GUEST BLOG: Bryan Bruce – Uninformed Policy Making

Where is the evidence please?


Something I have noticed about the formation of government policies over the years is that while they claim to be evidence based, when you actually ask for that evidence you discover it is not there.

Why? Because if you don’t ask the question you won’t get an uncomfortable answer that might not fit with the interests of your party donors.

After the cold snap in early May, when there were threats of power cuts, I sent an OIA request to Energy Minister Simeon Brown querying what efforts his government had made to do a cost benefit analysis of using gas and coal to add power to the national grid compared to solar power options.

I asked:

1. Has the government done a long-term cost benefit analysis of putting solar panels on the roofs of every government-owned building compared to the long-term purchase of coal for Huntley Power Station?

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If so, may I have a copy of it please?

If not, why not?

2. Has the government done any analysis of the use of solar panels to supply energy to the national electricity grid?

If so, may I have a copy of it please?

If not, why not?

The answer I received yesterday by email from Energy Minister Simeon Brown was:

“To date, the Government has not undertaken any analysis on the use of solar panels as a power generation option in the manner you refer to. Therefore, I am refusing your request under section 18(e) of the Act, that the information requested does not exist.”

So, the Coalition’s energy policy is not informed by evidence because they simply have not bothered to collect the data and do the analysis.

Yet Simeon Brown is one of the three Cabinet Ministers who will have the power to do whatever he likes without consultation if the Fast Track Bill becomes law.

How happy are you with that situation?

Even when the data is available – as in the effect of repealing our world-leading Smoke- Free legislation – this government has choosen politics and donor support over the well-being of people.


Bryan Bruce is one of New Zealand’s most important and respected documentary makers. His work is available on


  1. The government could bulk buy solar systems and put them on every hose in NZ .The tax cuts would have gone along way to doing this .Over the next 4 years we could fit out every house using the people they have thrown on the unemployment scrap heap .The tax cuts would have done 800000 homes but probably more because the bulk purchase of units would have made it way cheaper than 25k including a battery per house .The money would be repaid by the home owner over a 10 year period .

    • Whilst the idea has merit for older stand alone housing, it simply does not work on the housing trend to push people into 3 story tiny roof area, town houses. Not does solar power work for apartment buildings. Not enough roof space (vertical panels possible on high rise buildings to preserve the high $ value of the roof space for recreational use).
      Nor does this work for people like me who live in a newly minted mixed residential zone where developers are busy (though not so much lately) buying 2 or 3 joined sections, placing multistory townhouses within 1.2 metres from a boundary and thus blocking the neighbours access to direct sunlight to power any solar panels. I’m not prepared to place a bet that my sunlight will not be effected by multistory buildings on my boundary and pay back solar power over ten years.

      The other question for electricity feedback into the grid is the need for bi directional transformers (enable to step down and step up electricity). Not sure many transformers in New Zealand are bi directional. Most would be step down only (though easily converted using an invertor). Worth a read in regards, solar generated voltage spiking, harmonic induced overheating, DC to AC converting overheating, need for an electrostatic shield, etc.

      • Well given you’re the middle monkey in the picture where your ideology is influenced and blinded by the love of money, that’s hardly a surprise.

      • Well given you’re the middle monkey in the picture where your ideology is influenced and blinded by the love of money, that’s hardly a surprise.

  2. No it’s all ideological bullshit. They are actually at the point of being anti climate. All this talk about we need gas. Yes and we f’ing have gas already but there is no transition plan. Simeon Brown is a natural disaster.

    Look at that repulsive idiot Shane Jones. He’s driven by cash in his pocket and desperate denial that we need to do anything at all. He needs to go.

  3. Given how few commercial buildings have solar panels, it is not at all surprising that the government has not investigated putting solar panels on its roofs.

    If the profit-motivated commercial building owners can’t see it as a good idea, why would the Government?
    So why investigate something -solar panels in this example- that doesn’t pay for itself?

    • Ada, you miss the point that most commercial business does not do much innovation unless it is subsidised by central or local government or they have identified a captive market.
      That is why productivity is not increasing.
      I’m glad you used the term profit motivated because that is what drives this coalition. They have forgotten however that their customers are all the people of NZ not just the ones who donated to them.
      You can bet your knickers that the real estate people or the car dealers are not happy out the present outcomes with slow sales and reduced profits. Add to that the cancer patients and there are 3 groups who have been screwed over.

      • Solar panels are hardly ‘innovation’ – the tech has been around for decades.

        And businesses always want to reduce their costs – it’s a much easier and simpler way to increase profits than finding new customers or new products.

  4. While I have solar panels they do not contribute to the peak power demand over winter due to the lack of sunlight. This means that big batteries of pumped hydro are an essential part of the solution however the monkeys in charge as your illustration correctly show made sure that no planning for that would continue as it could make power cheaper for the consumer & reduce profits for the power companies which does not suit their agenda.

    • Quite right. Any political movement that doesn’t propose reversing the delibrate destruction of our electrical infrastructure by undoing privatization with absolutely no compensation to foreign stakeholders and no more paid out to domestic stakeholders than they were allowed to buy off our sovereignty for is fundamentally unserious.

  5. It’s a long time since there was any coherent plan to use common sense to reduce the cost of electricity for the ordinary bloke(ss) and business.

    • Yes it’s because the power companies are more interested in their profits than people. I bet if the truth ever came out about the power companies in this country and their true costs we would all be crying foul. The money we pay the power companies would more than subsidize those that want to install solar panels, it wouldn’t need government intervention, but they know their profits would go down the gurgler . Many people are losing their jobs because we are supposedly economically unviable. Well lets have a good long real look at supermarkets, banks and power companies and i bet we all would be horrified at their hidden profiteering.

  6. An energy guru who I really trust says solar doesn’t make sense for NZ but does make sense for Oz (Chloe loves comparing them)… pretty simple Oz has lots of sun –in summer– when they need lots of energy (for Air cons). Whereas NZ uses most power for heating (in those cold winter mornings) when there’s NO sun.

  7. Keep up these Guest Posts Bryan; your insight and common sense are needed in these times – not to mention your actions in questioning what the hell is going on.

  8. Well, that dopey finance Minister (that failed to win her electoral seat) said she spoke to people when door knocking during the election that is the evidence she based her crummy tax policy on anecdotal stuff. The new government does not value good quality empirical evidence-based research nah! Yet the biggest polluters (the farmers) are getting 400 million for methane research, funny that.

    • along with the 480 mill they have had already .Lots of money for a sunset industry .Used to contribute 60% of GDP now down to 10% and most are facing bankruptcy as they have over capitalised the business with flash houses and cars on the bank .Dairy payout has been around $8 for the last 10 years and now they are selling 20% of the business .

  9. along with the 480 mill they have had already .Lots of money for a sunset industry .Used to contribute 60% of GDP now down to 10% and most are facing bankruptcy as they have over capitalised the business with flash houses and cars on the bank .Dairy payout has been around $8 for the last 10 years and now they are selling 20% of the business .

  10. Coal and solar can’t do the same thing for the grid.
    Your question asks why apples weren’t compared to oranges.

    Coal (previously gas) generators can be fired up relatively quickly to make more electricity when demand exceeds baseline (mainly hydro) supply.
    Solar involves multiple tiny feeds back in to the grid, mainly in daytime in strong sunlight, it’s not able to be fired up at a whim and expensive or not able to be stored when not needed.

  11. Aaaah no, not quite. Have you ever heard of a battery linked to solar panel array? Have you ever seen a hot water cylinder linked directly to a solar panel array? Check out this kiwi as solar build link, it would be great for almost any house running a hot water cylinder. New solar panels work quite well on cloudy days too, dont be fooled.

    The constant drip eventually fills (or empties) the bucket. Nothing wrong with hundreds of thousands of “tiny feeds back in to the grid” or, more importantly, into a property owners battery bank and/or or hot water cylinder, which is a form of solar power storage. There are many other forms of electricity creation and storage available, if only folk are prepared to do a little research.

    Imagine if a law was passed in NZ that every new home built had to have some form of solar generation included in the build. Imagine if a regulation like that had been implemented 30 years ago. All those properties with the ability to create some form of their own power supply from the place they’ll live in for all of their life, their home, apartment or rental. But hey, who wants that? It’s better to have the masses paying, through the nose, for power from the cradle to the grave, right? Just because some politician thought it wise to sell NZ citizen owned power companies off into private hands with the catch phrase ” NZ Mums & Dads will be able to buy shares in the power companies. Many NZers mainly failed to note the ironic political sales propaganda, not really comprehending the power they already ‘owned’ with shares in NZ’s power providers simply by being a tax paying citizen.

    Remember, unless you create some form of self sufficient system you’ll be forever shackled to a corporate profit driven companies bottom line, which is ultimately dividends for the shareholders.


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