Posts Tagged ‘environment’

Observations on the Netherlands

Sunday, August 11th, 2013

I have spent a couple of weeks cycling around the Netherlands with family this summer and there follows things which I noticed and thought interesting. In the main I was very impressed with the Netherlands, they have great infrastructure and friendly people who are very willing to help lost or confused visitors.

Living closer to the edge

The Dutch know that they live dangerously, on the edge of what is possible with much of the land below sea level. I got the impression that this left them with a closer affinity with their land than we have with ours; they know they need to care for it or they will lose it. Partly this was seen in the way that climate change is so much on their radar.
They know what is coming and are taking steps to try and stop it and to deal with it when it comes. Unfortunately their prospects do not look good. This year as last year my summer holiday took me somewhere which might not be there for my children or grandchildren to see, the Netherlands will be a very different place in 2100 than it was this summer.
You also find that this attitude runs further back; it is not a recent change brought about by a new threat but a strengthening of resolve which has been required throughout the history of the Netherlands.

Churchill Laan in Amsterdam has two roads - one for each direction separated by a large green area, each road has a cycle path and there are six lines of trees along the road.

Six lines of trees on one road

It is seen in the trees. The Netherlands has an artificial landscape but it is full of trees, tiny cycle paths are lined with trees, roads small and large are lined with trees, some roads have as many as six lines of trees running down them separating the houses from the road from the footpath from the garden and back through the footpath and road to the houses again. This is wonderful. You only really notice how integral trees are to the street-scape when you see this done properly.
In Delft for example (a beautiful city), there were blocks of flats such as you might see in sink estates in the UK, yet they were on roads lined with trees and many balconies were filled with flowers by residents who clearly enjoyed living there. Similarly the university (TU Delft) is beautiful, yet clearly built in the 20th century, using styles that elsewhere have produced horrendous eyesores, yet here perhaps with better architects they are beautiful, surrounded by trees.

It was also found in the attitude of the people, towards cycling, renewable energy, recycling and so on. They are on-board with a project to build a better future in a way that they UK clearly is not for they know that if they do not achieve a better future then they will find they have none. We might find ourselves in a similar situation but doom for us seems less certain and so more easily ignored.

Cycling

Cycling in the Netherlands is wonderful. Our infrastructure is nothing in comparison with what they have. Everywhere there were dedicated cycle paths, even minor roads in the middle of nowhere would have cycle lanes marked down both sides and much of the time there would be a segregated cycle lane.
There were also many cycle paths where there are no roads. The Dutch canal system with its dykes gives them an advantage here in that they need access roads along the tops of dykes but cannot have vehicles like cars running along them or the dykes would be damaged. Bicycles however are fine, this makes cycling a much more versatile form of transport as there are many more routes by bike than by car.
Similarly in cities many streets are one way, being too narrow for two way traffic with cycle lanes, but almost every ‘no entry’ or ‘one way’ sign has the Dutch ‘except cycles’ sign underneath. These dedicated cycle lanes are better than ours in that they deal with junctions properly having clear lights for the cycles with two sets, one high up and one low down so that they can still be read by the cyclist who is right next to the post.
They also give cycles priority over traffic joining from minor roads or turning off roundabouts so that the normal difficulty of having to negotiate every junction carefully is alleviated because it becomes mostly the car driver’s problem and they already have to deal with it to avoid other cars.
This combines to develop an attitude in the Dutch people that their cycle is much more useful than their car (if they have one). Talking to one Dutch lady, she said that she could live without her car but not without her bicycle.
The only slightly irritating habit was the way that they like their streets lined with bricks rather than tarmac more than I do which results in a little vibration.

They also define a ‘cycle’ rather more loosely than we do, motorcycles are also ‘cycles’ small four wheeled vehicles which can carry two people seated next to each other and which look like a tiny car with a motorcycle engine are ‘cycles’. Wheelchair bikes either driven by the wheelchair user with their hands or by someone else on a more conventional looking bike frame attached to the back are cycles, as are huge range on innovations with varying numbers of wheels, luggage space and passengers. Some of these designs have already been imported to Cambridge, but the Netherlands still has greater variety.

Having invented the bicycle we picked the side for the chain based on cycling on the left hand side of the road – such that when standing on the pavement the chain is on the other side of the bike.
Unfortunately in the Netherlands they cycle on the wrong side of the road and so they all have chain guards.

In the Netherlands the people do not wear helmets except when on racing bikes and wearing lycra, this distinguished us somewhat from the locals as we were on town bikes and wearing normal clothes and yet had helmets.

A rather good BBC article on cycling in the Netherlands has been published recently.

Open Street Map

I used Open Street Map (OSM) (specifically the OSMAnd app which has paid and free versions) and it was great, with offline route finding and location searching, which were invaluable. Being able to answer questions like ‘where is the nearest post box’ or ‘where can I get food’ and ‘how do I get there’ without having any internet is incredibly useful. I am definitely going to switch to using OSM rather than Google Maps in future and to actively contributing things which are missing from the OSM data. This also has the benefit that Google will not know what I am planning quite all the time.

Tourist destinations

We followed “Cycling in The Netherlands – The very best routes in a cyclist’s paradise” by Eric van der Horst (ISBN: 978-1900623193) which was excellent.
Amsterdam is a beautiful city with lots of beautiful streets like the tree-lined Churchill Laan mentioned earlier and lots of canals. There are also many parks such as the Vondelpark where we cooked dinner two nights. The Rijksmuseum is full of great painting and well worth a visit, I did not find the Van Gough Museum as impressive but still worthwhile.
Utrecht had some interesting buildings and streets. The castle of De Haar (or at least its gardens) were beautiful and the Farm Hazenveld camp site was lovely. Gouda had a large market and lots of cheese with many nice buildings.

The view of the town hall from the top of the church tower in Delft

The view from the church tower in Delft

Delft as previously mentioned is particularly beautiful – my favourite city in the Netherlands – the view from the church tower is particularly good and the [De Grutto camp site](http://www.degrutto.eu/) particularly excellent (particularly for the ecologically minded being solar powered and situated in an orchard in a nature reserve).
‘t Kraaijenest in De Lier was a particularly excellent B&B though we stayed there through the ‘Friends of the bike’ organisation where members open their homes to cyclists. The organisation is to be recommended we enjoyed both the stays we had with these ‘friends of the bike’.
The Hauge is good, though not as good a place to cycle as Amsterdam (still better than Cambridge or London). The Peace Place visitor centre is well worth a visit (and free) and we enjoyed wandering around the town centre.
Haarlem is beautiful and the guided tour of the Ten Boom museum particularly excellent. There was also an arts quarter with some very interesting shops such as one full of Lego and 3D printers.
IJmuiden’s Havenmuseum was unexpectedly impressive with a huge variety of sea related displays and lots of knowledgeable volunteers explaining about the exhibits. Particularity highlights included a working radar station (clearly not being interfered with by the wind turbines) and an ancient computer doing telegraph Morse to text conversion.

Disturbing things

Cycling down a street/canal and suddenly the horror of brothels down the side. Cycling down the canal to Utrecht suddenly there were brothel boats down the side with insufficiently clothed women in the window. It was disgusting, more so the cars slowly crawling along the road purpose built beside it with turning loops at each end. There is only so fast it is possible to cycle when you need to overtake other cyclists and there are oncoming cyclists but that is how fast I went, it is not fast enough. This was a disturbing experience, it was about midday…
Similarly in Amsterdam despite carefully staying well clear of the Red Light District walking back from dinner it was in places necessary to keep eyes very carefully on the canal.
While the experience of having tea in cafés in the Netherlands was much better than in the UK – nearly always offered a choice of tea and given a biscuit with it and a little plate on top of the cup of boiling water to keep it hot and to provide a place for the tea bag to go – there were several times when we looked at ‘coffee shops’ suspiciously and walked on as it looked like they might be selling more than ‘coffee’. Accidentally walking into a drug dealer’s establishment is not normally something I need to be concerned with ensuring and I prefer it that way.

Conclusion

The Netherlands is a great country to visit and everyone we spoke to had enough English that we could get by. Taking your bike on a ferry and cycling around it is definitely a good way to go.

Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) should be encouraged, not restricted

Saturday, June 2nd, 2012

One of the key differentiating policies between the Liberal Democrats and Labour at the recent local elections was that Labour were considering restricting the proportion of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) that could occur in a section of road of a certain length. Labour won (at least in my ward) and I think that imposing such a restriction would be a particularly bad idea. Hence it is my democratic duty to try and explain why this is the case and so help prevent this happening. Essentially this proposal is equivalent to a proposal to throw me or people like me out of our houses so I should probably take this reasonably personally.
A House in Multiple Occupation is one in which 3 or more people who are not of the same household are living where household is defined by blood or by marriage or similar.

As I understand it the main reasoning behind restricting HMOs is that they are bad for the community due to lack of involvement by the residents (and perhaps bad behaviour on the part of the residents) and that they tend to be poorly maintained and so be bad for the area (house prices etc.).
Now those things might be true, or at least there might be a statistically significant increase in poor maintenance of HMOs and of lower community involvement by the residents of HMOs or even a higher incidence of reports of antisocial behaviour against people living in HMOs.
While it seems perfectly possible that those things might be the case I have not seen studies that have shown that to be the case I have not seem them (to be fair I have not looked). If there are no such studies then clearly no restriction should be imposed because before you start throwing people out of their houses (or at least saying “no you cannot live there”) you should at least be sure that the reason you are doing that is valid. It would be rather embarrassing to find out that this sort of thing had been done on the basis of a lie.

However even if it is true that residents of HMOs are more likely to be antisocial/anticommunity and take poor care of their property that is still no reason to restrict where residents of HMOs can live. It boils down to a “We don’t want your type around here.” attitude. Sorry I thought we were living in a free society in the 21st century where anyone could come and live next door as long as they are not currently in prison and can afford it. Perhaps if there was some sort of causation between being a bad person and living in HMOs there might be some more justification but even then – really is that the kind of society we want to live in?
So who lives in a HMO, well clearly people who don’t have a big enough household to fill a house or enough money to have a house to themselves and have done so. So mainly single people, probably also mainly young people. So after high levels of unemployment and debt young people are put at a further disadvantage by being discriminated against when trying to find houses to rent not only by the letting agents and landlords who would already much prefer families (and make this clear) but also by their local government. That does not strike me as a good move and seems likely to further alienate a group of people who might legitimately feel let down by society and so rather apathetic about supporting it. There are already quite enough problems to deal with this century without further unnecessary building of inter-generational tensions.

Now I think marriage is important so I would not get married just to be able to get a house but if people start getting told “Well if two of you got married then you could all live here.” some people might decide otherwise. This renders the whole thing unenforcable.

Monitoring which houses are HMOs in order to prevent the concentrations of HMOs exceeding defined thresholds involves some significant bureaucratic overhead which will have its own cost, it also means that the information on which houses are HMOs must be publicly available in order for letting agencies etc. to be able to work this out and hence know who they can rent the houses to. This would be a violation of the privacy of those living in these houses and would be likely to allow targeted advertising (and perhaps political campaigning) based on this information.

So if people are not allowed to live in HMOs what is the alternative? Well they could live in a family house instead. So they could go back and live with their parents (and leave their job, sounds like a great idea) or they could get married but that is not something someone can necessarily do. Or they could live in a house of single occupancy. However that would be a really silly idea.

It is significantly more efficient for a house to have more than one person living in it because then the constant costs of a house (such as kitchen space etc.) can be shared out between multiple people this also reduces the rent, utility bills etc. per person. Leaving more money for other things like saving up for a house or paying off student loans. This also reduces CO2 emissions and so HMOs help save the planet. There is currently a significant housing shortage in the country and to a significant extent that is due to a reduction in the number of people living in each house rather than to a increase in the number of people. So our current housing shortage could partly be addressed by encouraging people into houses of multiple occupancy or at least to fill spare bedrooms with people.

In summary restricting the number of HMOs is discriminatory, unenforcable, bureaucratic, privacy invading and precisely the opposite of the kind of housing policy we should be encouraging.

So having rejected that policy as a thoroughly bad idea what kind of policies might actually address the problem?
People are more likely to invest in their local community if they feel they have a vested interest in its success and if they do not feel like they are outcasts from it.
If people are not sure how long they are going to be living in a location then it will not feel as worth while for them to get to know their neighbours when they might be moving in a few months or a year. Hence policies which increase peoples assurance that they will be able to stay in their present house long term are likely to encourage community involvement. Policies that make people think they might be forced to move by their local government because of who their neighbours are on the other hand…
Encouraging community is a very important thing to do and a very hard thing to legislate for because fundamentally it is a thing that people need to do collectively. Government can encourage it though and I am sure that there are many things that can be done by government to improve the situation. Society as a whole needs to decide it wants community and then to go out and do that. All of this is hard so we better get started.
Anyone for tea? coffee?

Carbon taxation

Saturday, January 14th, 2012

Under our present economic system we are reasonably good at minimising costs and finding efficiencies that save companies money. However we do not price negative externalities. So companies and individuals can do things that are bad for other people, or which only become bad when lots of people do them. There is no actual incentive for them to not do this except when there is legislation in place which provides that incentive.
Companies and individuals are good at acting in their own short term best interest but much worse at considering the longer term and the wider system of which they are only a small part. One of the primary duties of government is to ensure that this short term best interest lines up with the long term best interest of the country and the wider world.

Currently various places have carbon trading schemes. These just do not work. Companies are granted the right to produce a certain quantity of carbon dioxide, if they produce less they can sell the spare to other companies, if they produce more they must buy some. The problem here is that if companies can persuade their governments that they need slightly more right to emit then they can then sell this right at a big profit. This also results in the particularly tiresome behaviour where deliberately inefficient systems are built, and then made more efficient and large quantities of money obtained for the efficiencies that have been made (yey carbon offsetting).

Market systems do work but require things to be properly priced, carbon trading doesn’t do that. Instead a carbon tax where each tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent is given a fixed price by a certain quantity of tax being due for its emission. Here I mean tax in terms of the manner of its collection (imposed by government) but what it is is an encapsulation of the actual cost of the emission. The money raised could not just be used for arbitrary purposes but only those which help deal with the problems caused by the emission (investment in renewable technologies, efficiency, retrofitting insulation etc.).

Of course none of that is new, it has all been said before.

However normal schemes would fail as it is not in the best short term ‘economic’ interests of a country to impose an additional tax on carbon dioxide equivalent production. This is because foreign imports will have lower costs due to their emissions not being paid for. Hence to avoid shooting themselves in the foot by destroying their local industries and just relocate the pollution to other countries where it is harder to legislate for its reduction but with moral responsibility for it still lying with the importer. Hence import taxes based on the carbon dioxide equivalent in the country of manufacture and of the transport of it are required.

Such import taxes would as I understand it be illegal under international agreements through the WTO[1]. Tedious. However this is not a normal ‘tax’ it does not exist to raise revenue for a particular government (it should probably be focused on ensuring developing countries move straight to clean technologies without an intermediate dirty state) or to protect industries in a particular country. It is an enforcement of an actual cost, as long as it gets paid it doesn’t matter where. So it could be charged by the government in the country of origin and kept by them and then the importer would not need to charge it. This should hopefully mean that governments don’t get so upset with each other.

I envision three classes of countries, those fully into carbon taxation for whom all production inside their countries and for them in other countries is properly costed. Those countries who export to the first class ones and charge the cost for those exports in their own country. Those third class countries which don’t charge anything and if exporting to first class ones see the import tax charged but don’t get the money from it.
The main additional requirement for first and second class countries is what they do with the money they collect – they must not use it to subsides the very industries they are taxing though they could use it to provide loans for efficiency improvements etc. – as otherwise it would not have the correct incentiveising effect and would be anti-competitive.

That would of course require a huge quantity of political will and is fairly unlikely to happen, however when enough people start dying politicians will be forced to take notice. Unfortunately this will likely be rather late in the day.

The main difficulties are in calculating the quantity emitted and in fixing the cost. Calculation by “assume the worst possible method unless proved otherwise” should give pretty good incentives to provide good proofs of efficient methods and this becomes much easier when these things are priced in at the beginning. For example application when petrol is first petrol rather than misc oil then it is destined to be burnt so apply the tax then. When some coal comes out of the ground – going to be burnt so apply tax. An additional incentive for encouraging people to apply these things early in the supply chain when it is easier is to have a linearly increasing cost where each second it gets ever so slightly more expensive. So we start from 0 and run up to 1 over the course of a year so as to get the bugs out of the system before particularly large quantities of money get involved (10 per household is not much) then draw a straight line between 1 and 100 in price between then and 2050. Picking the currency to price this in is hard as its value is built on rainbows and not tied down to anything. Using the euro of the dollar might make sense but I am not clear as to what the best method would be for this.

[1] Though we do apparently have a tax on the import of components but not finished products which helps destroy our manufacturing industry, see petition to change that.

This begins my series of “ideas I have had”. Time for you to find all the holes in it :-)

Who should I vote for?

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

Now I am a floating voter and my final decision will be made in the ballot box on Thursday (though I have a fair idea who it will be for). It is my duty and privilege to vote and to vote for both the best candidate(s) for my constituency and the best party for the country.
As someone who likes to think that they have half a brain I want to be making my decision based not on irrelevant details such as who my parents/friends support. I want to be voting based on the merits of the beliefs, skills and policies of the candidates and on the beliefs and policies of the parties they represent.
Now obviously it is necessary to do some tactical voting under our current first-past-the-post voting system (though hopefully we will have something better before the next election) and so that is another thing to take into account.

The Peterhouse Politics Society held a hustings which I attended and which allowed me to assess the MP candidates in person which was quite useful. I found it ruled out Daniel Zeichner (Labour), I wasn’t that impressed with Nick Hillman (Conservatives) either though he did a better job as a candidate than Zeichner: he was constrained by the policies of his party from doing well in my eyes :-).

I have watched the first election debate and the second election debate and I have downloaded the third debate which I will watch later.

This afternoon I have been experimenting with various websites which claim to be able to help you decide who to vote for. I have found the experience interesting (though it didn’t really tell me much I didn’t already know).

A comparison of the various websites I have tried in order of preference
Website Pros Cons
They Work For You’s Election website
Asks how much you agree or disagree with a series of questions and then shows you your candidates answers.
By far the best interface (and data) for determining what the candidates I can vote for think.
Weights all the candidates based on how close they are to what I agree with.
Very transparent on how it is working out which party I agree with.
Produced by MySociety who have produced some pretty cool stuff.
Not quite as good at dealing with national policies – it is focusing on local politics.
It could be extended to also cover councillors and party leaders to give it both national and even more local coverage.
Vote Match
Similar to the above in that it asks you whether you agree/disagree with a series of statements and then tells you how this compares with national party policies
Possibly better at national politics as that is its focus. Lacks transparency on how it is calculating the result.
Doesn’t tell you what each party thinks about each statement as you go along.
Vote for Policies
Gives you a selection of 4 policy areas (to pick the ones you care most about) and then presents you with a set of policy statements from each party showing their policies in that area.
Uses actual party manifesto data to help people determine who to vote for I was initially confused by the interface and filled the first page in wrong and had to go back and correct it.
It would be greatly improved by better granularity on policies within the same sub-area of policy.
It only allows the selection of the one you like the best from the available options and doesn’t allow any credit to be given to the policies which would have come second (or any pain to be served out to parties who have a policy which means that I would never vote for them in a million years (e.g. “we don’t believe in global warming” (RAGE))).
Who should you vote for?
Another how much do you agree/disagree with the following statements quiz.
Has a few other political quizzes which among other things determined that I am an idealistic lefty :-) (but then I knew that) Doesn’t say how much each party agrees with each statement as clearly as theyworkforyou (though this information is available in the onhover text.
Active History
Presents choices between policies from the three top parties.
Uses actual manifesto data Only chooses between the top 3 parties and so isn’t so useful in Cambridge where the Greens have a good chance. It also feels to simple (like voteforpolicies in that it only lets you choose the policy you like the most but doesn’t give any wait to policies you would have put second). People like me who know what policies parties have can guess which is which reasonably easily.

Vote For Policies’ constituency results are also quite interesting as it indicates that the Lib Dems are wrong in their two horse race (between them and Labour) claims for Cambridge. Rather it is a three horse race: Labour, Greens, Lib Dem. Of course this data isn’t that reliable.

The Guardian’s pole of the polls indicates that the Lib Dems have failed to make the breakthrough I might have hoped for.

But in answer to the question it is for me a toss up between the Lib Dems and the Greens who both have a reasonable chance of winning in Cambridge (though the Lib Dems are more likely to win). I think on average I agree with Lib Dem policies more frequently than Green policies (but I consider the environment to be very important) however Tony Juniper is standing for the Greens in Cambridge and he is the most qualified candidate standing. However if I vote Green and they loose then I am fairly sure that the Lib Dems will win instead and that is another result I quite like. I suspect that this is a fairly rare situation for voters to find themselves in. Hopefully we will get STV before the next elections and then everyone will have a better chance of their vote counting.

Election Day

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

Today 4th June 2009 is the day of the European (and local council) elections.
This is the first election in which I can vote, and I will most definitely be voting.
If you are reading this and can vote but aren’t intending to I really think you should.

Part of the reason for writing this is to solidify my decision as to who I am going to vote for. Now at all previous elections since 1997 which is the first one I remember I would have voted Labour had I had a vote. At this election I will most definitely not be voting Labour. There are a number of policies on which Labour would have to make U-turns before I would consider voting for them, ID cards and centralised databases of far too much personal data about innocent people are a couple of things which mean that I can’t support them, there are other reasons such as various wars (I marched against the War in Iraq back at the beginning of that whole mess) and their Complete failure to do anything much about the Climate Change.
Now it appears from their election leaflets that the Conservatives are backward looking eurosceptics and as such they won’t be getting my vote either.
Now who does that leave? Well there are a whole pile of loony parties a few I have never heard of and two parties that appear fairly sane and which I have heard of. These would be the Liberal Democrat Party and the Green Party.
Now my father who has voted Labour since forever and been a member of the Labour party just as long is not voting Labour at this election but instead Green. (or at least I think he is). Things have changed.
Now what is the most important issue which we face? The most important issue that we face is Climate Change. Now Blair said that and he was right, but then he was good at talking but bad at actually doing things.
We have until 2015 to cause CO2 emissions to peak. That is a very tall order but when the alternative is the extinction of 90% of life on earth there isn’t really any choice.
Now I think that the Liberal Democrats understand that the environment is important but will my voting for them tell the other parties how important the environment is?
Now the European elections have proportional representation which means every vote counts in a way that first past the post doesn’t. So I think that for the European elections I will be voting Green.
And then I ask myself the question, how much do I care. And the answer is that I care a lot. I care if people live or die. I care about the future. I am going to find out what happens in this grand experiment we are playing with our world. I am going to see millions of people die due to Anthropomorphic Climate Change in my life time. That is something I can’t prevent. The choice is this: how many millions will I watch die. I live in the hope of a better world. I believe among other things that we should leave the world in a better state than we found it.

And so here at my first vote I shall make a choice between life and death. To that choice I have only one answer Life. For the sake of the children I hope to have one day. For the sake of my family and friends and of their children. For my own selfish sake and because one of our fundamental responsibilities is the stewardship of this planet.

I think I shall vote Green twice once in the European and once in the Local Elections.
I shall never give up hope, even through the horrors we will witness in this century we can make a better world. I care enough to cry for, I care enough to live for, I care enough that even this coward will stand up and be counted.

VOTE: For Life, Freedom, and Democracy.

Renewable energy policies

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

Recently I have been reading books such as “Six Degrees: our future on a hotter planet,” “The Transition Handbook” and various others as part of my research for an essay I am writing for the Sir Geoffrey Ellis essay prize at Peterhouse, part of the reason I entered was because I wanted to write the essay (geek) and partly because I haven’t written essays recently and I knew that I needed practice (nerd). The title of the essay is: “Surviving Transition: Sustainability in the 21st Century” currently it runs to 5675 words (limit 6000) and it is almost done.

This explains why I am thinking about renewable energy policies. The position I am coming from is that drastic changes need to happen and that they need to happen very very quickly.

This is the policy:

In the first year all new buildings or buildings that are having their roof replaced must have all suitable roof area covered in either solar thermal or photovoltaic solar panels. This would only be mandatory on buildings that had some sort of electricity supply. Architects should be advised to maximise the potential of roof area to capture solar energy.
In the second year this would additionally apply to all buildings being sold or having their tenant changed.
In the third year all public buildings must comply.
In the fourth year all business premises must comply
In the fifth year all suitable buildings must comply.

In the UK this would first start in Cornwall which has the highest sunlight intensity in the UK(and in the 2 that come next in terms of sunlight intensity), the next year it would begin in the three counties with the next highest sunlight intensity and so on.
In Australia this would apply to the top third of states for sunlight intensity, in the second year it would apply to the second third and in the third year to the bottom third.
When this policy has been applied to the whole of England then England would produce 150%[1] of its electricity needs from solar power (though the area used for solar thermal would of course be reducing gas etc. usage rather than electricity) the additional electricity produced during daylight hours would be used to pump water up into reservoirs so that it could be released at night.
In Australia many areas have problems with water shortages, it also has a higher sunlight intensity and so would produce even more electricity than the UK. The excess electricity in daylight hours would be used to desalinate sea water and pump it into reservoirs so that water supplies would be increased and during the night water would be released for irrigation etc. allowing the production of electricity and alleviating drought. I don’t know the specifics of how much water could be produced by this method but I hope that it would be enough to supply most of Australia’s needs as in the future Climate Change may result in significantly lower rainfall in Australia.
I will now go even further out in terms of craziness of ideas with sufficient production of electricity more than enough water would be produced and the extra water could be used not only to irrigate areas of farmland that are currently suffering problems but also to encourage forests that are having difficulties. Forests such as the Amazon are self sustaining in that if they were to disappear as is quite likely to happen as early as 2050 then the area turns completely to desert. My particularly crazy idea is that it might be possible to do the reverse and create large forests (okay probably huge orchards as that would make more money) and that this might then increase rainfall and so cause such forests to become self sustaining and spread. This would help with the decreasing rainfall that Australia is likely to suffer in the future and provide a carbon sink.
Something similar needs to happen in Brazil – which has some very dry areas – but it has the problem of poverty.

There is far more that I have to say on this but I need to do some more real work now.

[1] I am recalling this figure from memory I read it at least 3 years ago it may be inaccurate as solar panels might be more efficient now.