The National Party’s spokesman on energy issues, Jonathan Young, said the Coalition Government should be relieved to hear this week’s announcement by Todd Energy that it was building a $100 million 100 MW gas peaker station in Taranaki.
In an opinion piece in the Taranaki Daily News Young said Energy Minister Megan Woods “continues to drive a 100% renewable electricity agenda, with geothermal and wind being the focus on her plans.”
He said her intent was to back Prime Minister Ardern's goal of removing hydrocarbons from New Zealand's economy and gas-fired electricity generation from the energy mix.
This, Young said, creates a real challenge for New Zealand's economy and Kiwi households.
“Though there are developing technologies which could support sustainable electricity generation, they have yet to be proven reliable enough to take us to 100% renewable base-load generation.”
The mainstay, hydro, generates about 60% of electricity. But the Minister says it is unlikely that any more will be built.
Young said the benefit and challenge of relying on wind as base-load generation is that wind is free, but it is not always there.
“Two weeks ago, heading to Wellington airport, when most of NZ was rugged up at home, there wasn't a puff of wind blowing. Of the 6,500 MW of electricity being generated on that cold night, zero came from wind.
Young said there are nights and sometimes days, when an anticyclone covers the whole country creating such stillness that wind turbines don't turn. And then there are cyclones, when turbines are immobilised and not generating, because of the extremity of conditions.
“With Transpower, the Government's operator of our electricity system, forecasting a more than doubling of electricity demand between now and 2050, there are some significant challenges on where that electricity will come from.
“If our daily consumption is double, but hydro is the same, and thermal has gone, it means co-generation, geothermal and wind generation must increase seven times to close the energy gap.
“That's seven times more geothermal output, seven times more wind turbines in New Zealand – and then we can still have windless days and nights.”
He said if that happens, it will be like half the country being without power.
This, he said, was probably why Todd Energy see a future in gas-fired generation and why the Government should be secretly relieved.
Young said current emissions from NZ's electricity generation is 1/10,000th of world emissions. That figure will get even smaller when Huntly's coal-fired turbines are decommissioned, and when geothermal and gas-fired power stations can more effectively capture CO2 emissions.
“But one thing is for certain, New Zealanders don't like power cuts, whether that's industry, business, homes or hospitals. It's critical we keep the lights on!”