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Mythbusting: Half of new generation is thermal

Written By: - Date published: 9:54 am, August 22nd, 2008 - 16 comments
Categories: climate change, economy, election 2008, national - Tags:

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]

16 comments on “Mythbusting: Half of new generation is thermal ”

  1. lukas 1

    SP one of the main concerns most people have with the energy efficient bulbs was well highlighted in the latest edition of Investigate and TGIF Edition (www.tbr.cc)

    Also GB mentioned it in his press release…

    “With the fire service considering the safety of energy efficient bulbs, Mr Brownlee says many of his colleagues have been fielding complaints from the public about the conventional light-bulb ban.

    “Labour should be listening to those concerns.”

  2. lukas. CFLs have been standard in the EU and US for years. They haven’t burned down yet.

    This is the same kind of excuse that the righties come up with every time. It’s actually quite Luddite. I can imagine you opposing the replacement of gas street lights with electric because it was unholy.

  3. lukas 3

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/4660717a11.html just one recent example SP

    http://www.investigatemagazine.com/tgif15aug08.pdf I know you don’t like Ian, but have a look at this (he even gives The Standard a mention).

  4. bill brown 4

    Lukas,

    Here’s a scientific explanation of the safety of CFLs.

    I suggest you do some critical reading before alighting on the “truth”.

    Are Compact Fluorescent Bulbs A Fire Hazard?

    How can a captcha of “energies short” be a coincidence?

  5. lukas 5

    BB, I work with plastics all day specifying them for certain retail products and providing advice to product engineers around plastics etc. Burning plastic is no good for anyone!

  6. infused 6

    Heh the same old problem with Labour eh. They just don’t listen.

  7. I just wonder with Wishart though, how he makes an article on CFL’s go back to Labour’s rainbow agenda and Helen Clark’s sexuality?

  8. bill brown 8

    Lukas,

    Sorry, I did not realise you were in the industry so I did not give the full information source.

    If you follow this link:
    UL Sets the Record Straight on Safety and Compact Fluorescent Lamps

    The original, unabridged text, is given.

    The statement:

    safety standards require the use of special flame retardant plastics in the base that do not burn or drop particles

    Should assuage your fears.

    I suppose the lesson is really that we should ensure that products we buy are accredited by a testing laboratory such a UL to ensure our safety.

  9. lukas 9

    PP… where does that happen?

    BB, no problem.

    Just read that link. It still concerns me though, sure you can put a flame retardant in the plastic when you are manufacturing, assuring quality of it is another thing!

    The smoke emitted by burnt plastic, flame retardant or not, is still likely to be toxic, let alone the potential for house fires involved in the sparks.

    Does anyone know if there are any CE standards for these bulbs?

  10. insider 10

    lukas

    The Phillips one I have in my hand has a CE symbol but doesn’t give the standard number. I don;t think you can put the CE mark on without achieveing a standard.

    Isn’t the flame retardant plastic a precaution due to the presence of an electronic ballast in the housing?

  11. insider 11

    Steve

    What you are saying is that new thermal doesn’t count “because it…doesn’t count because…I don’t think it should. Oh and Whirinaki never runs, except this year when it was the difference between lights on and lights off.”

    To then say new thermal doesn’t count because it ‘replaced’ other thermal argues a cause and effect that does not exist. What did e3p replace? What about Huntly p40? Otahuhu B?

    ANd then you say black is white because effectively no new thermal was built despite thermal capacity in NZ increasing about 20% over the decade.

    And what about Rodney, Stratford, Bromley, Otahu C? Do those plans not count either?

  12. insider 12

    IN addition, the 2% power growth is probably far more reliable than the 1.2% med figure. That is aspirational whereas the 2% figure is what we actually have done. Even over the last 10 years it was 2% growth year on year according to MED figures. Efficiency has never delivered the kind of gains that would be needed to reduce demand growth by 40% and there is nothing to indicate it will in future.

  13. Matthew Pilott 13

    insider, Steve points out that 797MW of thermal has been decommissioned, and 1073MW commissioned. If you’re confused perhaps you should ask for the data soruce, it seems you’re asking the wrong questions.

    It’s disingenuous to say, for example, e3p replaced a specific plant. E3p added required capacity. It’s not tit-for-tat, it’s about overall capacity.

  14. Lukas 14

    “insider
    August 22, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    lukas

    The Phillips one I have in my hand has a CE symbol but doesn’t give the standard number. I don;t think you can put the CE mark on without achieveing a standard.”

    ok, i thought there would be some CE standards they had to achieve. Your products get destroyed if you put the mark on without actually achieving the standard.

    The flame retardant would be put in there to help achieve their CE rating. I know of plumbing products that have to have flame retardant.

  15. polaris 15

    Dealing first with demand:

    – Historical growth rate over last 30 years – 2.2%
    – Electricity Commission predictions in Briefing to Incoming Minister in 2005 – 2.7% tailing down to around 2%

    Labour government predictions to 2025 – 1.2%

    Doesn’t make sense. Electricity efficiency will not halve our electricity demand growth.

    Secondly in terms of thermal:

    – Key did not say “we should continue to increase our emissions because we have been emitting more in recent years” as you state – that is deliberately misleading. The claim that “more than half of new generation in the past decade has been thermal” was used in the context of saying that the government has a poor record on renewable generation – which is true.

    – You say that new thermal replacing decomissioned thermal doesn’t matter – but renewable generation like hydro, wind etc could have replaced that thermal capacity. The reality is that this was the government that gave a guarantee over gas supply to allow Genesis to build a massive new 385 MW plant at Huntly.

    National’s approach to me seems a sensible one. Encourage renewables through RMA reform and an ETS that puts a price on carbon, but be realistic about the reliability of gas and the importance it already plays in our electricity system.

    You won’t find anybody who supports the thermal ban other than greenpeace. All the generators are opposed, as are groups like the Business Council for Sustainable Development. The policy is non-sensical.

  16. bill brown 16

    Lukas,

    The EC’s requirements are listed in This link.

    Safety standards to be met to get CE in part 1.2.

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