A policy paper has been released on how the Government’s goal of 90% renewable electricity generation by 2025 can be achieved. Micro-hydro projects and small-scale wind turbines will deliver power to rural areas. Reversibility of new generation will be built into new schemes as part of a more intense focus on sustainability. Solar power will be more intensely exploited (inventions like printable, flexible solar panels will help) and energy efficiency will be a priority. Large wind and geo-thermal projects already in the pipeline will be needed but the focus will then shift to a more decentralised, efficient electricity system. Overtime, existing fossil fuel generation will be taken offline. All of this should deliver dependable, sustainable, low-carbon electricity.
It looks like a pragmatic and feasible programme, and, as Trevor Mallard says, it ‘won’t require damming every river and putting wind turbines on every ridge line’.
The elephant in the room, however, is transport energy. Over the next decades, as the price of oil keeps rising and supply dries up, we will have to start generating more of the energy for transport from power plants (whether to power electric and hybrid cars directly or for use in producing hydrogen). Currently, the amount energy we use from oil in transport is roughly equivalent to amount of the energy we use that is generated as electricity. We’re either going to need to a lot more electricity than has been planned for, or we’ll have to get out and push.
[National's energy policy, due out later today, should offer an intersitg contrast]