Government departments often set up technical reference groups. I’ve even been on one. They are a good way to get people with significant expertise in an area to contribute. They are very different to other groups such as stakeholder or policy groups.
MBIE is working on a NZ Battery Project to try and find a solution to dry years when we don’t get enough hydropower. It is meant to provide “comprehensive advice on the technical, environmental and commercial feasibility of pumped hydro and other potential energy storage projects”.
MBIE has appointed eight people to the NZ Battery Technical Reference Group. Six are what you would expect:
- former Director of the Electric Power Engineering Centre, University of Canterbury
- former Head of Engineering and General Manager Technology & Innovation, Vector Limited
- former Executive Director, Centre for Advanced Engineering, University of Canterbury
- former Chair, Otago Conservation Board
- former Executive Manager Major Projects and Civil, Fulton Hogan
- primary author, foundational report to Productivity Commission for Low Emissions Inquiry 2017/18
The last two are very different. The seventh is the lead energy campaigner for Greenpeace. Now if this was a policy group on climate change sure you might have a Greenpeace lobbyist. But this is a technical reference group of experts. That one is highly dubious.
The last one is even more staggering. It is a teenage student climate activist. The TRG terms of reference are quantitative analysis/ policy and economic expertise and energy modelling skills. And they’ve appointed someone whose expertise is arranging school strikes.
Now again on a different group, you might have a teenage climate activist. But this is a technical group working on whether one can do pumped hydro feasibly from a technical, engineering and commercial perspective.
What is worse is these are not Ministerial appointees. MBIE themselves made the appointments. It makes MBIE look, to be blunt, pathetic.
MBIE should be ashamed.