NZ’s emissions reductions go up in smoke as generators keep Huntly coal burning

Huntly thermal power station c/- Wikimedia Commons

The decision to keep the Huntly coal thermal power station open for another four years is not only contrary to all New Zealand’s commitments and climate targets, it also sends the Ministry for the Environment’s projections of stabilising energy emissions to 2020 up in a cloud of coal smoke.

We seem to have had an extra dose of announcements and activities about climate change in an action-packed month of April.

Climate change minister Paula Bennett signed the UN Paris Agreement. The Morgan Foundation’s “Climate Cheats” report made a big splash. That lead to Jack Tame’s grilling of Paula Bennett. And the Royal Society of New Zealand released two major reports on climate change; one on impacts and another on policy responses. The business-backed Pure Advantage group released a report about enhancing forestry sequestration.

So what did the New Zealand energy industry do to elbow it’s way into the climate change spotlight? How do you beat signing the Paris Agreement or compete with climate fraud?

You just say you are going to burn more coal!

On 28th April 2016, Genesis Energy and Meridian Energy announced they had reached an ‘arrangement’ that would keep the coal-burning Huntly thermal power station open for an extra four years. This deal postpones the expected shut down from the planned 2018 date to 2022.

Continue reading “NZ’s emissions reductions go up in smoke as generators keep Huntly coal burning”

TDB today: Smelt a rat

In my column for The Daily Blog this week, I dig into the tangled relationship between New Zealand’s electricity system, a multinational mining company, and the New Zealand government, and argue that radical reform of the electricity market would be beneficial for the country:

If Rio Tinto Alcan pull the plug on Tiwai Point, a future government will have the perfect excuse to simplify the electricity system, cut electricity prices and deliver a low-emissions future for us all. High time our politicians faced up to the fact that market-based business as usual is no recipe for our electricity future (or any other, for that matter).

Offshore wind: a huge resource

Two wind energy items arrived in my inbox in close proximity recently. One was from the NZ Wind Energy Association (NZWEA) congratulating Meridian Energy on turning the first sod at Mill Creek wind farm in the Ohariu Valley north-west of Wellington. It’s a 60 megawatt farm of 26 turbines. The project will cost $169 million and is expected to be commissioned by mid-2014. It will increase NZ’s installed wind capacity from 623 megawatts to 683 megawatts.

NZWEA’s chief executive made appropriate remarks to accompany the announcement, reiterating the expectation that at least 20% of NZ’s electricity will be generated from wind by 2030 and noting the technology advances in harnessing wind which is now one of the lowest cost options for new generation in New Zealand.

It’s good to see the steady progress in the development of wind energy in NZ, although it seems to arouse little excitement in Government circles who reserve most of their interest for further  fossil fuel development. And a report in Saturday’s NZ Herald was a sobering reminder that the $7 billion invested in the oil and gas sector over the past five years puts it far ahead of any other local sector when it comes to investment in new productive capacity. NZ is hardly on the brink of transition from fossil fuels, hardly, it seems, even interested in the possibility while there’s money to be made from exploiting them.

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Powerman: solar PV, net metering and seeing the light in New Zealand

Grid tie solar power is becoming a no-brainer! Photovoltaic (PV) solar power generation has made enormous advances over just the last two years. The cost of panels and assorted gear has fallen dramatically so that in NZ grid tie solar systems in the 2KW peak power range can be purchased for under NZ$10,000 (including GST) from many outfits.

Grid tie PV systems, to make sure its clear what I mean here, are systems consisting of a set of solar panels, often 10 panels of 190W and 45 Volts each, and a grid tie inverter which feeds the solar power into the 240V mains system at your home.

Once installed the power that is generated by the rooftop panels feeds into the 240V mains system. Power required by the home is then derived from this source. If the requirements of the home exceed what’s generated, additional power flows in from the mains and your power meter runs forward as usual. But if your home requires less energy than the panels are generating, often the case on a sunny day, the excess power is fed into the grid and your meter runs backwards, or so it should. More about this below.

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Another wind farm approved.

Bit by bit wind energy in New Zealand continues to make progress. It was announced today that the Environment Court has upheld resource consent for Meridian’s proposed Mill Creek wind farm in the Ohariu Valley north-west of Wellington.

The decision grants approval for 26 of the 31 turbines applied for, resulting in a combined capacity of 60MW. The five turbines were excluded due to adverse effects on nearby rural lifestyle properties. It’s over three years since the resource consent application was lodged, so it certainly hasn’t happened in a hurry. Continue reading “Another wind farm approved.”