Grand final: Sustainable Energy NZ #16 – counting up the dollars and sense

Welcome to the sixteenth and final post in the Sustainable Energy without the Hot Air – A New Zealand Perspective series.

To recap, we started with a bit of energy accounting and worked out that Kiwi’s use around 88 kWh/d/p (methodology for what the kWh/d/p means is here), and that of this, about 33kWh/d/p came from sustainable sources or we couldn’t substitute. As a result, we’ve been looking for how to shift the remaining 55kWh/d/p of our current energy use to renewable energy sources. We approached this in two ways:

How much could we increase our energy generation capacity in renewable sources?

Here, we looked at hydro power, geothermal and wind (and a summary on the big three), solarbiofuelsmarine and waste energy and did some basic calculations on the overall potential of these sources. Then:

How much could we achieve a BIG reduction in our personal and national energy consumption, and where those savings would come from.

We went through the areas of energy use for Kiwis, including roadair transporthome energy use and general consumption before doing some calculations on the overall reductions we think we could make.

What might it cost to achieve an all-renewable energy economy?

Today, we’re looking at how this might translate into action at a national level. This post contains both some costing, and suggestions for action that might effectively be channeled into effective change.

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Seven keys to green growth in NZ: Pure Advantage’s new economic analysis

Last week business lobby group Pure Advantage launched [Herald, Stuff] a specially commissioned report, Green Growth: Opportunities for New Zealand, which presents, they say, “an exhaustive, objective economic argument for embracing green growth”. The report was produced by a London-based economics consultancy in conjunction with the University of Auckland Business School, and is the culmination of two years work to identify the most effective ways of implementing green growth business strategies in NZ.

Launching the report, Pure Advantage (PA) chairman Rob Morrison said:

We firmly believe on the basis of this significant macroeconomic report that New Zealand has the potential to generate billions of dollars in new high-value economic growth, whilst at the same time improving New Zealand’s environmental performance.

Morrison said that PA intends to use the report as “a basis to establish, in consultation with industry, seven industry-specific green growth programmes”. The seven key ‘advantages’ are (links go to PA web explanations):

  1. Home Advantage: Retrofitting an efficient building environment;
  2. Geothermal Advantage: Creating a significant geothermal export industry
  3. Agricultural Advantage:
    Investing in sustainable and efficient agricultural technologies
  4. Waste-to-Energy Advantage: Installing bio-energy and waste-to-energy infrastructure
  5. Biofuel Advantage: Establishing a woody mass biofuel and bio-products industry
  6. Smart Grid Advantage: Installing the building blocks of a smart grid
  7. Biodiversity Advantage: Establishing a world-class biodiversity driven ecotourism and conservation education programme.

PA note that the report was “not driven by environmental idealism or fear of climate change”, yet the recommendations look a lot like the sort of joined up thinking on environment and emissions policy that has been so lacking from the present government. By making the business case for green growth, perhaps PA can start a bottom-up change of economic direction that will do for NZ what the government will not. It’s certainly a worthwhile effort, but while there are other lobby groups out there promoting rampant population growth as the way to stop economic decline, it will continue to be an uphill struggle.

Sustainable Energy NZ #5 – Summing up the Big Three – hydro, geothermal and wind

Welcome to the fifth post in the Sustainable Energy without the Hot Air – A New Zealand Perspective series. Today we’re summarising the numbers on wind, hydro and geothermal potential in New Zealand (and finding they’re pretty big!). For the background to the work please our introductory post here. Also check out our earlier posts on the potential of hydro power,  geothermal and wind. Note: the units are in kWh/day/person – ie. if you ran a 40W lightbulb for 24 hours, it’d take ~1 kWh over the space of a day. We then divide it by person to give you a sense of the scale of the resource proportionate to the size of the population. Be sure to check out the methodology.

So, after going through the numbers for hydro, geothermal and wind, we find that we have a total realistic extra potential generation of 59.4kWh/d/p (hydro 23, geothermal 4.4, and wind 32kWh/d/p), without considering offshore wind. So, if we don’t mind parts of the country covered with windmills, multiple new hydro schemes, including all those proposed for the Clutha and Waitaki Rivers, and new geothermal schemes, we can readily get more than our required 55kWh/d/p from hydro, geothermal and wind alone.

We don’t have to say yes to every wind and hydro proposal but we have to say yes to a great many of them. And if we want power to be affordable for everyone, we have to say yes to proposals in places where it is cost-effective to generate power.

In other words, it’s a feasible possibility.

The important point to make here is that much of the energy we’ll be generating will be in different forms to those we will be replacing – i.e. we’ll be generating a lot more electricity, but moving away from energy in liquid fuels. It’s worth noting that even if we manage to find a significant resource of oil in our offshore drilling efforts, this will be sold on the international market. Also, because they’re finite won’t change the long term requirement of having to transition towards renewable energy sources.

Aside from these options, there are other possible sources of power that will become more important over time. We’ll be having a look at them in our next post.

Summary: We could meet of our energy requirements (note: not including our air travel, diesel fuel used for shipping or the embodied energy in imported products) almost exclusively on a hydropower, wind and geothermal. It would mean saying yes to schemes that are in places where it’s cost effective to generate power.

Up next: We crunch the numbers on solar for New Zealand and find it’s a pretty massive resource.

Sustainable Energy NZ #3 – When having a Hot Earth is Desirable – Crunching the numbers on Geothermal.

This is the third post in the Sustainable Energy without the Hot Air – A New Zealand Perspective series. Today we’ll be crunching the numbers on geothermal potential in New Zealand. For the background to the work and an explanation of the methodology, please visit this post. Also check out the last post on the potential of hydro power.

Unlike the UK, New Zealand has significant geothermal resources which currently contribute to national energy requirements. Geothermal energy has the advantage of being always available at full capacity, and unaffected by weather. Currently about 5.2kWh/d/p is available (3.6kWh/d/p of electricity is produced plus 1.6kWh/d/p in direct heating) but it is estimated that there is potential for a total of 12kWh/d/p at an admittedly higher price than gas generated electricity [dbpz7n]. Environmental and regulatory constraints further limit development. The Electricity Authority foresees generation rising by a further 4.4kWh/d/p by 2025 [9v5c9my] but little growth beyond that. Geothermal energy is low quality, producing lots of hot water for disposal. Ideally, better use of this hot water in co-located industry would improve overall efficiency.

Summary: There’s definitely potential here – but remember that even if we built every geothermal plant in the pipeline it’ll only ever make up about 8-9% of our overall energy supply.

Further Reading:

UCSD Professor Tom Murphy of Do The Math does the numbers on global geothermal potential.  

Going renewable doable by 2050, new analysis suggests

A new study published in Energy Strategy Reviews this month affirms that sourcing 95 percent of our energy from sustainable sources by 2050 is possible, using already available technologies. The authors are from the Dutch renewable energy consultancy Ecofys. Their paper includes technical detail, but the general salient points are well identified and clear to the non-expert reader. Familiar themes are sounded and buttressed with careful and sensible analysis.

Efficiency and electrification are two key requisites on the way to the 2050 goal.  The scenario proposed by the study envisages a slightly lower power demand in 2050 than in 2000, even allowing for established forecasts of population growth and GDP growth. It surveys demand under three sectors – industry, buildings and transport – indicating in each case the prospects of much lower demand from the application of efficiency measures as compared with current business as usual (BAU) practices. The electrification which plays an important part in lowered demand occurs primarily in the buildings and transport sectors.

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