of present actions and government policies. 

Using the Australian Day weekend storms as a case study, he analysed how the wild winds and flood waters effectively shut 283,000 homes and businesses out of conveniences such as power, water, sewerage and food. What then is the way out for a generation and country dependent on electricity for power, light, food, communications and more? The answers are provided below

Vulnerable Convenience

Electricity is a convenience that is taken for granted by many Australians without stopping to think of how reliant we have been on ‘the grid’. Many of our modern conveniences rely on electricity to work including such innovations as modern reticulated water and sewage systems.

Of course, many of us have experienced system failures before. The floods shutting down Brisbane’s main water treatment plant and the Christchurch earthquake in New Zealand has exposed the vulnerabilities of these conveniences. Despite the struggle of the authorities to keep the situation under control by finding alternative means of water supply for people, many residents still ignored the pleas to conserve water at the risk of not having water to drink.

Going off-grid

The idea of going off-grid has been comprehensively illustrated by Frederick Trainer. However, as much as going off the grid would help our environment and personal lives, many people would not be welcome towards the required sacrifices. Working towards a sustainable society would require a sharp reduction in economic growth and personal consumption. 

These are reasonable short-term sacrifices for the long-term benefits of going green which include: more money saved, shorter work hours, and contributing towards solving global problems like climate change.

The Price Of Change

It is not deniable that many of us want change but, how many are truly ready to pay the price of change? The reactions of people every time there is any price increase shows that most people are not ready to give what it takes towards building a sustainable environment. Since the government is always handicapped by the reactions of the people, politicians prefer to take the easy way out and go for the options that tend to appease people. 

This is not always the best in the long-term. One of such instances is Queensland’s government plan to reduce its requirement to build duplicate backup infrastructure as a way to curb surging power prices. This may seem good to a lot of people now but cutting back on back-up systems is risky in the long run.

Brighter Ideas

Rather than take obvious but unfavourable ways out, there are better paths that have been charted by experts in several instances. These include the 2012 federal White Paper on Energy and advocacy from experts such as Dr. Mark Diesendorf. 

The ideal is to engage in more diverse supplies of energy that would feed into an upgraded “smart grid” while supporting more sustainable housing projects like the WestWyck and the zero carbon Cape Paterson Ecovillage in country Victoria.

Save Now, Pay Later

As much as it is lofty to imagine people subscribing to healthier, more conservative habits, the reality is that most people just want immediate solutions to their problems. Politicians understand this and play into it, making promises for short term gains without consideration for the long term. 

So, when a politician promises to reduce your power bills by cutting back on energy security, carbon tax or renewable energy, ask: how much will I save, and at what long-term cost?

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