I walk our dog in the Taylor River Reserve each morning I’m in town, treading the stretch between Monro Street and Wither Road. It is a quiet time, when I contemplate my world.
My favourite place is the river bed, where, in summer, I see the river play hide and seek in the gravels, popping up here only to dive back underground there. In the wide open river channel south of the Burleigh Bridge, I navigate over gravels sculpted by a violent dance between physics and chaos we call the winter floods; a small patch of land still shaped by nature’s hand.
It is this immortal hand, with its timeless power and beauty, which gives me pause and a sense of awe.
I also see the debris of my species, infused in the gravels and discarded along the paths. Plastic bags, polystyrene foam, synthetic rubber, polyester clothing and discarded electronics, all making their way to the great rubbish dump that has become the ocean. What will be the result?
My mind flashes to Greek tragedy, where the hero is brought down by his or her arrogant confidence in their own strength or beauty, their hubris. Does humanity, in its new-found power over nature suffer the same tragic flaw? Is this unnatural rubbish I see in the river bed the seeds to this downfall, poisoning our land and seas, as bacteria turn this new food source into toxic waste?
My mind skips to the rocks in the river and to the newly designated geologic epoch – the Anthropocene; when the works of man dominate the world’s geology. The bricks, broken tile and glass are there in the river bed for some future geologist to mark our time in the sedimentary record. I was born in a different epoch – the Holocene, a time of warm and stable climate after the last great global glaciation. Now in the Anthropocene, I see change all around me.
Newly powerful and erratic weather is upsetting life’s delicate cycles. Humans and their livestock overwhelm the land. Disease, pests and weeds invade what remains of the natural planet. Every corner of the planet explored for mineral wealth and petroleum.
I’m reminded that the Anthropocene is also the time of the earth’s sixth great extinction. Will humanity succumb to this extinction as well?
All these things to wonder as the morning melts away.
The anger in the animal farming community about the proposed agricultural emissions levy is understandable. No business is happy about a new fee that they will have to pay, at least not on this planet. Add to this weather disasters, new freshwater regulations, high fuel prices; there is a lot on their shoulders at the moment.
So, was the process to develop the levy something the government did right?
Let’s step back and look at how this all happened.
The 2019 Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Act specifies a 10% reduction in biologic methane emissions by 2030, in order to meet the nation’s 2015 commitment to the Paris Agreement. The Act passed Parliament unanimously, so it would appear that all major political parties agreed to it. National signed the 2015 Paris commitment and Labour put forward the Zero Carbon Act.
So, like gravity, agricultural emissions reduction is not just a good idea, it’s actually the law.
Much to the climate activist community’s dismay, rather than add biologic methane to the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), the government agreed to form an industry-Māori-government partnership, He Waka Eke Noa, to hash out a program to achieve this emissions reduction, starting in 2025. He Waka Eke Noa includes 11 major farming industry groups, including Federated Farmers, Beef & Lamb, Dairy NZ and Horticulture New Zealand.
In that democratic governments derive their authority from the consent of the governed (that’s us), this was something the government did right. Agriculture needed to be part of the plan.
After 3 years of work, the partnership’s recommendations were published in May of this year and the government’s plan, based upon those recommendations, was put out for consultation in October.
So, what were the partnership’s recommendations?
The partnership recommended a farm-level, split-gas levy. In other words, a levy on individual farm businesses rather than on farm product processor businesses (such as Fonterra) and that farm businesses pay different levies for methane and the long-lived, farm-derived greenhouse gases, such as nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide from fertiliser. The levies would be calculated and paid annually.
Farm businesses would receive incentive payments for the uptake of approved methods to reduce emissions and receive payment or credit for on-farm carbon dioxide sequestration, such as through riparian planting, which are not presently eligible for ETS emissions credits.
Levy revenue would be invested in research, development and extension services (i.e., technical advice & information) and to a fund dedicated to help Māori landowners. Industry and Māori oversight boards would be formed to provide recommendations on levy rates & prices and the use of revenue.
So, which of these recommendations made it through to the plan in the government’s consultation document?
Just about all of them.
The principal point of difference appears to be that the oversight boards would provide advice on the use of plan revenue, but not on levy rates & prices. The fox doesn’t get to guard the hen house.
While farmer anger is understandable and regrettable, the need to reduce these emissions appears unavoidable. In most economies, including ours, polluting industries pay some sort of fee or tax for their pollution, in order to encourage a reduction in that pollution. Business sectors of New Zealand’s economy heavily dependent on fossil fuel use, such as process heat and trucking, already pay for their pollution through the ETS. The farming of ungulate animals (cattle, sheep & deer) produces about half of our country’s greenhouse gas pollution, so it is too large to be ignored.
While the agricultural emissions levy may be a hard pill for the animal farming industry to swallow, it does have an upside. As countries in the developed world take steps to limit their greenhouse gas emissions, they recognise that their domestic animal farming industries are at a disadvantage in competing with imports from countries that do not limit emissions. There has long been talk of “carbon tariffs”, or a special tax on imports to address this. In the European Union, it is called the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism, which if adopted, would take effect in 2026.
New Zealand’s dairy, meat and wool exports will be ahead of the game when these tariffs arrive. This also would be something done right.
“Every one of us will love someone who is still alive in 2100.” This simple yet prophetic statement by young New York climate activist Ayisha Siddiqa struck a chill down my spine. My granddaughters.
You see, the year 2100 is not just an occasion to pop champagne corks to the dawn of a new century; it is a year when most of the world’s climate models mark their results. Ms Siddiqa’s statement gives us pause to consider what kind of world our loved one will live in. A review of climate model results give us a few ideas.
First, we need to choose on which pathway of greenhouse gas emissions the world society is heading. The most recent reports by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (AR6-WG1, 2021) give us a series of scenarios, called Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs) from which to choose.
The most ‘forgiving’ pathway (SSP1-2.6) suggests warming to just over 1.8°C by 2050, relative to pre-industrial times, followed by a slow decline to about 1.7°C in the year 2100. As of now, the world has warmed by about 1.1°C, so we are already well over half way there.
However, in order for us to follow this pathway global greenhouse gas emissions would need to have peaked in 2020 and they did not. According to the International Energy Agency, emissions made their biggest increase yet in 2021, more than offsetting a pandemic-induced decline in 2020.
This increase is also apparent in the concentration of CO2 measured in the earth’s atmosphere. It continues to increase and this increase is accelerating.
Think of this like a carload of teenagers seeing how fast they can go on a lonely country road. They can see the turnoffs they need to take, but are still accelerating, with foot on the pedal, when they should be slowing down. This is us with greenhouse gas emissions right now.
So, it looks like we’ll miss the turnoff that would have put us on the RCP 2.6 pathway. The next pathway (SSP2-4.5) puts us at warming of about 2.7°C by 2100. Here, global emissions peak in 2040 and start to decline thereafter. There is still a chance that we can make this pathway, so it is where most optimistic observers would put us today.
If we assume this is the turnoff our carload of teenagers is able to take, we can tap into the results of climate models to see what conditions likely will be for our loved one in 2100.
Sea level will have risen about a half a metre and will continue to rise. If our loved one lived on the coastline, they would have moved by now to a place farther inland. Housing would likely be in short supply due to the others fleeing the advancing coastline and due to the need to house climate refugees from elsewhere, such as the Pacific Islands.
Summers will be hotter, with more very hot days. Our loved one will need reliable electricity for air conditioning.
Instances of intense rainfall will have increased in frequency and intensity, leading to more flooding, road closures and crop damage. Droughts will be longer and more intense. Combined, these point to reduced food supply. Our loved one will likely find it harder both to get to the market and to find food when they get there.
Changes to beloved ecosystems will be evident all around them. Forests will show signs of widespread tree mortality due to heat stress, drought and disease. Once-healthy forests will become prone to wildfires and pest invasion. Wildlife along the seashore will have changed, due to progressively warming and acidifying seas. Migration of fish to higher latitudes will have impacted coastal bird and marine mammal populations, decimating many beloved bird and seal colonies.
So, life, in all likelihood, will be harder and less certain for our loved one than it has been for us. While there certainly are things we can all do to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, there are other things we can do to soften the impacts of climate instability – under the banners of adaptation and resilience.
Here, we can take guidance from the IPCC (AR6-WG2, 2022): “Climate resilient development is advanced when actors work in equitable, just and enabling ways to reconcile divergent interests, values and worldviews, toward equitable and just outcomes.”
In simple language, we need to work together, listen to each other, learn to reconcile our differences and make sure no one is unfairly disadvantaged. This means sticking together, no matter what.
Ms. Siddiqa went on to say, “That loved one will either face a world in climate chaos or a clean green utopia depending on what we do today.” Utopia maybe not. But let’s give it our best shot.
Tom Powell – Climate Karanga Marlborough
Tim Jones – Coal Action Network
Meridian Energy is considering a proposal to make green hydrogen with the electrical power that would be freed up by the possible closure of the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter in Southland, and export it around the world. At a time when New Zealand is running short of electrical power, this is a very bad idea. We need this power to stay here!
As you have probably read, there is lots of talk about green hydrogen in the domestic energy industry. It can be made from ordinary water using electricity, creating few pollutants and little greenhouse gas in the process. Although its overall energy efficiency relative to batteries is low, it can be compressed and carried in tanks, making it one of the few fuel options available for long haul trucking, transoceanic shipping and aviation. Overseas markets for green hydrogen are forming.
As you might have also read, New Zealand came dangerously close to running out of electricity this last winter. As early as June this year, Transpower, the nation’s state-owned enterprise responsible for electric power transmission, warned that domestic supplies of electrical power from the various independent generators were not keeping up with demand. Just last month (September), Transpower again called on generators to make more power available.
Part of the blame for this situation can be reasonably placed on New Zealand’s ‘competitive’ power generation market. The market was originally designed to create competition between generators, so as to provide consumers and industry with the cheapest power available. As with many good intentions gone wrong, though, the market instead incentivises power shortages, giving generators the highest market price when electricity supplies are short. So, generators get more for their electricity when demand is high and aren’t keen to add new generation unless the power market is ‘tight’ enough to assure them a reasonable price.
It is little wonder that the average wholesale price of power has been steadily rising. The average wholesale price of electricity for the first quarter of 2018 was $87 per megawatt-hour (abbreviated “/MWh” – enough to power a little over 1000 homes for an hour), while the average price was $174/MWh during the first quarter of this year. Little wonder, too, that power generators have been reporting strong profits in recent years.
However, the Tiwai Point smelter reportedly pays Meridian a bargain price of only $35/MWh as of January last year, so it makes sense that Meridian might want more money for its power. But it doesn’t want to put this power into the domestic market because the extra power would cause the wholesale price of power to drop. Remember, the generators get a higher price when electricity supplies are in high demand. Thus comes Meridian’s interest in someone building a green hydrogen plant to take the power at a higher price when its contract with the smelter expires in 2024, and keep that power off the domestic market.
In comes the Southern Green Hydrogen project, with two Australian firms vying to become the lead developers. The project is touted to become the largest green hydrogen project on the planet, which analysists say could earn hundreds of millions of dollars in export revenue while helping decarbonise economies here and overseas.
There will only be a small market for green hydrogen in NZ so, in essence, the plan is for our power – power which New Zealand taxpayers paid for in the Manapouri Hydro Scheme and still 51% owned by the government – to be exported in the form of green hydrogen for profit, while the rest of the country endures winter power shortages.
And this is no small amount of electricity. The Manapouri hydro scheme represents 13% of NZ’s electricity generation. Imagine what lower and more stable electricity prices would do for New Zealand households and industry, if Meridian instead released that electricity to the national grid.
It is clear that, in our present situation, this proposal to export our electricity as green hydrogen doesn’t make sense. No less than Simon Upton, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, has told the government so. With the government pushing for more electric vehicles on the roads and for industries to replace fossil fuel-fired boilers with electric furnaces and electricity-driven heat pumps, the country is going to need a lot more electrical generation in the future. Selling what excess power we have as green hydrogen overseas when the country is facing power shortages is the epitome of bad planning!
It is time this government developed a coherent energy strategy to guide our communities and our economy into the uncertain energy future ahead. Supporting the use of this precious resource for another export industry would certainly not be a good start.
Marg comes into the kitchen and begins emptying rubbish from her pockets into the bin.
Tom: “Marg, what are you doing?”.
Marg: “What does it look like? I’m putting rubbish in the bin. We’ve run out of council bags, so I’m putting it here in the kitchen until I get more bags this afternoon.”
Tom: “I mean, where did you get all that rubbish?”
Marg: “I pick it up in the reserve when I walk the dog. It helps keep things tidy and I worry about all the plastic going into the soil and the river.”
Tom: “Isn’t that the council’s job?”
Marg: “Which would you rather? Have the council pay someone to pick it up and pay for it in our rates, or just pick it up ourselves while we’re out there?”
Tom: “OK, I see your point about the council. But, what are you worried about with plastic? I understand plastic litter is ugly but it doesn’t hurt anything.”
Marg: “I’ve read that scientists have now found bacteria that feed on plastic and break it down into other chemicals.”
Tom: “Well, there you go! Plastic pollution solved! Just let the bacteria eat it all up. What’s there to worry about?
Marg: “I’ve also read that they are beginning to find that some of those breakdown chemicals are toxic.”
Google Assistant: “Scientists have found that bacteria that digest the common plastic polyurethane produce toxic chemicals, such as 4,4-methylenedianiline and 2,4-toluene diamine, which are possible carcinogens and pose environmental risk to aquatic and terrestrial species.”
Tom: “Umm, that can’t be good. So we need to stop using, what was it? Poly-aeroplane?
Google Assistant: “Polyurethane. It is used in the manufacture of sports shoes, nappies, kitchen sponges, furniture and foam insulation. It’s in many products.”
Marg: “So Tom, what happens if some new bacteria pops up that can feed off all the other plastics used in agriculture but leaves behind toxic chemicals? The soils might become too toxic to grow anything. Plastic in the oceans might end up turning fish toxic, like when we had that scare about mercury in fish. So what would people eat?”
Tom: “Well, I suppose we could grow our food in glasshouses. Don’t know that I could give up fish, though.”
Marg: “And, that’s not to mention the damage it might do to wildlife and the natural world. We could be poisoning the planet for generations to come!”
Tom: “It all sounds pretty scary, Marg. What we can do about it? I suppose giving up plastic would be the answer, but plastic is such great stuff – lightweight, strong, waterproof, doesn’t rot and can be shaped into most anything.”
Google Assistant: “One solution being considered by the New Zealand government is called ‘product stewardship’, whereby manufactures take responsibility for plastics in their products, recycling them at the end of their useful lives. It is part of what is called a ‘circular economy’”
Marg: “I certainly hope we can do something like that, Google. Otherwise, we’re in a bit like a Faustian Bargain.”
Tom: “A ‘fast-tin’ bargain?”
Marg: “It comes from an old medieval tale. A man named Faust made a deal with the devil to gain wealth and power in exchange for his soul.”
Tom: “So, what happened?”
Marg: “Faust messed everything up, hurt innocent people and went to hell.”
Tom: “So, how is that like plastics?”
Marg: “Plastics are great stuff, as you say. They add to our society’s wealth and power. But there is a price to pay later on, by future generations, for all the plastic pollution left behind.”
Tom: “Oh, I see what you mean. But we didn’t know that plastics were going to be so dangerous.”
Marg: “But we always knew that they were made from chemicals that weren’t natural, and we knew that many of those chemicals were bad for us.”
Tom: “Yeah, I suppose we should have known, if we’d stopped to think about it.”
Marg: “It’s a bit like climate change; petroleum has given society great wealth and power but, unfortunately, future generations will have to pay the price in terms of an unstable climate.”
Marg: “But, I suppose, unlike Faust, we can stop and do something about it by keeping plastics out of our environment and cutting our greenhouse gas emissions.”
Tom: “Well, Marg, from now on I’m all for recycling things made out of poly-aeroplane!”
The signs are that a new National government would do much less than the current government has pledged to do on climate and, as a result, may undermine the pursuit of our climate commitments.
With the polls showing that the National Party has a chance to lead the government after next year’s election, it is worth wondering what they would do to promote action on climate. At the moment, Christopher Luxon and his climate spokesperson Scott Simpson are making all the right noises about continuing the present government’s programs on reducing emissions and building the nation’s resilience.
The National Party voted unanimously to support the 2019 and 2020 amendments to the Climate Change Response Act (the Zero Carbon Act) which formed the program of five yearly emissions budgets, advised by a newly formed Climate Change Commission, and reformed the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). They seem committed to carry on the present government’s climate-focussed programs.
But cracks are appearing. Matt Burgess, newly appointed as economic advisor to the National caucus, has just released a paper titled, “Pretence of Necessity; Why further climate change action isn’t needed and won’t help”. The paper’s title sums up his position.
Burgess bases his conclusions on an expected boom in exotic forestry as the price of ETS carbon credits rises, which would then offset the nation’s future emissions. There is no need to reduce emissions of long lived greenhouse gases (i.e. carbon dioxide), he argues, all we need is more pine trees to suck that CO2 back into the land.
Burgess further argues that policy levers in the forthcoming emissions reduction plan, such as levies, subsidies, regulations and bans, will be an ineffective waste of money because net emissions are already capped by the ETS. The nation’s net emissions can’t rise above the amount specified in the cap, no matter what else is done.
From a climate perspective, there are serious problems with these arguments. For one, not everyone, least of all farmers, wants a major chunk of NZ farmland converted to pine forest to generate ETS emissions offsets. There are mouths to feed and native biodiversity to protect.
Another issue is that the ETS is still not working as it should. Because the “cost containment reserve” (i.e., the maximum price) of carbon credits has been reached in two recent government auctions, the number of credits offered for auction has gone beyond that set by the cap. When the auction price exceeds the maximum, it triggers a mechanism that releases more credits for auction. The emissions cap is being routinely exceeded.
Also, there is no time limit on the validity of credits, and companies with forestry credits aren’t selling them to offset emissions. The government has essentially guaranteed that they will increase in value with time so presumably these credits have become a lucrative investment security. When these carbon credit investors decide to sell, it would allow more emissions than planned in the emissions budgets. Trade in carbon credits was never intended to become a speculators’ market.
So, there is a push within the National Party to abandon emissions reductions beyond what falls out of the ETS. If this happens and history is any guide, it could be a disaster for New Zealand’s goal of achieving our climate commitments.
The Climate Change Response Act was originally passed by Parliament in 2002 in order to satisfy the requirements of the Kyoto Protocol, an early international treaty on climate change, of which New Zealand is a signatory. The Emissions Trading Scheme was established by the then Labour government in September 2008 as a further step to satisfy our treaty obligations. Later that year, National won election and came to power.
In 2011, carbon credits traded at about $21/tonne CO2, but successive government moves to weaken the ETS resulted in the price of carbon credits dropping to just $2/tonne in 2013. Although changes were made subsequently to strengthen the ETS, by 2017, when the National government left office, the price had recovered to only $19/tonne. New Zealand lost nearly a decade of progress on emissions reductions due to mismanagement of the ETS, even as the then National government pledged to cut New Zealand’s net emissions by 30% by 2030 at the Paris Accords in 2015.
Given National’s past poor performance on climate action, it is important that we hold the Party accountable for their support of the Zero Carbon Act. We certainly can’t solely count on a flawed, limited and easily manipulated tool like the ETS to bring New Zealand’s emissions down, as Matt Burgess suggests. National needs to confirm its support for the emissions budgets established under the Zero Carbon Act and follow that with a programme of actions that will meet the legislated targets. We need to know they will not just rely on buying international credits and planting pines when there is so much else we can do.
Note: the article published in Stuff also contains a rebuttal statement from Scott Simpson, National's Climate Spokesperson.
Tom comes into the kitchen and casually drops a newspaper into the rubbish bin.
Tom: “Not much in the news yesterday. Has today’s paper arrived?”
Marg: “I haven’t checked the box. But wait a minute; did you just drop a newspaper into the rubbish? We are meant to recycle newspaper, you know.”
Tom: “It all goes to the same place anyway. What’s the use?”
Marg: “No it doesn’t. Last I read, nearly all our recycling actually goes to a recycling plant and gets recycled. Here, let’s ask Google. She’ll know.”
Tom: “Hey, when do we get to change back to the male voice? I’m feeling ganged up on lately.”
Marg: “I thought you said she sounded sexy. How about changing for your birthday?”
Tom: “OK, fair enough. Now, what were we talking about?”
Marg: “HEY GOOGLE, HOW MUCH OF OUR RECYCLING IS ACTUALLY RECYCLED?”
Google Assistant: “According to the Marlborough District Council’s website, 100% of paper collected is recycled principally into packaging products both here in New Zealand and overseas. In the financial year 2020-2021, 75% was recycled domestically and the rest overseas. The only paper that can’t be recycled is wet paper, since it leads to an inferior recycled product.”
Tom: “Well, that’s interesting. I wonder how much the other things we send to recycling actually get recycled.”
Google: “100% of cardboard, plastic, metal cans and glass are recycled, mostly here in New Zealand. In 2020-2021 65% of plastic was still sent offshore for recycling.”
Tom: “Well, Marg, I stand corrected. You were right…” (and under his breath, “this time”.)
Marg: “You should really know better, Tom. Paper, cardboard, wood and other organic material should not go to landfill. It breaks down and creates methane that leaks out of the landfills and warms the planet.”
Tom: “Wait a minute, though. Wasn’t I reading something about this a few weeks ago? Doesn’t the landfill have a way to deal with the methane?”
Google: “The Bluegums landfill has an extensive methane capture and destruction system, with underground pipes and surface wells that pump landfill gas to the surface and burn it to turn the methane into carbon dioxide. The system is under evaluation right now to see if there is enough methane to power a small electricity generation plant.”
Tom: “Turning it into CO2? Isn’t CO2 a greenhouse gas too... the main one warming the planet?”
Google: “Yes, but methane has approximately 80 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide over a 20 year period. CO2 is the lesser of two bad gas emissions, so to speak.”
Tom: “OK, it guess it is better to burn it. Well, there you go. Problem solved.”
Google: “Not quite. According to a recent inventory of the Marlborough District Council’s greenhouse gas emissions, done by consultancy Carbon EES, the Bluegums landfill is modelled to capture only 51% of the methane generated by organic material buried in the landfill. The landfill accounts for around 75% of the Council’s emissions. The Council’s 2019-2020 total emissions were 45,442 tonnes CO2 equivalent. The Council is required to purchase and surrender emissions credits for its operations, including the escaped landfill methane.”
Tom: “Wow, 45 thousand odd tonnes! That seems like a big number. So, the Council has to buy carbon credits for those emissions? What’s the price of those credits these days?”
Google: “According to Carbon News, the spot market price for a New Zealand carbon credit on the secondary market as of 18 February 2022 was $85.00 per tonne CO2.”
Tom: “Crikey! Those are big numbers! I don’t even want to know how much our emission are costing the council!
Google: “I have no information on how much the Council spends on carbon credits. The Council recovers the cost of the emissions credits through the levy on waste disposal. In other words, you pay for it.”
Marg: “OK, Tom. Now you see why it is important to recycle that newspaper?”
Tom: “Right again, darling… (and under his breath, “I hope this doesn’t get to be a habit.”)
Google: “According to my statistics on your conversations over the last 12 months, Marg has been right 83.54 percent of the time. Does that count as a habit?”
Tom: “GOOGLE, YOU NEED TO STOP LISTENING IN ON OUR CONVERSATIONS!”
“Marg, this year I want us to have a real Christmas display! I want bright lights, dancing reindeer, Santa in a sleigh, the whole thing. It has been such a difficult year with Covid and such. We need to make this Christmas special.”
Marg looks up at Tom, perplexed, “Okay… I’d agreed that it would be nice to make this Christmas special, but do we need to put up a big light show to do that? You know, the South Island supplies electricity to the North Island through an undersea cable, so any power we use here is less power we can export to the North Island, and they are still burning coal at the Huntly Power Station up there. In a sense, the power we save here prevents coal being burned at Huntly, and we’ve simply got to stop burning coal for electricity! The country’s emissions this year are through the roof!”
Tom: “HEY Google, is that true? Can our electricity use here change what goes on in the North Island?”
Google Assistant: “The country’s electrical power generation and distribution system is complicated but cuts in our electricity consumption would ultimately decrease the demand to burn coal on the North Island. Electricity conservation nationwide would decrease the amount of fossil fuel burned and the greenhouse gas emissions that go with it.”
Marg: “And Tom, we might as well get used to using less energy. As we replace fossil fuels with electricity, there is going to be a lot less electricity to go around.”
Tom: “What do you mean? We’ve got plenty of electricity here on the South Island and nearly all of it is from renewable sources.”
Marg: “Yes, that’s true, but I’ve read that only about half the country’s energy use comes from electricity. The rest is from fossil fuel. There’s petrol for cars and trucks, coal and gas for industrial processes and heating buildings, diesel, aviation fuel, bunker oil for ships… What are we going to replace all that fossil fuel power with?”
Tom: “Well, we’ve got all that Manapouri power coming available when the Tiwai Point smelter closes down. That should boost our electricity supply.”
Marg: “But will it? There is lots of talk about using that power to make green hydrogen or running a big data centre. And, I’m sure the power company doesn’t want to send much of that power into the grid, because, in our deregulated electricity market, it would lower electricity prices. Good for us, but bad for them. We may never get that Manapouri power.
Google: “Manapouri power would represent 13% more power to the country’s electrical power grid. The Climate Commission has calculated that the country will need to increase its electricity generation capacity by approximately another 28% by 2035 if New Zealand is stay on target to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.”
Marg: “I wonder where all that additional electrical power is going to come from and at what price.” We’ll need a lot more wind farms and solar farms. And not everyone wants to live next to a windfarm.”
Tom: “I’ve read that there is huge potential for windfarms offshore Taranaki. You remember how windy it was last time we were in New Plymouth?”
Google: “Offshore wind generation costs approximately three times that of onshore wind generation.”
Tom: “I don’t like the sound of that. We pay quite a bit for electricity already.”
Marg: “Well, the best way to keep electricity prices low is to use less of it. That way, there is more to go around. Saving electricity is always cheaper than adding new power stations.”
Tom: “OK, well, maybe we can set up the light show in the front yard, but only run it for a few hours in the evening.”
Marg (with a sly smile): “But Tom, if we don’t run it late into the night, how will Santa know where to deliver your Christmas presents?”
Tom: “Hummm. You’ve got a point there, darling. Maybe we can…”
Google Assistant interrupts: “Data on my servers show that there is no Santa Claus.”
These are a collection of opinion articles principally written by CKM member Tom Powell for the Marlborough Express. Tom is a retired geologist who came to New Zealand in 2004 to work in the geothermal industry on the North Island, is a New Zealand citizen and now lives in Blenheim. Some articles have been written by other CKM members, and their names appear with those articles.