Generation Zero issues Big Ask to leaders

This guest post is by Paul Young of Generation Zero.

Last Thursday Generation Zero released our new report, The Big Ask. This was the follow-up to our earlier report A Challenge to Our Leaders, released in May. While we’re calling it the Big Ask, it shouldn’t actually be a big deal. All we’re really asking for is a plan to do what the Government has promised to do.

ChallengeReportCover BigAskReportCover

Challenge laid out a fundamental problem with New Zealand’s current climate change response: we might have some nice-sounding targets for reducing our carbon emissions, but we have no credible plan for how we will achieve them. Politicians and policy-makers carry on as if the targets don’t exist; as if business as usual is still a viable option.

The simplest way to demonstrate this is by the Government’s official emissions projections, which Challenge unearthed and shone a light on. Under current policies, NZ’s emissions are expected to continue growing on every possible measure. In fact, the Government’s own figures show the current response is virtually indistinguishable from business as usual (read: doing absolutely nothing).

NZ GHG emissions projection(Click for bigger version)

The national targets established by the current Government are to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions (including forestry) in 2020 to 5% below what gross emissions were in 1990, and 50% below this by 2050. These latest projections say net emissions in 2020 will be 26% above the 1990 gross emissions level and rising.

Jargon and accounting vaguaries aside, this is an epic fail.

The problem is two-fold: not only is there no plan to meet our current targets, these targets are also too weak for the global goal of keeping warming under 2°C. In Challenge we argue from IPCC science that NZ should aim for zero fossil carbon emissions in 2050 alongside reductions in agricultural emissions.

The Big Ask

The Big Ask is a proposal to solve at least the former problem, and start New Zealand on the path to solving the latter.

We’re calling for a new law that will hold our Government to its promises and ensure New Zealand has a credible plan for climate action: a Climate Change Act modelled on the one in the UK.

What would such a Climate Change Act do?

  • It would enshrine a 2050 emissions target in domestic law so that the Government has a legal obligation to meet it (in the UK it’s 80% below 1990 levels) .
  • It would require the Government to set binding periodic ‘carbon budgets’ (5-yearly in the UK) to ensure steady progress towards the long-term goal, and produce plans to meet them.
  • It would set up an independent Climate Commission to conduct expert analysis, advise the Government on carbon budgets and policies required to meet them, and hold the Government publicly accountable.

Altogether, the Act would mean that – rather than being able to hide behind a veil of rhetoric and twisted numbers – the Government would be accountable to produce transparent plans for how it will deliver on its climate promises. This carbon budgeting process – first proposed for New Zealand by the Sustainability Council – is a vital legislative solution to deliver a coherent Government response with certainty on New Zealand’s direction towards a low carbon economy.

In The Big Ask report we also take a closer look at our favourite role model country of Denmark. The Danish experience shows another element of importance to the Climate Commission: establishing an expert body like this was a key step in their journey towards a world-leading energy strategy to achieve 100% renewable energy (including transport, heating and industry) by 2050.

Denmark timeline(Click for bigger version)

From 2008-10, the Danish Commission on Climate Change Policy conducted an extensive study on if and how Denmark could achieve fossil fuel independence by 2050. They found it was both feasible and affordable with known technologies, with an estimated cost of just 0.5% of GDP by 2050 (by which time GDP would be more than double what it is today).

We in Generation Zero have little doubt that the same is achievable in New Zealand, and once a Climate Commission is established it can be tasked with proving it.

So, what do the politicians think?

The NZ Herald ran a great two-page feature on The Big Ask and went to political parties for comment.

Climate Change Minister Tim Groser last night congratulated Generation Zero on its proposals, but said it wasn’t New Zealand’s place to position itself out ahead of where international negotiations were at.


“We actually put forward an explicitly different proposition to the New Zealand public in 2008, and it is still the key point to our approach.”

He said the concept of developed countries encouraging others by setting an example had been proven to be wrong.

“What it does is avoids putting pressure on the vast bulk of countries which are responsible for the vast bulk of emissions.”

Mr Groser said only a global response could address the issue, and New Zealand had a policy that was “waiting for, frankly, the rest of the world to get moving”.

Suffice to say, Mr Groser seems to have largely missed our actual point. Oh and by the way – had anyone else heard that the quaint old concept of leadership by example has now been proven wrong?

On a more positive note, several other parties are already very favourable to the idea. Our goal is to build on that support and see this implemented by the next government, whoever’s in charge.

Again, all we’re really calling for is a plan.

We’d love to have the support of Hot Topic readers by helping us spread the word and talk to politicians to put this high on the agenda for all political parties. And if you haven’t already, sign on as a Climate Voter to show that you want action on climate change and you’re prepared to use your vote to get it.

59 thoughts on “Generation Zero issues Big Ask to leaders”

      1. No one in the UK has the slightest idea on how to achieve these deep emissions cuts.

        It is one thing to have targets, another to have targets that are achievable

        I could come up with a target that an 80kg man should achieve 50% weight loss within 2 years. This would clearly be not achievable for most people

        Interesting, though is that Bryony Worthington, who designed the UK climate change act, is following the Thorium energy movement with some interest

        1. You analogy falls flat andy when the 80kg man is replaced with a 200kg man (probably a more realistic example of CO2 emissions in the western world)

          1. I look forward to 10 years hence when the lights are out in the UK and there are violent protests on the streets.

            Then the aptly named “Generation Zero” might have changed their minds on this particular model

            1. I hadn’t seen that calculator. Interesting that they include such great unproven technologies as CCS and “land devoted to biofuel”

              How much land needs to be devoted to biofuel? How many thousands of hectares of forest in the USA are currently being harvested to service the needs of the newly converted Drax power station?

    1. AndyS, what is your better plan? Anyone can be a critic of eveything, because nothing in the world is ever going to be perfect. It is much harder to come up with constructive ideas.

      1. The productive part of the western economies are investing in alternative energy. For example, Lockheed are doing R&D into a fusion reactor which they reckon will be “grid-ready” in 10 years (I’m not holding my breath on that though)

        Meanwhile, the non-productive part of the economies, i.e government and NGOs, come up with “targets” and policies such as the expansion of the wind fleet which don’t reduce CO2 emissions and don’t produce any useful amount of power.

        These people should stick to being academics and stop meddling with things they don’t understand

        1. AndyS, well that is a damp firecracker of an argument. The great private sector is investing in fusion (probably with state subsidies) but it doesn’t work yet if it ever will.

          Governments are subsidising wind and solar and trying to set some targets. There is a lot of potential in wind and solar even if you need some fossil fuels backup systems, and they are better than burning coal.

          I don’t fundamentally oppose conventional nuclear, but maybe not for NZ for various reasons. I think it depends on your options and NZ has other good options like wind, geothermal and hydro etc enough for many years.

        2. Stop your lying andyS:

          such as the expansion of the wind fleet which don’t reduce CO2 emissions and don’t produce any useful amount of power.

          Both of these statements are nothing but lies. You know they are lies which makes you even more despicable than more honest deniers. The reason you know they are lies is because you have been told they are lies many times on this blog.

          1. Do you have some evidence that these are “lies”?

            I can produce plenty of evidence to support my position, so before you get on your “despicable person” hobby horse I suggest you back your claims up

  1. Groser doesn’t so much miss the point as deliberately sidestep it. The declaration that there’s nothing we can do until the rest of the world steps up looks like it’s going to be the standard response in the lead-up to the election. It’s exactly what I got from our local National MP in a recent door-knocking visit. It’s not true. It’s shamefully irresponsible. But it’s a convenient excuse for carrying on with business as usual, and will no doubt sound reasonable to an electorate which doesn’t yet understand the urgency of the crisis.

    1. Yes Bryan – I believe your right that this is to be National’s strategy. 🙁 (I have never experienced a more “sit on our hands and do nothing” crowd as this current administration! They are a disgrace – and not only on the matter of Climate Change, but Christchurch, water, public transport, affordable housing, care for the disadvantaged in our society, employment, protection of the conservation estate, and on and on..) I shall be challenging our local MP on the matter at our local meet the candidates. One can only hope that the challenge by Gen. Zero et al ( soundly made by Paul here and accompanied by those excellent graphics) to all NZ’ers to think through the matter will begin to get through. We can only keep knocking at the door.

      1. Thanks Macro. Yep, just gotta keep pushing I think and try to find ways to cut through the false claims and rhetoric. I hope that they are becoming increasingly exposed on this line, particularly with the US now stepping up action. Keep challenging them in public!

  2. It’s interesting that Denmark is used as a role model. Maersk Oil is Denmark’s main oil company, and according to Wiki,

    Maersk Oil is engaged in exploration for and production of oil and natural gas in the North Sea Danish, British, and Norwegian sectors, Qatar, Algeria, Kazakhstan, Angola, Gulf of Mexico (US sector), Brazil, and Greenland. Most of these activities are not 100% owned, but are via membership in consortiums.

    Total oil production is more than 600,000 barrels per day (95,000 m3/d) and gas production is up to some 1 billion cubic feet per day (28×106 m3/d). Production is from the North Sea, from both the Danish and British sectors, offshore Qatar, as well as Algeria, Kazakhstan and Brazil.

    Drilling in Greenland? Very PC

    1. AndyS, your comments about Denmarks oil industry add nothing to the debate. We know they use oil, and nobody expects them to stop this completely by tomorrow morning. There is nothing about their use of oil that invalidates their other ideas or goals.

      1. Ok, so drilling for oil in Greenland is cool as long as you don’t use any of it yourself?

        Someone should tell Greenpeace. They are currently running a hate campaign against Lego for their affiliation with Shell

        Lego is a Danish company

        Denmark also had those “cartoons”

        1. AndyS, drilling in Greenland does make one wonder. However some consortium doing this doesn’t invalidate the danish climate study quoted in the article. Two separate things.You would need to look into the study.

          1. This is always andy’s argument. Find some counter example – no matter how remote – and hey presto – any action taken by anyone towards reduction of GHG is useless.
            Andy – it just doesn’t work like that. Sooner, rather than later THE WHOLE WORLD will have to give up on GHG emissions. And yes that includes me. We can either go cold turkey a la Cuba, or we can try to transition towards nil GHG a la Denmark.

            1. How will Denmark achieve this remarkable feat?
              Denmark is in the fortunate position of having Norway on its doorstep, who will happily sell Denmark hydro power at inflated rates, and buy the excess wind power from Denmark at knock-down rates

              Great news for Norway, of course

            2. AndyS, so what? Who cares if they swap resources. Wind and hydo means burning less fossil fuels this is what really counts.

            3. Yes, but GenZero are trying to apply the Danish model to NZ, and we don’t have Norway on our doorstep

            4. So it doesn’t matter how much it costs, as long as some indeterminate amount of CO2 isn’t produced?

              Denmark has some of the highest per capita CO2 emissions in Europe too.

            5. We may not be close to Norway, but we do have huge hydro resources whose lakes act like giant batteries. The NZ system could be 100% wind, solar and hydro without much difficulty if Tiwai Point closed. Plus we have superb geothermal resources to supply baselod to the north.

            6. If Tiwai Point closes then the spare hydro capability would push us to almost 100% renewable electricity production without much effort

              I highly recommend the Doubtful Sound cruise that takes in the Manapouri power station as a side visit, by the way

              7 hydro turbines provide something like 15-20% of NZ’s electricity, all buried in the middle of a mountain. Quite a remarkable piece of engineering with minimal environmental impact

            7. The RMA is stifling the development of alternative energy systems.

              Just a sad fact of dealing with centralised planning.

            8. Good Grief!

              “The RMA is stifling the development of alternative energy systems.

              Just a sad fact of dealing with centralised planning.”

              Talk about ideological twaddle!

              You know this country belongs to all of us Andrew – including you and me – we ALL have a say in how it should be managed – not just a few vested interests – strange as that may seem to you.

            9. Yes Macro I am aware of the save Manapouri Campaign, and they did a good job at keeping the environment intact.

              On the way to Fiordland via Queenstown, we passed the useless wind turbines at Mossburn, sitting idly like a bunch of layabout teenagers, doing absolutely nothing to contribute to the grid.

              Waste of time, waste of money, waste of the environment,

              Perfectly sums up the Green movement to me.

            10. The people who fought to save Manapouri andy were the forerunners of the Green movement today (many are still involved) – you can’t have it both ways.

            11. You know this country belongs to all of us Andrew – including you and me

              So you won’t mind if I move a poor relative into your living room, after all, your house is part of this country! It belongs to all of us!

              The RMA is stifling the development of alternative energy systems (and much other development) often for no gain, costing money and blocking positive projects, micro hydro is an example, the hassles usually make it not worth pursuing, even when there are zero environmental effects.

            12. For once I would find some common ground with Andrew. The RMA process is in need of revision. It should look at the grand picture of things, prevent the abuse of resources but also allow more creativity, especially on the smaller scale.
              Example: In Coromandel town a gold stamper battery museum installation is operated (as it has been since the historic gold mining times) by a large water wheel. The council woke up to the idea that that wheel now needed a resource consent and wrote the museum operator (who runs this more as a hobby as it makes little money) a writ demanding thousands of dollars for a RMA application to continue running that old wheel….. %#^#%#&! (just an example of bureaucracy gone ape!)

            13. AndrewW

              You say “The RMA is stifling the development of alternative energy systems.Just a sad fact of dealing with centralised planning.”

              So what is your alternative? No centralised planning or control? What happens if someone wants to build a wind turbine or highrise building right next to your house? You would be the first demanding “rules” even if you pretend you wouldn’t.

              The RMA is basically the right idea, but I would agree it needs some modification. Time limits on processes and appeals. Consideration of costs and benefits etc. But you do need environmental legislation.

            14. What happens if someone wants to build a wind turbine or highrise building right next to your house?

              Urban zoning under the control of local councils is adequate in that case.

              The RMA is basically the right idea, but I would agree it needs some modification. Time limits on processes and appeals. Consideration of costs and benefits etc. But you do need environmental legislation.

              Pretty much agree.

            15. “So you won’t mind if I move a poor relative into your living room, after all, your house is part of this country! It belongs to all of us!”
              As I suspected Andrew – you have no understanding of what constitutes the ‘Commons”. My house is not part of the commons, nor is yours. But we both share equally in the quality of the air we breathe outside them and the minerals to be found under them.

            16. Having recently worked in an industry intimately concerned with the RMA I would be very reluctant to see a primary piece of our environmental legislation “opened up” – particularly as proposed by the current government. Let me say that prior to the RMA, pollution of waterways and environmental vandalism was rife in certain sectors of our construction industry and they will even now push the regulations as far as they can get away with. Yes there are certain instances where bureaucracy seems to take precedence over rationality and that is always the down side of regulation. And that is what living in a lawful society is all about. You either have laws and regulations – aimed to limit the behaviour of the worst offenders – or you have none. Personally I would rather live in a regulated society than in a society with little or none.

            17. Marco, the RMA isn’t limited to the commons, activities on private land also has to comply with the RMA – even when that activity has no affect outside to property in question.

            18. Have you ever heard a stamper battery in operation? The area of Thames known as “The Booms”, wasn’t called that for nothing. Might have been an operation 3 miles away – but the Booms could be heard all over town.
              You exampled someone erecting a wind generator on their property. Sounds good except if you happen to live next door.
              I might want to dam a stream on my property – but what about the properties down stream?
              All these are examples of how my use of the “commons” even on my own property affect others.
              Having gained consent however I am free to do these activities.
              Having built my house, erected my windmill, dammed my stream, and constructed my stamper battery, I am free to use them for their intended purposes within the constraints of the consent (if any). The considerations for my use of the commons have acknowledged.

            19. That before mentioned Coromandel stamper battery, next to our own property, is a museum piece, run once in a while for tourists for a minute or two on weekends. Its the fact that after 100 years of the wheel being there (idling beautifully as it would) it suddenly needs a resource consent costing the operator thousands. Its actually council property and on council land run as a tourist attraction. Seemed like a pointless exercise in bureaucracy.
              Of cause I am totally with you that this wheel is not giving every land owner the right to erect their own. The RMA is good to regulate and prevent that.
              Generally they should open more useful and generally harmless activities as permitted activities to reduce red tape where possible.

            20. AndrewW

              You say “Marco, the RMA isn’t limited to the commons, activities on private land also has to comply with the RMA – even when that activity has no affect outside to property in question.”

              Perhaps you could give an actual example rather than vague generalities.

              You also need to realise that virtually everything we do affects other people on some level, physical, emotional, and future generations also need to be considered. We do not live in a vacuum.

              This comes down to matters of degree, harm caused by one party to another, issues of freedom and constraint, the rights and powers of majorities as well as individuals.

  3. We are moving into an era in which the next thirty years are going to be very different to the last thirty. Coal as a fuel for electricity is finished (not that we use much) due to its high CO2 output. Oil is a diminishing resource and is becoming more unreliable as the middle east falls into conflict.. We need as much renewable as we can produce and should be developing our own electric transport so that we have something for when the wheel comes off the international trolley. When food becomes scarce or expensive civil unrest erupts and there is no planning the outcome and we need to secure an independent future as prudent insurance. Domestic renewable energy is cheaper than imported oil and we should be using it.

  4. To address the topic: I am doubtful about the usefulness of targets even if built into law. Policies to implement that result in carbon reductions are obviously more useful. The Greens plan for instance might encourage the needed changes in a much shorter time period as may tech developments though we can’t plan on those.

    Far off emissions reduction targets are a ready excuse for leaving the issue to another goverrnment. The usual answer to this is setting incremental targets over short spans within the life of an elected government say and having annual reports.

    There are only these targets regardless of dates:
    1. Get rid of GHG emissions every way we can
    2. Take back carbon from the atmosphere

    Problems of emissions reduction targets by specified dates may include look good but useless solutions (annual reporting might take care of this), go slow if real reductions are happening earlier than expected, apparent failures if the law of growth (exponential) is not accounted for. A solutional approach may start very slowly, not reaching the steep part of the curve until nearly everyone can be part of it. Similarly programs may max out – infinite effort for infinitesimal results.

    I prefer we implement functional policies rather than be attached to results that may be arbitrarily defined. A good policy will probably include firing anyone who says emissions reductions will doom the economy or it can’t be done – they are obviously part of the problem 🙂

  5. Heartlands new propaganda “trick”: Climate change is real but its not a big deal: Slage Magazine

    Heartland’s polemic now sings to the story line that humans will easily adapt, any attempts to ‘solve’ the problem are worse than the effects of warming and who knows, what wonderful technological advances will make us cope with it all in a 100 years no sweat (pun intended).

    Sounds familiar? I guess this Andrew W has been reading of the Heartland teleprompter.

    So far the denial machine has gone trough a progression of:
    Climate Change? What Climate change? —> Ok, its getting warmer but its just the Sun, not CO2 —> CO2 is maybe involved but its Volcanoes that cause the increase in CO2 –> OK, the CO2 is from us but its not causing any feed-backs –> Well, OK CO2 is warming the planet but its less than 2 Deg for a doubling for sure —> Hey look it all stopped, behold no warming –> Well, Ok, yes a lot of the warming went into the oceans over the last decade but its still a pause –> Ok, well yes it might get got but who cares, warm is great! —> Whatever, we can cope with anything, whats a hundred years, who cares about future generations, just bring it on! And firstly we need to bigger and grow the economy and frack the place to bits. Long live the freedom of the Oil Addicts! To the hell with the darn greenies spoiling our fun….

    When the blatant denial of science finally becomes untenable for the right wingers, the true spirit of yesterdays deniers will be revealed….

    This never really was about science after all! Science denial was just a tactical maneuver. It didn’t last the distance on the smoking wars either but it did buy time.

    And when the masks have fallen, the climate change debate will eventually become what it needs to be: A debate about ethics, responsibility and the survival and political future of humanity!

    1. It’s not a question of whether adaptation is easy or hard, it’s about how much it will cost. I notice that Andrew W blithely talks about human populations being mobile, and therefore it’s no big deal if cities become inundated, but I notice he didn’t actually put any figures on that. Humans may be mobile, but cities aren’t. All that infrastructure isn’t going to move itself, and if people move elsewhere, it just puts extra load on that new location. It’s no good evacuating central Auckland and relocating all those people and businesses to Wellington or Christchurch or Dunedin. We’d end up with a mega-city somewhere inland, like Hamilton or Palmerston North, which would require massive investment. Andrew W, please explain where the money comes from to do all that?

      1. There is also the very real possibility that quite a lot of the adaptation euphoria will collide with physics and biological requirements which can not be restored at any cost.

        I am not sure how the ‘adapters’ will deal with an ocean at a pH level to low to sustain the current ocean ecology, or how they will provide a replacement for the dwindling fresh water flows which will no longer be fed by glacier melt in summer from the winter snows or how they will replace the function of those great tropical rain forests, which are threatened by the combination of heat and changes in rainfall.

        I am also unsure who they will provide sustenance for perhaps 9 billion by the end of the century when the soils in many food baskets will be much dryer than today while for reasons above mentioned, fresh water for irrigation may restricted significantly in the dry seasons, while flooding will cause crop losses in areas affected by too much rain.

        The ecosystem of the planet is finely balanced and having to provide for humanities needs already is a tough undertaking, requiring industrial scale agriculture and irrigation projects drawing waters well beyond the capability of aquifers to replenish themselves.

        Further, our economic success has been predicated by cheap energy, the era of which has already come to an end as oil and gas production is costing more and more and moving into the most difficult and inhospitable regions.

        Adaptation may be possible in principal but what Andrew and co are not realizing are the compounding problems under which it will have to take place. Running air conditioners may not be affordable to most….

        1. You have the costs of rebuilding cities, and once warming goes above 2 degrees you have to assume major sea level rise, so rebuilding is not just a few modifications or barriers. You are talking major relocation.

          You have the costs of more storms and droughts and reduced crop yields, and loss of species diversity. None of the sceptics seem capable of grasping the full picture.

      2. “please explain where the money comes from to do all that?”

        I can answer that question. Where the money comes from is irrelevant as long as its the next generation or two are the ones who have to fork out the dosh.

        Just like the best way to tackle a spiralling national debt crisis is to reduce taxes and raise the debt ceiling.

        Similarly the best way to tackle climate change is defer the responsibility to someone else after all no job is too difficult for the man who doesn’t have to do it himself.

        Simple really, you’ll have to come up with a more challenging question than that to unsettle the right wing ideologists.

  6. Denmark gets the largest fraction of its electricity from coal, relies heavily on oil and gas revenue from the North Sea, and has higher CO2 emissions than New Zealand. A better model would be Sweden, which, like New Zealand, gets about half its electricity from hydro. Sweden has a carbon tax, has emissions of CO2 per capita about forty percent lower than Denmark’s, and produces electricity with average carbon intensity ( grams CO2/kWh ) seven times lower than Denmark’s ( 41 for Sweden, 385 for Denmark ) -
    The reason Denmark is the chosen model, of course, is that Denmark is attempting to decarbonize using politically correct wind, whereas Sweden has effectively already decarbonized its grid using nuclear.
    Apropos of which, if you check out the United Kingdom carbon calculator –
    the single most effective option is the third choice on nuclear – ‘ Build thirty 3 gigawatt power stations delivering about 630 Terawatt/hours per year ‘. That reduces emissions more than any of the most extreme options, including ‘ Reduce industrial output by 30-40%’ and ‘ Build 40,000 offshore wind turbines ‘.

    1. Denmark’s coal consumption, north sea gas and oil revenue and high CO2 emissions pre-date their significant investment in wind power. If Denmark did not have wind power it would have much higher emissions. This is not a difficult concept to grasp, as is the inadequacy of the hydro power resource in Denmark.
      Sweden is of course building the worlds largest onshore wind farm.
      “The reason Denmark is the chosen model, of course, is that Denmark is attempting to decarbonize using politically correct wind, ” Rather than politically correct, the Danes probably just regard it as scalable, appropriate to the resources they have, effective at progressively reducing CO2 emissions, low risk of failing and affordable. Choosing to describe an evidence based policy as ‘politically correct’ is rather immature IMHO.
      “Build thirty 3 gigawatt power stations” so that is 30 nuclear power stations, each about 3 times bigger than the biggest one in the UK (Sizewell B is pretty damn big by the way). Can you not foresee any potential pitfalls in such a project? Because if you stump up the cash for this and it does not deliver in its entirety, on time and in budget, you have lost years of time to act and have empty pockets.
      As for NZ, NZ has good hydro resources, and a superb wind resource. I bet the Swedes are rather jealous of the NZ wind resource as they know how well it integrates into their grid and transnational power trading, displacing fossil fuel consumption.

    2. John ONeil, nuclear may be realistic for Sweden. NZ is not Sweden.

      Nuclear doesn’t make much sense here as NZ has extensive resources of geothermal, hydro and wind.

      Nuclear has upsides and downsides. I dont like the thought of an accident, given NZ is a farming exporter. Nobody would buy our produce, probably for a generation. It would truly decimate our economy.

      1. ‘Nuclear doesn’t make much sense here as NZ has extensive resources of geothermal, hydro and wind.’
        If you scroll down there to page 5, electricity generation for the last eight quarters, geothermal output is very steady, and about equal to total fossil fuel output in the December quarter, but less than half of it in the June quarter. Wind, at five percent of total output, is quite variable from quarter to quarter- it dropped by 37% from the Dec 12 to March 13 quarters – and doesn’t peak in the Jun quarter, when emissions are highest, so ramping it up eightfold would not guarrantee that you could close the gas plants. ( It’s not as variable as I thought it would be though. I remember many an autumn week as a tandem hang glider pilot in Queenstown, with the norwesters roaring overhead, followed by winters with an anaemic catabatic breeze trickling down the hill.)
        As for hydro, the backbone of our grid, the Greens are nearly as adamant against new hydro as they are against nuclear, though between them the two technologies provide by far the most emission free power wordwide.
        ‘Nuclear has upsides and downsides.’ So does any power source. For example, there was great consternation when tritium, which has very low radioactivity, and has never been shown to have harmed any living thing, was found at parts per million in a test bore at Vermont Yankee reactor, but not so much about arsenic at levels well above the permitted drinking water threshhold, all the way down the Waikato river from the Wairakei geothermal station to the sea. Wind farms here shouldn’t face the problems they have in Scotland, of disturbing peat soils and so liberating large amounts of sequestered carbon, but they still require about ten times the steel and concrete as a reactor with equivalent energy production, and they preclude the land they’re on from being put into forest.

  7. “… so ramping it up eightfold would not guarrantee that you could close the gas plants.” the presence of the gas plant is not the problem, the quantity of gas burnt is. If wind was ‘ramped up eightfold’ that gas plant would burn very little gas, and that would be a good thing.
    “Wind farms here shouldn’t face the problems they have in Scotland, of disturbing peat soils and so liberating large amounts of sequestered carbon… ” which is why we have planning policy and best practice guidance. Any sensitive peat is going to get substantial protection from any planning, not just wind turbines. Most upland and lowland UK peats are degrading anyway, thanks to their management, so are a source not a sink of CO2. You can read all about it here, Macaulay being a highly respected body on Scottish soils. The ‘peat scare story is very popular with our UK NIMBYs, but I am surprised this nonsense has made it all the way to NZ.
    All that steel and concrete is easily recyclable, sadly not quite so simple for a nuclear plant.
    “… and they preclude the land they’re on from being put into forest.” Actual experience of having wind turbines in forest in France and Germany would suggest that they do not preclude forest.

  8. Wind won’t replace coal and gas. Those are burned during the run-up to winter, to conserve hydro water, and then simultaneously with hydro use, to add capacity during peak demand. Wind can be used to conserve water ( or gas, on the UK grid ) but not to reliably add capacity. Geothermal can, in New Zealand, as can biofuels, though I don’t think the latter are much better than fossil fuels. The Key regime rescinded the previous government’s effective ban on new fossil construction, on the grounds that security of supply is imperative, which is true. ( They also flogged off half their generation assets, leaving energy strategy to the long term vision of the market, if such a thing exists.)
    Your peat reference predates the huge turbines –
    ‘The presence of extensive areas of forestry on and in the vicinity of the wind farm site can significantly reduce the yield of wind energy, so it may be necessary to clear existing forestry from are area surrounding the site prior to wind farm development’.
    When you talk about recycling concrete from wind turbines, do you mean reusing the foundations? Since early generation wind turbines are already being pulled out before their design lifetime and replaced with bigger ones, I don’t think that is likely. If they’re still putting up turbines in thirty years, they’re more likely to be floating, airborne, or huge, to improve the capacity factor. By that time, reactors built now would still have another sixty years or so of useful life to run, at the end of which, nearly all the steel except the pressure vessels and the heat exchangers should be ok for re-use. The huge containment buildings will by then be redundant. They have to be large enough to hold the entire coolant water flashed to steam, plus hydrogen. Using non volatile coolants, or supercritical water or carbon dioxide, would all both raise efficiency and lower the need for large volume containment. Silicon carbide is already being tested to replace the zirconium cladding which formed hydrogen at Three Mile Island and Fukushima.
    Incidentally, many of our hydro dams may have silted up by then, and the rock underlying today’s geothermal plants will have cooled to uselessness. I suspect any wind turbines still around will be of historical interest only, like the Hayes Engineering model inland from here, built a century ago and decommissioned just a few years later. The Waipori dam, built three years earlier, is still providing power to this city.

    1. “Wind won’t replace coal and gas. Those are burned during the run-up to winter, to conserve hydro water, and then simultaneously with hydro use, to add capacity during peak demand.” – Add wind to the grid and Gas, Coal and Hydro will all generate less in order of their marginal cost. It would have to be a pretty big drought to put the marginal cost of hydro over coal and gas. Hydro will always undercut fossil fuel to prevent spill. Any displacement of hydro by wind will conserve additional hydro resource for load following and peak load.
      “Your peat reference predates the huge turbines -” but is not specific to a certain turbine size.
      Forestry – The wind resource in Continental Europe is not as good as the UK, and certainly not as good as the fantastic one found in NZ. Taller towers are common there to gain a margin in generation. They also remove the turbine from the surface roughness of the woodland. As for felling woodland, it may come as a surprise to you that woodland is felled and replanted here in the UK. If wind turbines go into woodland and there is any felling, it is replanted and grows through the wind turbines 25 year life. We don’t put any development in our ‘ancient woodland’ as such sites are SSSI with considerable UK and EU protection. Our Forestry Commission is pursuing wind turbine sites on its own land. Now your silly point on this issue could be excused if NZ did not have a logging industry to speak of.
      Reusing the foundations? No, even if the replacement turbine was of the same spec then the foundation may be beyond the design and warranty life. It gets dug out just as if the site were not being repowered but decommissioned. Pulverised into hardcore and rebar for recycling. In the UK we have a punitive tax on primary aggregate that makes recycled hardcore valuable.
      “to improve the capacity factor” if you want to improve the capacity factor just downrate the generator. Capacity factor goes up at the cost of generation. Developers of wind power are not fixated on capacity factor like NIMBY, but on cost effective power generation in MWh.
      Your efforts at anti wind arguments are certainly old, but not of any historical interest.

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