Reading National’s energy policy last week I was surprised to learn that of 1942MW of new generation that has come online since 2000 1073MW of that has been thermal*.
Sure enough, John Key is going around using that as a ground for National’s policy of building more gas power plants and giving up on the target of having 90% of our power coming from renewable (ie. non-thermal) sources by 2025 – “half of new generation that has come on stream under Labour has been thermal”. Two things – that’s purposely misleading and, even if it were true it wouldn’t matter.
1) Yes, 1073MW of thermal power has come online but nearly all of that has been to replace 797MW of thermal generation that has been decommissioned. A further 155MW is the reserve plant at Whirinaki that is hardly used. So, the net increase in thermal capacity is bugger all. Nearly the net increase in electricity capacity under Labour has come from bringing online renewable sources – hydro, geothermal, wind.
2) Even if most of our new generation was thermal in the last decade, which it wasn’t, that would not in itself be a reason to continue building thermal. We need to get serious about reducing our carbon emissions, saying we should continue to increase our emissions because we have been emitting more in recent years simply does not wash. If anything, the argument that we have been slack in getting serious about reducing emissions is an argument for prioritising renewable generation in more.
I note that Gerry Brownlee is now calling for the reversal of the improved energy standards for lighting – ‘some people want to use less efficient lighting’ is his argument. Funny that he doesn’t apply that same argument to the energy efficiency standards on microwave ovens or fridges, or washing machines – political opportunism anyone? But it does explain why National is projecting electricity demand to increae at 2% annually, whereas the Ministry of Economic Development is projecting just 1.2% – under National, we would go backwards on energy efficiency.
Misleading, stuck in the past, unambitious. Sound like the energy policy for you?
*[there still seems to be some confusion out there. thermal generation means generation powered by burning things, usually fossil fuels - coal, oil, natural gas; it is not geothermal. Basically, thermal = non-renewable]