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Our Energy Upheaval

Written By: - Date published: 7:39 am, December 23rd, 2021 - 79 comments
Categories: climate change, david parker, energy, greens, james shaw, labour, megan woods, Nanaia Mahuta, science, uncategorized - Tags:

On the 9th of August this year the North Island of New Zealand had a power blackout on the coldest night of the year.

It was the first time such an event had occurred since the electricity market was formed in 1996.

According to the Minister of Energy, there were indeed “shortcomings”.

It was entirely avoidable and no household needed to have suffered a power cut even if Transpower had not deployed the demand allocation notice. The reviewers said “We find that there was no need to issue that notice, and that the system operator did so in order to further honour an equity rule embedded in the electricity code. We find that rule to be ill-conceived, and in need of prompt revision.”

Minister Woods commented that “It is also clear that the market requires much greater demand side participation if greater electrification and decarbonisation is to happen”. Well duh.

That is to say, she offloaded blame to the private sector. Of which the government is still the 51% shareholder of the key players. As well as 100% owner of Transpower. As well as 100% owner of the Electricity Authority. So harden up Minister stop offloading the blame and do your own work.

In September this year, blackouts reportedly led Chinese Vice Premier Han Zheng to instruct his country’s state-owned energy companies to secure supplies for winter at any cost.

For anyone who thinks that some communitarian small-scale generator is preferable, exhibit A is Blueskin Energy Ltd. This was a proposal from the community which went through 9 years of effort and just died by strangulation. The Dunedin City Council declined the original application on the grounds of adverse amenity impacts from one turbine. So BEL scaled it down to just one single turbine. Yup, one single turbine. The Environment Court declined consent on the basis of adverse visual amenity.

There doesn’t yet appear to be any impact from a National Policy Statement on Renewable Energy on actually getting consents to build the new renewable energy we are going to need.
No-one’s tried small-scale wind generation since.

Larger-scale solar has done somewhat better but they all take the capital of major corporate backing.

At dusk on a clear evening, if you stand on any Auckland mountain, or on Christchurch’s Port Hills, you can quickly trace by lines of red carlights where our energy is spent: it’s on combustion engines taking us all where we need to go. For the foreseeable future that will likely change only a little. Auckland is spreading as far as the eye can see, and the Auckland-Hamilton expressways will expand to Tauranga, and there follows the energy flow. Beneath the starry idealism of carbon zero, down in the dark streets is the energy challenge before us.

But to achieve the energy transition we must make, our entire energy network has to shift from the roadway to the pylon.

So huge new increased loading on to electricity networks, substations, and on generators is going to be needed to do that.

At the moment the peaks of demand are generating blackouts like we’ve never had, using volumes of coal at levels never before seen in New Zealand.

In one sense it isn’t hard to understand why people dream of a future defined by more clean energy. As greenhouse gases continue to grow, water supply droughts and tropical storms hit Auckland from now November to March. It’s real right now.

And in New Zealand it is a cruel, class-calibrated and unrelenting basic commodity, where the electricity price in Kerikeri is about 40% higher than it is for a similar household down the road in Auckland where median incomes are about 25% higher. Westport’s electricity is about 40% higher than in Christchurch which on average also has higher incomes.

In both production and consumption, we are so obviously a poorly-regulated country in dire need of strong government oversight – and we haven’t even got to discussing our carbon zero goals yet.

Some lucky countries can export electricity – one of the most daring being the massive solar project that will export electricity from near Darwin to Singapore via a stupendous undersea electricity delivery cable – the Australia Asia Powerlink.

We have, helpfully, the ability to export electricity from the south to the north. No one in either the private or public sectors seems willing to make an absolute statement about Tiwai Point or the Manapouri generation, and the Lake Onslow Battery Dam project is, TBH, at least a decade into the future if it even happens.

Proponents of clean energy hope (and sometimes promise) that in addition to mitigating climate change, the energy transition that we must make will make tensions over energy resources a thing of the past. It won’t. It’s going to get a whole lot messier before stability emerges. It will likely produce new forms of competition and confrontation long before a new, more useful political economy of energy shapes up.

These are not arguments to slow or abandon the energy transition. On the contrary New Zealand like many countries at COP 26 failed to show up with a credible plan to decarbonise (since it was pulled out of their ass 48 hours before leaving), and still have to show up in a year’s time with their actual shit together.

Ministers Wood, Shaw and Parker (Energy, Climate Change, and RMA reform respectively), must pull their eyes downward from the misty clouds of climate change and stuff multiple decades away and down into the jagged, shadowy deal-by-deal path of the transition to clean energy.

More consequential right now than the long-term geopolitical implications of a distant net-zero world (as likely as an infection-free world) are the short-term perils of:
• how to get windfarms off the ground with little scope for community resistance;
• how to renew hydro dams built 100 years ago without the water reforms smashing them;
• how to get a decent regulator that actually upholds low-income consumers without the same postal-code prejudice we see in healthcare;
• how Transpower will be given the power really grip the big 51%-state-owned generators so hard they squeak rather than take it all out on the consumer through unscrutinised Asset Management Plans

As with Mahuta’s shambolic water reforms, a failure to appreciate the unintended consequences of every do-good investor to reach net zero will not only have security and economic implications; it will also undermine the energy transition itself.

A mote of hope is found in the very, very high level “overarching goals” in the 15 December 2021 Budget Policy Statement, which calls for “Laying the foundations for the future, including key issues such as out climate change response, housing affordability, and child poverty.

Wistfully, it even has a wind farm on its cover.

It would be useful, for a start, if the government would simply admit that all its goals about energy transition are close-to impossible in transport and highly unlikely to get out of coal for a decade or two: they need to re-set to stuff we have a chance of achieving and stop the bullshit.

Indeed with a bit more cold realism they ought to be able to reach cross-Parliamentary consensus as they did with legislation for climate change and with housing density.

Otherwise it’s beginning to look like just one more crap policy initiative piling upon another.

New Zealand can ill afford more bumps on the already rough road to net zero.

79 comments on “Our Energy Upheaval ”

  1. Sanctuary 1

    That Australia-Asia PowerLink is over 4,200km. That would make installing a trans-Tasman power cable from Australia's desert more than feasible. After all, the first telecommunications cable from Australia to NZ was laid in 1876 so such work is definitely possible.

    Given the impracticability of de-carbonising coal power plants I would personally rather see 4-6 SMR (Small Modular Reactor) nuclear power plants built. These could located close to Auckland and could generate anything up to 2000 MWe on a footprint of less than 20 hectares… Marsden Point anyone?

    I know people have a massive emotional reaction to nuclear but until fusion power becomes economically viable (30 years away and possibly always will be) any attempt to decarbonise will involve massive government projects like SMRs or trans-Tasman energy cables.

    • RedLogix 1.1

      I'm aware I've banged on excessively about SMR's – but in the bigger picture I try to remember to be technology agnostic. Essentially we need to let go the purist ideology that imagines we can power modern society from solar/wind/battery alone – and let government get stuck in with the big pragmatic solutions necessary to get us de-carbonised.

      • Robert Guyton 1.1.1

        Can you provide us with a simple explanation of SMR's, RL, and a realistic timeframe for their implementation?

        • Pat 1.1.1.1

          "The construction of the world's first commercial land-based SMR started in July 2021 with the Chinese power plant Linglong One. The operation of this prototype is due to start by the end of 2026.[6]"

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Small_modular_reactor

        • dv 1.1.1.2

          SMRS
          These advanced reactors, envisioned to vary in size from tens of megawatts up to hundreds of megawatts, can be used for power generation, process heat, desalination, or other industrial uses. SMR designs may employ light water as a coolant or other non-light water coolants such as a gas, liquid metal, or molten salt.

          From google search

          • Robert Guyton 1.1.1.2.1

            Thanks, both. I'm wondering about their vulnerabilities also; are they "gifts" to terrorists, vulnerable to earthquakes, producers of dangerous dross?

            • Pat 1.1.1.2.1.1

              "The final disposal of nuclear waste poses major challenges to governments worldwide. No country has a final disposal site for nuclear waste in operation yet; Finland is the only country that is currently constructing a permanent repository. Most countries have yet develop and implement a functioning waste management strategy for all kinds of nuclear waste. Governments differ widely on their nuclear waste approaches: in trying to find a final repository, how to classify nuclear waste, which safety standards to require from operators, and how to secure funding for the ever-growing costs to pay for all of this."

              2019

              https://worldnuclearwastereport.org/

              • Robert Guyton

                Hmmmmm….

                • Pat

                  Hmmmm indeed….in a world increasingly short on energy it dosnt strike me as wise to create even more dangerous facilities that require massive amounts of energy to mitigate, (even if we knew how ) and havnt managed to in 70 years of energy abundance.

                  • Robert Guyton

                    I remember reading that the only way to even hope to keep a "deep cavern" nuclear-waste facility secure for as long as it takes for the material to … dematerialise, would be to establish an enduring religion with priests devoted to keeping it sealed forever 🙂

                    • Pat

                      Oh and to find and train those (capable) priests…..how large would the religion need to be?

                    • RedLogix

                      would be to establish an enduring religion with priests devoted to keeping it sealed forever

                      The idea that nuclear waste has to be 'sealed away forever' is not true. This is a complex technical topic that's way too much for one comment, but the basic idea with Gen 4 Waste Burners is to reduce both the volume of waste by around 99% and reduce the time needed to store it to less than a few hundred years.

                      And because radioactivity decays exponentially, the first few decades are the ones that matter in practical terms, after that it's pretty low level. Safe geologic storage is technically a very easy problem, once the hazard is properly understood and the politics are taken out of it.

              • lprent

                That would be my basic concern. New Zealand doesn't have anywhere that is geologically stable – at least not to a level that I'd consider to be remotely safe for even a half-life. Doing any study of geology in NZ just reiterates just how unstable our land forms are.

                We simply can't store any high-end nuclear waste. We can probably deal with low or medium waste – but I doubt it. No-one would be that interested.

                Transporting it offshore looks as risky as hell, and realistically you'd want to minimise the risk by taking it to the nearest stable continental mass – ie Australia. Where there are currently no facilities to either store or process high-end nuclear waste. They've barely started on deciding how to dispose of medical radioactive waste.

                Sure there are a number of new types of reactors starting to get built. When they have had 20-30 years of operation and a well established downstream cleanup approach established- then they'd be worth considering. So far I just see enthusiasm for advocates to build and operate them, and bugger all at looking at project lifetime risks.

                Until the nuclear industry gets off their arse and figures out how to dispose of their byproducts safely or not to produce high-level radioactive waste in the first place, the current generations of nuclear power plants worldwide carry long-term downstream risks. Neither approach towards safety are something that the the nuclear industry has managed to achieve anywhere in the world over the last 80 years.

                Essentially thinking that at present we can use nuclear power plants in NZ are just a stupid idea in my opinion. Just too damn risky.

                • Pat

                  For the reasons stated I'd expand that…" Essentially thinking that at present we can use nuclear power plants in NZ are just a stupid idea in my opinion. Just too damn risky."….to a global context.

                • RedLogix

                  So far I just see enthusiasm for advocates to build and operate them, and bugger all at looking at project lifetime risks.

                  You don't seem to be looking in the right places. A lot has happened in the past few years that has gotten well past the 'enthusiast' phase. Here's just one example:

            • Sanctuary 1.1.1.2.1.2

              Nuclear is nuclear. SMR's are oversold as fission panacea, but we need to be realistic – we are currently stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea and the big advantage of these SMRs is they are scalable to NZ in a wat traditional reactors are not and they'll allow for a rapid de-carbonisation. Also, due to Australia's large reserves of uranium, fuel security is a given.

              I guess the small size of these plants also means after about 100 years we can just encase the radioactive bits in concrete and drop them in a very deep watery hole somewhere in our EEZ.

              • Dennis Frank

                encase the radioactive bits in concrete and drop them in a very deep watery hole somewhere in our EEZ

                If you look here you can see feasibility: https://www.mfat.govt.nz/en/environment/oceans-and-fisheries/our-maritime-zones-and-boundaries/

                1. southern end of Kermadec trench

                2. south of Chathams rise

                3. south-east of Campbell Plateau

                Greenpeace would get triggered into complaint mode, of course…

                • Robert Guyton

                  "Greenpeace would get triggered into complaint mode, of course…"

                  Yeah, the worry-worts!

                  What harm could come to the creatures of the deep ocean, forced to share their home with a chunk of concrete-encased nuclear waste?

                  Pfffftt!

                  • Dennis Frank

                    Pragmatists would deploy the `out of sight, out of mind' principle. Wearing my purist hat, I prefer tech that consumes waste.

                    It also appeals to the aesthete in me. Plus a purist can cite the `cradle to cradle' principle…

                    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cradle_to_Cradle:_Remaking_the_Way_We_Make_Things

                  • Hunter Thompson II

                    This is what the French are doing to bury the waste: https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-26425674

                    We don't need to carry this waste, or the resultant cost.

                  • RedLogix

                    There are just much better methods of storing high level waste than dumping in the ocean. In any realistic scenario NZ would only contemplate nuclear power if Australia was already up and running with it and we could piggy back off their new storage facility which they have already selected.

                    The federal government has formally chosen a site on South Australia's Eyre Peninsula for a long-planned radioactive waste storage facility.

                    And just to be clear – we are not talking massive volumes here. Compared to every other energy source, the byproducts of nuclear power are contained, tiny in volume and easily transported.

                    The Australian continent is vast and highly stable, and they're very good at digging deep holes into it. There must be literally thousands of possible sites for such a facility in the outback. However the problem is never technical – it's always ignorant fools with an irrational, superstitious fear of radiation who're given social license to block any and every location selected:

                    However, the Barngarla traditional owners opposed the project and said they were not included in the consultation.

                    No rational argument will come from them – just 'we have been told to be frightened of it like children are of the dark'.

                    • Robert Guyton

                      "However the problem is never technical – it's always ignorant fools with an irrational, superstitious fear of radiation who're given social license to block any and ever location selected:"

                      Yeah, we've met your bugbear many times before: all who oppose nuclear power generation are know-nothing imbeciles – got it!

                      Transporting "not-massive" radioactive waste from NZ to Australia sounds entirely safe.

                    • RedLogix

                      Yeah, we've met your bugbear many times before: all who oppose nuclear power generation are know-nothing imbeciles – got it!

                      If I turned up at Riverton and started mouthing off about everything you were 'doing wrong' in your forest – you'd soon be thinking I was an annoying imbecile. Right?

                      Transporting “not-massive” radioactive waste from NZ to Australia sounds entirely safe.

                      How often do trans-Tasman merchant marine vessels sink these days? And these would be specialised shipments that could be easily routed around any weather or conditions considered a threat.

                      Here’s very accessible primer on what actually happens in fission reactors:

                    • Dennis Frank

                      Homer Simpson always struck me as an excellent role model for those employed in the nuclear power industry. His blasé attitude to his job as operator of the system accurately reflected nuclear corporate culture. I just don't get why the industry hasn't made more use out of Homer as pr tool.

                      Then there was the guy who ran Karen Silkwood off the road for Kerr McGhee. Another successful capitalist tool. There's been a puzzling trend towards diffidence since those glory days. Surely guys who know that macho bluster gets results haven't totally vanished? Oh right, Trump. Now there's a thought…

                    • RedLogix

                      Homer Simpson always struck me as an excellent role model for those employed in the nuclear power industry. His blasé attitude to his job as operator of the system accurately reflected nuclear corporate culture.

                      You do realise this is just a TV trope? The reality is the exact opposite, this is an industry so paranoid about safety it's just about put itself out of business loading up with irrational costs.

                    • joe90

                      You do realise this is just a TV trope?

                      Louis Slotin writ large.

                    • RedLogix

                      FFS Slotin was working right back at literally the dawn of the nuclear age. And immediately after that criticality incident an immediate ban of doing anything similar was put in place.

                      This has zero relevance to the modern industry.

                    • joe90

                      .. nor does Homer fucking Simpson…

                      humourless much

                      /

                    • RedLogix

                      That Simpsons intro was probably the single most potent anti-nuclear trope ever. As satire it was a bit funny the first few times – but hundreds of episodes later they were still flogging it relentlessly.

                      So yes humourless is what you get.

                    • Drowsy M. Kram

                      laugh Humour is such an individual thing – this guy gets it:

                      To Nuclear Energy Industry, ‘The Simpsons’ Was No Laughing Matter [13 March 2015]
                      Within that context [“that the show was nothing less than an attack on the very moral fiber of our country“], I chuckled as the article pointed out a 1990 Associated Press report that, “The nuclear industry is having a meltdown over ‘The Simpsons,’ and that The U.S. Council for Energy Awareness sent the show’s producers a letter “expressing their horror at watching plant workers painted as ‘bungling idiots.’“”

                      Simon, according to the article, responded apologetically and eventually toured California’s San Onofre nuclear plant in San Clemente. Subsequent to that tour, the producers declared they’d cut back on the “cheap shots” and ribbing of the industry. It should be noted that the San Onofre plant was shut down permanently in 2013 after recent modifications were deemed “unsafe and posed a danger to the eight million people living within 50 miles of the plant.

                    • RedLogix

                      I followed the San Onofre debacle in some detail. Essentially the operator put in place better, heavier steam equipment and the anti-nuclear crowd – very active and well funded in California – exploited this as a chance to close it down on purely procedural grounds claiming it was not 'like for like'. Fucking madness.

                      A prime example of the irrational and idiotic fearmongering that ignores the hard data reality that nuclear power is still one of the safest, cleanest energy sources we have ever developed.

                    • Drowsy M. Kram

                      It’s my sense that 'nuclear power' has had its day in many democracies, and the West may have to look to China for examples of how to do NextGen nuclear ‘right’.

                      Why Nuclear Power Is Bad for Your Wallet and the Climate [17 December 2021; opinion by Amory Lovins]

                      So the next time you hear some official, eager to appease every constituency, say we support “all of the above—we’re not picking and backing winners,” remember the retort by the dean of U.S. utility regulators, Peter Bradford: “No, we’re not picking and backing winners. They don’t need it. We’re picking and backing losers.

                    • RedLogix

                      It took me all of three seconds to get to the first stupid flaw in that linked article:

                      Nuclear power has bleak prospects because it has no business case. New plants cost 3–8x or 5–13x more per kWh than unsubsidized new solar or windpower

                      Which of course only applies to the existing Gen 3 designs that have been deliberately and insanely over-regulated to the point where they are of course not competitive on cost. All the Gen 4 developers understand this and openly speak to it frequently.

                      Even free reactors couldn’t compete: their non-nuclear parts cost too much.

                      Second stupid error. Most of the cost in existing Gen 3 designs arises outside of the nuclear island. In particular LWR reactors produce steam at a relatively low temperature, around 350degC which demands uniquely large, safety rated turbines and other balance of plant equipment that is indeed insanely expensive because there are only one or two companies that make them in the tiny volumes needed.

                      Most of the Gen 4 designs operate at around 750degC comparable to gas or coal steam plants – and there are literally dozens of off the shelf, much lower cost suppliers happy to compete for the business. In addition because Gen 4 handles decay heat in a passive fashion, the steam plant is no longer needed to be safety rated.

                      Furthermore because of these higher operating temps Gen 4 has the opportunity to exploit Supercritical CO2 cycles that offer incredibly compact and cost effective power generation – and ideally amenable to the idea of mass produced, factory built plants.

                      And finally while the SWB advocates always quote you the cost of the installed plant – they never headline the increased natural gas use necessary to fill the intermittency (as Europe is discovering right now) nor the increased grid complexity, fragility and costs necessary to support it.

                      I've seen this kind of poorly informed hit piece dozens of times – and this isn't a particularly good one.

                    • Drowsy M. Kram

                      I’ve seen this kind of poorly informed hit piece dozens of times – and this isn’t a particularly good one.

                      Thanks for your opinion RL. I prefer Lovins’ opinion (for all it's flaws), and don't resile from my opinion that nuclear power has had its day in many democracies.

                      Lovins does have a few honors, including a dozen honorary doctorates, under his belt, so there must be a few people (apart from me) who feel his achievements have value. Takes all kinds, eh?

                      Physicist Amory Lovins (1947– ) is Cofounder (1982) and Chairman Emeritus, and was Chief Scientist (2007–19), of Rocky Mountain Institute (https://rmi.org), with which he continues to collaborate as an independent contractor and a Trustee. He has designed numerous superefficient buildings, vehicles, and industrial plants, and synthesized an "integrative design" method and practice that can make the energy efficiency resource severalfold larger, yet cheaper, often with increasing returns. Since 1973 he has also advised major governments and firms in more than 70 countries on advanced energy efficiency and strategy, emphasizing efficiency, renewables integration, and the links between energy, resources, environment, security, development, and economy.

                      Lovins has received the Blue Planet, Volvo, Zayed, Onassis, Nissan, Shingo, and Mitchell Prizes, MacArthur and Ashoka Fellowships, 12 honorary doctorates, the Heinz, Lindbergh, Right Livelihood, National Design, and World Technology Awards, many other energy and environment recognitions, and Germany’s highest civilian honor (the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit). A Harvard and Oxford dropout, former Oxford don, honorary US architect, Swedish engineering academician, and 2011–18 member of the US National Petroleum Council, he has taught at ten universities (most recently the US Naval Postgraduate School and Stanford's School of Engineering as spring 2007 MAP/Ming Visiting Professor, returning in 2020 – as Adjunct Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering) – teaching only subjects he hasn’t formally studied, so as to cultivate beginner’s mind. In 2009, Time named him one of the world’s 100 most influential people, and Foreign Policy, one of the 100 top global thinkers. His most recent books, mostly coauthored, include Natural Capitalism (1999), Small Is Profitable (2002), Winning the Oil Endgame (2004), The Essential Amory Lovins (2011), and Reinventing Fire (2011). His avocations include fine-art landscape photography (the profession of his wife Judy Hill Lovins, http://www.judyhill.com), music, writing, orangutans, great-ape language, linguistics, and Taoist thought.

                    • RedLogix

                      I pointed out at least two stupid mistakes Lovins has made – and you still openly prefer his stupidity because it aligns with your ideology.

                      That says it all really. It’s my firm belief your professed concern about climate is entirely performative.

                    • Drowsy M. Kram

                      [edit] I suspect that Lovins would disagree (about “his stupidity”.)

                      We are each burdened with evolving idealogies, and some evolve faster than others. Tbh, your most recent comment reinforces my take on the relative merits of your and Lovins’ opinions.

                    • RedLogix

                      Lovins arrives at predetermined idiotic conclusions because he simply doesn't understand what's he's talking about. By contrast I outlined two concrete examples of where he is flat out wrong on the facts.

                      When it comes to understanding engineering – the details matter. Appeals to out of date authority don't cut mustard.

                    • Drowsy M. Kram

                      That says it all really. It’s my firm belief your professed concern about climate is entirely performative.

                      I similarly have firm beliefs about professed concerns being entirely self-interested. Maybe hyper-energisation will be spaceship Earth’s and civilisation’s salvation – maybe.

                      Changing our ways? Behaviour change and the climate crisis
                      https://www.rapidtransition.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Cambridge-Sustainability-Commission-on-Scaling-behaviour-change-report-Recommendations.pdf

                    • RedLogix

                      A quick scan of that link shows a lot of social engineering waffle like this:

                      But they also need to target behaviour hotspots. For example, the carbon emissions of the average European diet are around 1,070kg CO₂ equivalent per year, but meat, eggs and dairy make up 83% of those GHG emissions. In terms of the more socially embedded behaviours – like flying and meat-eating – policy measures can be effective ways of institutionalising and generalising emerging social trends towards sustainable behaviour change. Key areas might be car use, aviation, zero carbon housing (and size of housing), support for renewable energy and dietary change.

                      And to achieve this 'for the greater good' will our digital passports be extended to enforce 'climate mandates'? I'm guessing you'd be a big supporter of the authoritarianism necessary to impose these constraints globally forever.

                      Otherwise this document is very light on is any actual engineering details to support it's vision.

                    • RedLogix

                      And because I tend to actually look at the references people provide, I find all sorts of interesting things. For example:

                      Likewise, charges of hypocrisy are levelled at anyone advocating for more radical action on global heating (for inconsistency if they fly, for example) as a deliberate strategy to silence advocates on the part of those resistant to change. Claims have and will be made that freedoms are under threat (to travel as we please and eat what we like). These powerful narratives need counter-narratives about managing privileges (of the few) in order to protect the many. It is about containing anti-social conduct and living within our means: a notion people readily accept in other domains of life.

                      Right there in bold – the goal is overtly 'managing the privileges of the few'. Seems all very plausible until you realise that the 'privileges' most ordinary people today enjoy – such as access to medical treatment – were just a few generations ago 'privileges' enjoyed only by a tiny elite. So what does this say about our future?

                      The unspoken assumption behind this document is that human development is a 'bad thing' and therefore a hand-brake must be yanked on – forever.

                    • Drowsy M. Kram

                      And because I tend to actually look at the references people provide…

                      Another self-congratulatory pat on the back – nicely done.

                      I'm guessing you'd be a big supporter of the authoritarianism necessary to impose these constraints globally forever.

                      Guess again. I do favour prudent responses to the worst pandemic in a century – temporary inconveniences and constraints may naturally feel like "forever" to some; me not so much.

                      And, tbf, by and large the golden billion doesn't mind a little authoritarianism, just so long as it preserves the status quo.

                      Hungry in a world of plenty: millions on the brink of famine
                      Famine does not arrive suddenly or unexpectedly, it comes after months of procrastination and ignored warnings. It is a slow agonizing process, driven by callous national politics and international indifference.” – Nigel Timmins, Oxfam

                      I'm guessing you’d be dismissive of anything and anyone that didn't jibe with your worldview – maybe such mindsets will prolong this iteration of civilisation a little longer, "But at the laste, as every thing hath ende". Cherish the good times, RL – I do.

                    • RedLogix

                      I'm guessing you’d be dismissive of anything and anyone that didn't align with your worldview – maybe that mindset will prolong this iteration of civilisation a little longer,

                      And will you recall how openly contemptuous I am of nihilistic 'worldviews' that gleefully embrace the collapse of civilisations, yet refuse to speak to the death of billions they necessarily imply.

                      The common thread to all of your contributions on this theme is an obsession with 'shrinking the share' of the developed world as your sole response. And you present no idea of how to maintain this shrinking forever into the future as would be necessary. This is such a useless, unworkable pathway it speaks more of a pathological resentment of anyone better off than you – than any concern for the problem.

                      By contrast my position is crystal clear – I demand solutions that get the other 6.5b or so of people in the developing world out of poverty – and leap-frogged into modernity. And that will take all the ingenuity and engineering skill we can muster.

                      Oh and in a world that produces way more food than it can consume – famine is an expression of political incompetence more than anything else.

                    • Drowsy M. Kram

                      And will you recall how openly contemptuous I am…

                      Could hardly miss it – open contempt has no doubt served you well.

                      Fwiw I'm agnostic when it comes to the use of nuclear power for energy generation (James Lovelock is a 102 year old(ie) but persuasive goodie) – just nimby, OK? If new generation can be rolled out safely, and on the necessary scale, in a timely manner, then go for it – I'll be waiting, and waiting…

                      Re those who "gleefully embrace the collapse of civilisations", they deserve nothing but contempt – almost as much contempt as I feel for those who misrepresent the views of those they disagree with.
                      sad

                      Btw, I agree that political incompetence is a contributing factor when it comes to mitigating famine, poverty and inequality.

                    • RedLogix

                      If new generation can be rolled out safely, and on the necessary scale, in a timely manner, then go for it – I'll be waiting, and waiting…

                      We had the technology decades ago. The original MSR-E reactor was a successful developmental milestone in 1965 and if we really wanted to we could have a fleet of 500MW Thorcon style reactors up and running within 2 years. (And that's just one version – there are at least five or six parallel design pathways in the Gen 4 portfolio that are all being actively developed to address different aspects of the challenge as we speak.)

                      As Ad notes elsewhere in this post – the real problem for nuclear power is that it's "universally if irrationally feared and loathed". Just waiting isn't going to solve that problem – except make the climate crisis worse.

                      Lovelock is by no means the only high profile environmentalist to embrace nuclear; Hansen, Monbiot, Schellenberger, and Moore are just a few of the more recognised names who come to mind. In the meantime nations that have not been subject to quite so much Greenie fearmongering are busy getting on with it:

                    • Drowsy M. Kram

                      We had the technology decades ago.

                      Technology is one thing – safe and timely rollout at scale another.
                      "When you wish upon a star…"

                      …if we really wanted to we could have a fleet of 500MW Thorcon style reactors up and running within 2 years.

                      Then 'we' must not want to (enough) – so simply exercise a bit of authority and go for it, why not? Just don't let open contempt for "Greenie fearmongering" trip you up.

                      Lovelock is by no means the only high profile environmentalist to embrace nuclear…

                      I'm well aware, believe it or not, but thanks for the links.

                      This is such a useless, unworkable pathway it speaks more of a pathological resentment of anyone better off than you.

                      Sigh. Fwiw, one of the reasons I'm shrinking my carbon hoofprint and sharing my wealth is because I'm better off than most.

                      Try letting go of this fearful envy obsession – envious of others, fearful of those you believe are envious of you – it's unhealthy, imho.

                      Why the politics of envy are keenest among the very rich
                      The result is "a quarter-century of intermittent lobbying, cajoling and threatening when it comes to his net worth listing". In 2006, the researcher responsible for calculating his wealth writes, "when Forbes estimated that the prince was actually worth $7 billion less than he said he was, he called me at home the day after the list was released, sounding nearly in tears. 'What do you want?' he pleaded, offering up his private banker in Switzerland. 'Tell me what you need.'"

                      Contempt, or pity – your choice.

              • lprent

                Thoughtless idiot.. We have enough of a problem at present with dumping heat and CO2 into the oceans. That also has an ongoing effect of thousands of years downstream. Why would we want to add even more long-life pollutants into a fluid medium to solve a different problem?

      • Ad 1.1.2

        If you were a CFO in Hitachi or GE or Genesis, how hard a prospect if an MBIE rep pitched for New Zealand to have a nuclear plant proposal?

        They would laugh.

        – our ppp record is bad,

        – regulator likely to endure upheaval,

        – legislative framework up in the air,

        – only 1 city near 2 million,

        – water allocation up in the air

        – current government prefers baseload to be taken by South Island hydro battery

        – no expertise onshore, for 1-off project

        – universally if irrationally feared and loathed

        • Robert Guyton 1.1.2.1

          Not a contender then.

        • RedLogix 1.1.2.2

          All good points Ad. And note that all of them related to political deficiencies rather than engineering issues.

          You will note that till now I've not pushed for Gen 4 nuclear in NZ for all of the reasons you mention above. Largely because the CO2 from our electricity sector is pretty damned tiny and we'd be a lot better off investing in our agricultural methane issue.

          However as you OP points out electrification of our transport sector is only going to increase the pressure on burning coal for electricity in NZ. At that point we're facing a few options – geothermal might go some of the distance, but it too suffers from the same core problem LWR nuclear reactors have – the steam temperature is typically too low and the equipment necessary can be both large and expensive. Because there are few decent locations for it in the world, it will always be a niche technology that will struggle to deliver on it’s promise I suspect. (Happy to be proven wrong on this.)

          SWB renewables will go some of the distance as well, but as penetration rises the grid costs associated with it's intermittency rise as well. In a rather dramatic non-linear fashion. Plus it's not like NZ has a lot of spare low value landscape it's willing to tolerate being covered up with solar farms and wind towers.

          That means that in the long-term some form of next generation nuclear will have to be considered. In a decade or so Australia will get it's act together on this and in due course NZ can ride on the coat-tails.

  2. All power to the Environment Court for refusing consent for visually intrusive wind turbines. Wind has great potential offshore, as has been found in the UK, and in a few less sensitive landscapes, but is not suitable where it wrecks views of important landscapes-I have seen some terrible wind turbine examples in Spain, and some good large scale solar installations (also seen in Australia).

    Solar power is the way to go-much less visually intrusive and only marginally more expensive than onshore wind power and getting cheaper all the time.

    https://www.forbes.com/sites/mikescott/2020/04/30/solar-and-wind-costs-continue-to-fall-as-power-becomes-cleaner/?sh=38e87250785f

    https://www.popsci.com/story/environment/cheap-renewable-energy-vs-fossil-fuels/

    • Sanctuary 2.1

      The average depth of the North Sea is 90m, and it is a relatively sheltered piece of water. The average depth of the Tasman sea is 5400m and the Pacific ocean in 3000m. Both coasts of NZ are exposed to the open for at least 2000km in any direction. Quite where we might locate wind power "offshore" escapes me.

      • Bearded Git 2.1.1

        Fair comment. However there is capacity for 11GW of offshore wind power (and possibly much more) according to a forum held on the issue (see below) and an 800MW offshore windfarm is under investigation in Taranaki where the towers are chained to the ocean floor (see below).

        https://www.venture.org.nz/assets/Offshore-Wind-Discussion-Paper.pdf

        https://www.rivieramm.com/news-content-hub/news-content-hub/new-zealand-has-7gw-fixed-and-lsquoalmost-unlimitedrsquo-potential-for-floating-wind-62375

        But my preference is for solar, the costs of which continue to plummet.

        • Sanctuary 2.1.1.1

          I didn't know about that Taranaki proposal, I will read those links!

          the possible current best site for "offshore" wind power is the Kaipara harbour, where a couple of hundred wind turbines in conjunction with a tidal power scheme could produce anything up 2000 MW of power. But here is the rub – attempts to launch such schemes run into such a barrage of Green and Iwi luddism that makes such projects practically impossible for private companies. But we have to accept that any transition to a non-carbon future is going to involve some trade offs. IMHO, a degraded view from the Woodhill forest bombing range is a minor price to pay for de-carbonising our world.

          • Bearded Git 2.1.1.1.1

            My point is the trade offs needed do not mean we have to accept massive industrial towers spoiling landscape values-it is not necessary to do this. Large-scale solar sites have adverse landscape effects-but in IMHO these are a lot less than huge wind turbines.

            The Woodhill forest may have limited landscape values and so be one of the areas turbines can be located-I have no idea.

            (The mention of bombing range sounds like an attempt to justify turbines but I doubt the effects of bombing will have long term landscape effects that are impossible to mitigate.)

        • Ad 2.1.1.2

          Lodestone's developments don't have any consents yet. And their proposed Kaitaia ant really just supports 1 factory.

          Until then, wind alone is the mode making any difference to reliable supply.

    • kejo 2.2

      We live in the "roaring 40,s"

      • lprent 2.2.1

        Down south we do. The problem is that most of the power demand is in the placid 30s.

        Our electricity grid isn’t that good at shifting power from (for instance) Invercargill to Auckland without large losses. It is also pretty crap at adding simple things like rooftop solar into the local grid. It also doesn’t handle anything except slow startup base load power in the north like Huntly.

        Personally I’d start by attacking those basic grid problems. Updating the hydro on the Waikato would be a good start. Those are dams put in with 1920s technology – and they are local to the major power usage areas of Auckland Hamilton & Tauranga – far past the southern power reach.

        After that I’d look at more baseline power.

        • ghostwhowalksnz 2.2.1.1

          Dams dont matter about the year they are built.

          Genesis has started a $7.7 million project to upgrade ageing turbines at one of its power stations deep in the bush near Lake Waikaremoana

          The Piripaua power station is part way through a two-year overhaul of its two generators, first commissioned in 1943.

          The 42MW station is one of three in Genesis' Waikaremoana Power Scheme, generating electricity for the East Coast and Hawke's Bay.

          This has happened at many hydro stations, especially the pre -1960s ones

          • RedLogix 2.2.1.1.1

            Yes. Water infrastructure like this has several different lifecycles going on. The civil works may well be pretty much fixed for 80 -120 years or more. But in that period the mechanical works – the turbine, pumps, valves and pipes will be upgraded at least twice, and the electrical/control systems piece maybe every 15 – 20 years.

            So what can look very old on the outside can be quite modern on the inside.

  3. Stephen D 3

    I've never read a satisfactory reason why Crest Energy's Kaipara sea floor turbine trial was shut down. Always seemed a good idea.

    http://www.crest-energy.com/

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaipara_Tidal_Power_Station

  4. Patricia Bremner 4

    Anyone here got Solar Zero? Any information would be great.

    • Graeme 4.1

      Went a wee way down that rabbit hole. Turned around pretty quickly.

      They want to use your roof to put their solar panels on, store the energy produced in their battery sited on your property, then sell the energy on spot market when prices are high.

      The only advantages I could see in the deal was you got to look cool and have panels on your roof, and the system may have provided a backup power supply for when Aurora's network fails, but I got conflicting information on that aspect so bailed.

      • Dennis Frank 4.1.1

        conflicting information

        `white man, him speak with forked tongue'

        In the longstanding tradition of many Native American tribes, "speaking with a forked tongue" has meant lying This phrase was also adopted by Americans around the time of the Revolution… According to one 1859 account, the native proverb that the "white man spoke with a forked tongue" originated as a result of the French tactic of the 1690s, in their war with the Iroquois, of inviting their enemies to attend a Peace Conference, only to be slaughtered or captured. 🥶

        devil the devil's always in the detail

  5. Pat 5

    Without the technical and administrative expertise (MoWD) available to the government (of any hue) we are only ever going to get high level sound bites and inaction….and rebuilding the required expertise will take too long,.

    Whether its a lack of political will or simply an absence of capability matters not in the grand scheme of things because the end result is the same.

  6. bwaghorn 6

    Cough couch cough fusion cough .

    Getting closer, cant link from article for some reason but they started a nice little fire in September apparently,

  7. Michael Delceg 7

    Last week I went to Parliament as a representative for Grey Power to talk to the Energy Minister about our policies. I accompanied our president and another member as the energy advisory group representative. We had several issues. The government had removed the Low Fixed User Charge which adversely affects many of our members who had received a discount for low consumption. This had been done on the advice of the distribution companies here who argued that it unfairly led to other users being charged more. We pointed out that this was going to lead to increased suffering for those who could not afford to pay more such as those on National Super. I also pointed out that this was a poor application of Utilitarianism which had been thoroughly critiqued in the past for that very reason. I noted that the money set aside to deal with this problem had so far only been used to set up a budgeting service for those affected. I was assured that more would be done with the money. I suggested that supplying energy conservation items like insulation, heat pumps and LED lightbulbs would be appropriate, as this has been done in some areas already. I also stated our position that while a smart grid was essential with more infrastructure including renewable energy production and storage, the cost for these developments should not be passed on to current consumers but should be taken from the profit margins of the companies involved. The government could encourage this with Prepurchase Agreements, as has been done in Australia. I thought that the meeting went well from our end, but we shall see what comes of it. This was my first trip to Parliament.

    If you're around 50 or over, you can join Grey Power and support our efforts, and put lie to the claim that Boomers don't care.

  8. This is a neat vision… lots of solar and wind

  9. Jackel 9

    On the demand side, outlaw all drivers licences except those required as part of certain occupations and make exemptions for those driving hydrogen powered vehicles or non-coal generated electric vehicles. Are you double hydrogened? So everyone would have to walk, bike, catch an electric bus or take an electric train until they got a hydrogen vehicle or a non-coal generated electric vehicle . This should dramatically reduce our carbon footprint.

  10. Stuart Munro 10

    It's time the corruption was cleared out of the NZ electricity sector. We used to have cheap power – the result of hydro projects the public paid for. But one NZ power bill would cover a year's consumption in Korea now – and I'm using the same or less power.

    The sector needs a redesign from basic principles – Why the hell are we paying such a globally excessive rate? So government can gladhand tax cuts to the corporate sector?

    • Sanctuary 10.1

      It isn't corruption, it is working as designed – the organised transfer upwards of money from most of us to line the pockets of the shareholders of power companies that are natural monopolies and were gifted taxpayer assets. Neoliberalism is, at heart, nothing more than a swindlers dream come true and most of it’s supporters merely grifters looking for their angle.

      Heartless as it is, neoliberalism is designed to be impervious to demands for change until literally the revolution breaks out. Take the UK, now utterly in the grip of a shallow, unreformable, corrupt, incompetent, brutal and callous Oxbridge ruling class. It expends most of it's legislative energy nowadays in legalising swindlers and grifters raiding the public purse and passing draconian laws to limit and circumscribe dissent and protest. Nothing will change in the UK until a street revolution occurs, something which if it is pushed with any determination will result in what would be previously unimaginable state violence in a country like the UK.

      Chile, the poster child of neoliberalism in South America, required a near revolution with dozens dead, thousands injured and tens of thousands detained to force change.

      The United States stands on the brink of street civil war, largely due to the forces of the four horsemen of neoliberalism – massive inequality, near unbridled state violence against the disadvantaged, crony capitalism and a recklessly partisan far right media environment.

      NZ, so far, has escaped the sort of authoritarianism and state violence that you see repeated everywhere in the advanced decay of the neoliberal experiement. So far, as a country, the suggestion of political violence is met by deference and concilatory noises from the government. But if we want change in something like the way our electricity sector is organised then we are going to need our own "30 peso" moment. Because only then will the government move to actually do anything about the rort of our power prices.

      • Ad 10.1.1

        The pre-1997 electricity regime isn't ever coming back. Ever.

        There will never be an Allende, a Whitlam, or a Mitterand in New Zealand. Gone.

        Just permanently cauterise that little piece of utopian death-joy from your mind.

        There will now only be the likelihood of small consistent tilts at large corporate gentailers.

        From that basis and only that basis, let's get to work.

  11. weston 11

    Wierd scenes all this talk of what will we do bla bla bla about our power needs obviously not one commenter is selfsuffient energy wise at least in terms of powering their abode and i have to ask why ??? its never been easier

    • Hunter Thompson II 11.1

      Icewind, a Scandivanian outfit, seem to have some interesting ideas.

      https://icewind.is/

      And we could always just use less energy too, but that conflicts with the politicians' dream of infinite growth on a finite planet …

    • Michael Delceg 11.2

      I for one generate most if not all the electricity that I use, including driving a plug in hybrid. My total bill last year was $350, despite the wretched payback tariffs we endure here. Dealing with the household energy mix and government involvement is an ongoing problem and will involve continued struggle against a right wing that never sleeps. I suspect that you have misjudged many of the commenters here.

      • weston 11.2.1

        Im just relieved someone is not just moaning about power supplies etc but has helped themselves to be as independent as they can afford etc When you look around at rooftops there seems to be some uptake of solar and its definately increasing but idoubt if ive misjudged "many" of the commenters here .More than happy to be proved wrong !!

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    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • New Ambassador to China announced
    Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta today announced the appointment of Grahame Morton as New Zealand’s next Ambassador to China. “Aotearoa New Zealand and China share a long and important relationship,” Nanaia Mahuta said. “As we mark 50 years of diplomatic relations between our nations, we are connected by people-to-people links, ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • 1.4 million hectares of wilding pine control work in two years
    1.4 million hectares of native and productive land have been protected from wilding conifers in the past two years and hundreds of jobs created in the united efforts to stamp out the highly invasive weeds, Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor said. Speaking today at the 2022 Wilding Pine Conference in Blenheim, Damien ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • HomeGround – “a place to come together, a place to come home to”
    After 10 years’ hard mahi, HomeGround - Auckland City Mission's new home – is now officially open. “It’s extremely satisfying to see our commitment to providing a safety net for people who need housing and additional support services come together in a place like HomeGround, to create a better future ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago