Dear Origin Energy,
Ten years ago our family chose your company for our electricity because you headed up a list of green energy retailers in Australia. You offered solar and wind power, supported home solar systems, ran impressive looking green advertising (happy people sitting in trees as I remember) and looked to be heading into a glorious new energy future.
In the 1980s Kodak was a pioneer in developing digital film. Then they closed the doors to innovation and to a changing marketplace; and they disappeared.
In the past few years your CEO Grant King has actively and publicly campaigned against the Renewable Energy Target, solar power and the Carbon Price. All of which were working and none of which were behind energy price rises. So why the opposition? Because if you support renewables then you will have to change your business model. Shock horror!
Our power system is currently centralised, fossil fuel powered, foreign owned and controlled by large feudal style corporations like you Origin. The sort that pervertedly argue that coal will lift poor people out of poverty. What's with the sudden care for alleviating poverty Origin? Would it be the only twisted moral reason your PR team can come up with to support coal?
Why would our family support that?
A 100% renewable power grid is the opposite on all fronts. Every building will be a power station and wind, hot rocks, solar PV, solar thermal, tidal, wave and more power sources will link locally together. A distributed, networked, smart grid will transfer power in real time over the internet. Once installed, this system will be near to free, because sunshine, wind and hot rocks are all free. Every building will be at least 40% more energy efficient than they are today. A third of the average power bill is currently wasted. Energy storage will be huge, with excess power stored locally in our buildings, electric cars and at special node points in the grid for use when the sun doesn’t shine, the wind doesn’t blow or the power price is good enough to sell. This power grid will be far more secure, as anyone who has studied the science of complex networks will attest: a centralised system is far more likely to fail. Even the Saudis know this grid is coming. We're excited about it.
Renewable energy will be locally/regionally owned, operated and managed. My home town of Bendigo spends at least $80 million powering our homes and almost all of that money leaves Bendigo and most leaves the country. Imagine the alternative for our local economy. Like Hepburn Wind: community owned, producing more power than Daylesford needs and they won the world wind award. Like the People's Solar: crowdfunding solar and building community. Like the Bendigo Sustainability Group and Bendigo Library solar project. Our family wants to invest in a different future to the one you desire.
Our fossil fuel powered grid is moving the world towards 5 degrees of global warming this century, a situation so dire for humanity that imagining your centralised fossil fuel powered business model in existence in that future is laughable. The science is clear and as close to absolute as anything ever has been. And Australia will be worst hit. A world five degrees warmer would not sustain our economies, societies, governments, law and order or the natural systems that sustain our lives: the clean air, water and soil. Over half of all species of life would be extinct, the oceans would be acidic and lifeless and sea levels over a metre higher, displacing millions of people. Climate Change aside, coal kills hundreds of thousands of people around the world every year as it pollutes our air, water and soil with toxic fumes and effluent. You could not sell fossil fuels on Mars. There is nothing there. Your precious business model is moving the Earths climate in a Mars direction. We have been told that 80% of fossil fuel reserves must stay in the ground to limit climate change. You don't care. You care that you make money now. Our family is heading in another direction.
Every time we hear your CEO Grant King speak he is talking about the old power system, or apples, when the future power grid is oranges. How about comparing prices properly? If climate change costs were paid, then renewables would be cheaper than coal. If we paid for the power lost in the line on the way to Bendigo, it would make renewables much more attractive. If solar power received a proper feed in tariff when added to the grid at peak times when the price is high, then renewables would be much more attractive. If we spent the billions you are spending (or supporting) on poles and wires on local smart grids then renewables would be cheaper. If we removed the $10 billion our government provides to subsidise fossil fuels then renewables would be cheaper. If the health costs of coal were added to the price, then renewables would be much more attractive. If renewables were a greater percentage of the power system, prices would be lower. If all of these costs were added to the coast of coal renewables would already have wiped coal off the face of the earth.
So here is your marketplace Origin. The growth of solar around the world is exponential. The growth of wind power around the world is exponential. 80% of Australians support renewable energy. Energy efficiency is growing rapidly around the world. Energy demand has peaked. The growth of energy storage around the world is approaching exponential. Two of Europe’s biggest energy retailers have already flipped their business models to facilitate the new energy future, having tried to hold onto the past and lost mega profits. The fossil fuel divestment campaign is growing momentum at over $50 billion. Global carbon targets are heading from 20% fossil fuel reductions by 2020 to 100% by 2050. South Australia is approaching 30% renewables and their power prices are lower. Germany is approaching 31% renewables and they don’t even have sunshine. Denmark is at 39% wind power. One fifth of Australian households now have solar PV on the roof. A system went up every two minutes last year. The head of SA power Generators thinks your business model is dead. Your profits are already on the decline.
A recent report by Accenture showed that utilities in the USA and Europe stand to lose $100 billion from these changes. They advise this: "In order to navigate through this demand disruption, utilities will need to fundamentally transform their business models, including the creation of distribution system operations services to manage a more complex and distributed grid."
So how’s your Kodak going Origin? Are you seriously choosing Kodak? You are at the most crucial point in your history.
Today our family changed our power supplier. We will not support yesterday's thinking. In fact, we cannot think of a single reason to support the direction you are taking your business. The only conceivable reason you have for your position is to protect your outdated business model over the short term.
There is nothing personal about our decision. AGL, Energy Australia and co just as bad. And we’d happily change back if you have the courage to continue along the path that you began ten years ago. Push for a larger Renewable Energy Target, push for a carbon price to send the right signal again for the market, support renewables, support storage, help build the smart grid and you will shine. You probably won't be as big and your profits won't be as easy. But as it stands now, your ‘green’ push was just greenwash. A lie. A cheap marketing ploy to trick people.
And as it stands now, if your short term business model works, we all lose and we have no economy. If it fails, you disappear.
As Alan Watts said, “The only way to make sense of change is to plunge into it, go with it and join the dance”. Jump in Origin!