The knowledge that subversive Revolutionary Guerrillas exist in Australia perturbs many of those at the highest levels of power in this nation. The Guerrillas hide in plain sight, going about their manifesto of demolishing established societal institutions with a quiet and determined resolve. I support their cause, and should they ever become an overt target of the authorities, then I will join the Guerrillas when the revolution is taken out onto the streets.
Ha … just goes to show that things are never what they appear to be.
As an example of that, some friends say that my blue eyes have a penetrating thousand yard stare and seem to scan into the very depths of a person’s private and preciously guarded soul. Not so. I’m simply myopic, and in order to see anything at all I have to peer at it intently like a wide-eyed owl.
The title of this article is another example. It is not about an Australian Che, or tanks in the streets, or anarchy of a negative sort reigning supreme. It is about Volts, the stuff that flows out of the plug to keep the coffee machine gurgling. It is also about the need for far more Guerrilla Power in Australia.
So … where the cost of power is concerned we are currently dumped on from a great height by both our politicians and our monopolistic power generation and distribution companies. That combination of hot air and poles and wires forms what is called the Grid, or to be more accurate, the Gridlock.
While there are some outstanding isolated exceptions, most politicians vie with each other to assure us that lowering power prices is a prime motivation for them. Bullshit. They have a demonstrated track record of failing spectacularly to rein in the high levels of corporate profit-taking greed that swamps the Australian financial landscape. Think banks for starters.
Politicians are not part of the power solution. By their curious inability to formulate a cohesive energy policy over the last decade they are simply part of the cause of the problem. We need to cut them out of the equation.
We have monopolistic power generation and distribution companies. Generally they get the required energy into our homes without too much interruption or down-time, but as individuals we have to empty our Treasuries of Persepolis in order to pay for it all. I ration my power use carefully, a bit goes towards watching the ABC, and none whatsoever gets sent the way of Sky News.
Those monopolistic power companies supposedly have whizz-bang executives and planners at the helm, yet at the very time a few years ago when new renewable and storage technologies started to come on stream, those apparently sharp types over invested heavily in poles and wires. Some of those poles and wires literally ended in Nowheresville, with nothing more than a mighty slag heap of subsidies at the other end.
We are told by others, with faces amazingly straight, that if coal-fired power generation is not part of the mix for the next fifty years then we will all die a horribly cold and unlit death by as early as tomorrow morning. This is where it pays to stand back a bit from all that and have a look at what is actually happening around us in the world of power generation.
Australia has an incredibly high take up rate of rooftop solar, maybe the highest in the world. It is now getting cheaper to bung that stuff up on the roof and battery storage has improved to such an extent that the facile argument that the sun sometimes doesn’t always shine no longer holds water.
I don’t see why, soon, we will need to have monopolistic power generation companies at all. They know it too, and that’s why they are putting out those amazing deals where they subsidise your rooftop gear, and therefore tie you into the grip of their financial thrall for ever and a day. The companies well know that if you are independently off-grid then you simply don’t need their services.
I’m well aware that many people cannot currently afford to place a fully off-grid power generation system in their own homes. To be fully self-sufficient in power does cost an initial capital investment, but once done, you are forever free from the power hawks.
I have great admiration for true off-gridders. They are the vanguard of a guerrilla power insurrection, based largely in our suburbs, that is slowly eating away at the primacy of monopolistic power generation and supply companies. If you meet an off-gridder in the streets you will not be able to identify them, and they have perfected the camouflage of hiding in plain sight. Cunning strategy that.
In true guerrilla fashion, they live within the general population, some of whom partially support them by being independent power generators still connected to the grid for financial sell it back reasons, and amongst others who may have no choice but to remain wedded to the poles and wires.
Off-gridding is powerfully subversive. It sidelines the politicians, which on any issue can only be a great thing, and it severs the financial claw-grip of the monopolistic power companies and dooms them to irrelevance. Wonderful stuff.
But let’s jump a few years ahead and explore the perhaps inevitable outcome of this form of guerrilla power warfare. And we don’t have to look too far ahead either.
A new residential estate is being built, it is fully self-sufficient with power, it is totally off-grid. It has massive battery storage capability, probably under the park. It has power to spare. It doesn’t need monopolistic power generation companies, nor does it need coal-fired power stations.
You own a lovely little turn of the century workers cottage in Brisbane, Sydney, or elsewhere. You retrofit it to be totally off-grid thanks to the generous subsidy you received from your recently elected progressive government. That very progressive new government, with not a coal-waver in sight, was able to subsidise your retrofit because they ended the tax-break method of buying votes and redirected the dosh into renewables and the raising of Newstart instead.
In your cottage you don’t have solar panels up on your roof, your whole corrugated style roof cladding is the photovoltaic collector. Your batteries hum along happily. You charge your little electric car at home. You no longer need the power poles outside your home, nor do you need the power companies (or the monopolistic fuel companies for that matter) or the coal-fired power stations.
You are a Queensland farmer. You moved out of cattle when lab grown meat finally got the BBQ taste thing right, and you now grow broad acre vegetables and tropical fruits. All of your buildings and barns on the farm are solar collectors. There is no home on the farm because, from your penthouse unit overlooking the ocean at Coolum Beach, you manage your automated farm machinery via satellite uplink and download.
The endless miles of power poles that used to service your farm have been sliced up and used as fence posts to keep out the feral cats and rabbits. You no longer need the power generation companies or the coal-fired power stations.
You are a big City CBD developer. A mini-Trump. You are hoisting up the latest version of the tallest building ever built. The entire external cladding of that building, and every external sheet of glass on that building, is a photovoltaic collector. You have massive battery storage capacity in the basement. You are fully off-grid. You have more power than your building can possibly use. You love power, and now you have plenty of both forms of it, the visual and the volts. You don’t need the generation companies or the coal-fired power stations.
You are a manufacturing and engineering company. You need power to run your machines and buzz-up the artificial intelligence systems that control your mainly robotic but occasionally human workers.
(I’d like to insert my own personal gripe here: back in 2014 when Elon Musk open-sourced his electric vehicle technology, the idea was put out there to take over the abandoned motor vehicle factories in South Australia and Victoria, and utilise the open-sourced technology to crank out sub-compact little electric buzz boxes, mainly by automated robotic means, and export them to Asia in huge numbers, and create at least some new jobs for the dumped on the unemployment queue car workers, and build up some sovereign wealth for the nation as a whole.
The politicians here did their usual vision-less best and we are now faced with the situation where every manufacturing person and his poodle around the world are cranking out those little buzz boxes and are seeking to export them to us. We didn’t quite come up to the mark as an Innovation Nation did we?)
But back to your manufacturing company. The power costs in the past kept you teetering on the edge of insolvency, the bills were that huge. But as part of your social compact with the people in your region, in which you will provide jobs for local humans where possible and donate part of your profits back for the well-being of your surrounding community as a whole, you receive their excess unused power for free. Social bartering at its best. You don’t need the monopolistic companies or the coal-fired power stations either.
And so the future unfolds, and the future in power is writ large.
At the start of the insurgency the federal government lacked a cohesive vision, and the monopolistic power companies were ruled by untrammelled greed, and they all fought a long and bitter rearguard action to try to stop the dawning of a new power generating reality. But the grass roots revolution was unstoppable, and even Blind Freddy could have predicted that the Guerrillas would win.
There are questions yet to be answered. In this article I’ve simply used the example of power generated by solar means. Perhaps others have answers to the following:
- Wind, geothermal, hydro, and other unlisted forms of renewable energy tend to be generated in regions isolated from our main urban areas. That power still needs to be delivered to the market. To remove the blight of the poles and wires on our visual landscape does the mechanism of transmission, wires or otherwise, need to be exclusively underground? Is there another way of transporting electricity other than only by wire?
- Mining is no different to any other form of industry. Sunrise industries come along, and sunset industries fade out. Lithium and rare-earth mining are examples of sunrise, iron ore mining is an example of something we may well always need, and coal mining is an example of sunset.
So, how do we as a society not lose the inherent skills of coal miners? How do we not repeat the mistake we made of letting the skills of our car manufacturing workforce end up on the scrapheap of unemployment? How do we, again as a society, transition that able coal workforce into the direction of the coming unstoppable sunrise?
- If vote buying tax breaks are ended and redirected into renewables, and if corporate tax-paying power generation companies no longer exist to contribute to government coffers, then what cunning new strategies will our crafty politicians devise to keep pulling money out of our wallets? Perhaps they’ll devise a new tax based upon the square area of solar arrays on our properties? I wouldn’t put it past them to try and tax our very share of the Sun.
- Farm automation is happening now. In the future, how will regional farming communities retain their populations when the need for on-farm workers has greatly diminished?
- China and Europe are currently in the vanguard of nations producing sub-compact electric vehicles. Australia produces all the metals and rare earths that go into the makeup of an electric vehicle, but we seem wedded to the idea of exporting the raw materials and importing the completed product.
So the question is … why can’t we reverse engineer one of the imported sub-compacts, let alone actually read Musk’s open source documents, and start building them here for export? We have such an incredible advantage with all the necessary raw materials sitting under our very feet. We need something desperately in this country … leaders with vision!
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