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Renewable energy policy

Written By: - Date published: 11:52 am, August 14th, 2008 - 22 comments
Categories: economy - Tags:

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]


22 comments on “Renewable energy policy”

  1. rich 1

    National, of course, want to build lots of gas powered stations so that we’re dependent on imported gas and pumping out loads of CO2.

    Is 90% by 2025 based on current electricity usage? Personally, i think we need to get to 120% or more so that we can both cut out direct use of fossil fuel for heating and replace oil driven transport.

    That’s perfectly doable – there will of course be a landscape loss to do it, but less so than having the Hauraki plains turn into ocean and the Waikato into desert.

  2. I’m not suggesting that cars aren’t part of the mix, but we could greatly reduce the amount of energy needed in transport with serious support of cycling and upgraded public transport.

  3. rich 3

    Not to mention changing where we live and work. We need to get more people living and working either within walking distance or close to public transport hubs.

    Allowing urban sprawl development is just making things worse.

  4. outofbed 4

    Any faint hope that the Greens would go with National in any post election negotiations must be well and truly dead now.
    Repeal of the RMA to favour growth at the expense of the environment and now there a 1950’s energy policy.
    So only UF left then

  5. George, I agree. Even the most optimsitic projections on alternative fuels for cars only have small percentages of the fleet off oil by 2025… so I think we’ll see a decline in car use instead.. nontheless top the extent petrol is replaced by electricity, we’ll need lots more generation.

    rich. The 90% figure is for 2025 demand. I’m working on a post on the Nat policy… it’s lots of complaining and pretty vague actual policies.. as you point out the big questions is where would they stick the gas power plants and where would the gas come from? (they’re optimistic about gas offshore but even that would need expensive infrastructure we dont’ currently have)

  6. Jasper 6

    Urban sprawl is always going to happen regardless. I read somewhere that we have around 45% of land still available to supply the appropriate demand for housing. We’re what, 30% short on the housing supply?
    The real trick is for the councils to get some gumption and require that any new developments need to cater for

    – extended rail lines
    – appropriate bus routes to be planned and catered for
    – removing the double garage + additional parking for 3 cars that all new homes seem to have.
    – appropriate walkways for people to walk a direct line to train stations, bus stations etc without having to circumnavigate entire blocks.

  7. rich 7

    Auckland has around the same land area as London, a city of five times the population. At international densities, the whole population of NZ could be accomodated in the Auckland City area.

    What’s needed is a statutory green belt and no-build zone around existing cities. Construction needs to be on brown-field sites and by densification (replacing those double garaged houses with apartments).

    Not that I have any hope that this will happen before petrol hits $10 a litre, ordinary people can’t afford car commuting and the edge developments turn into slums. (As has happened in Sydney where the outer west is beyond reasonable commuting distance of the city centre).

    (Incidentally, siting isn’t really a problem for a gas power station – they are about the size of a medium industrial unit and can be tucked into the corner of a switchyard. Unfortunately).

  8. Yeah, but what community is going to want a thermal power plant in their neighbourhood?

  9. Patrick 9

    Who is going to want to see their power bills continue to increase as the global price of natural gas continues to increase at a phenomenal rate?

  10. Draco TB 10

    Solar Stirling Now if I just had somewhere to put one. Solar panels are starting to look good as well. Distributed power generation is incredibly viable means to power a civilization. It’s just a pity that there hasn’t been any incentives set up for people to do so.

    Best way to get more people using public transport is higher density housing ie, multistory apartment buildings. It’s also a hell of a lot cheaper than the 1/4 acre sprawl that we seem to want to cling to.

  11. Draco TB 11

    Spam blocked again 🙁

  12. vto 12

    Micro-hydro? What are? My 2c says no more dams. At all. It is a pointless way to produce power in that at some point in the future power will have to be produced without hydro because it will all be used up and there will be no more room for anymore dams. This is a fact.

    At that point the power producers will have to think outside the square in how to produce power.

    So there is a very simple decision – either think outside the square now and save the rivers, or think outside the square later and destroy the rivers. It is an inescapable proposition.

    Though I am sure the rivers could be used without damming them.

    Unless by micro you mean the type I heard about just a few weeks ago. Super-micro hydro that runs off your downpipes. Now, that is thinking outside the square. Bwilliant!

  13. Quoth the Raven 13

    vto – You’ll be happy with what David Parker said today then:
    “I am confident we’ll have alternatives which don’t require us to dam even more of our ever-dwindling number of unmodified rivers.”

    Mr Parker added the Government would not bow to pressure from Contact to change the Resource Management Act to make it easier to develop such projects.

    I think it was one of the interviews with Mikey Havoc where Key defended project Aqua. Havoc called it a dog’s breakfst. With National planning to gut the RMA (you know that public consultation you were talking about vto) there could be some people living in lakes.

  14. Roby110 14

    VTO micro hydro can be a vey mall turbine in the creek behind your house. I stayed with friends in Arizona that produced all their power needs with a largish wind turbine (about 40m from house0 and a micro turbine installed in a waterfall behind thir house. The even put some power back ino the grid. easy

  15. Felix 15

    vto I’ve often wondered about drainpipes too. And water mains – think of all the pressure every time you turn on a tap.

    Are there any smart cookies out there who know about how / if this kind of stuff could work?

    And what about all those bikes at the gym? Is all that kinetic energy being squandered?

  16. vto 16

    ya. all of the above.

    I just ran my argument above re river usage on the Central Plains Water scheme hearings in Canterbury a few days ago. Think/hope it came across well. Got a couple of applauses at the end so thats something.

    And yes I have often wondered why rivers need damming. Just stick the turbine in the river – dont even need a dam. Thats pretty much the way it used to be done. Simple.

  17. T-Rex 17


    The turbine in downpipe idea occurred to me a couple of years back – sadly I ran the numbers and it’s a total waste of time. Just quickly:.

    100m2 roof
    2m vertical drop
    10mm rain/hour (that is properly p*ssing down)
    -> 1000kg of water * 2m * 9.8 = 19600 J/hour

    9800/3600 (seconds in an hour) = 5.44 Watts.

    So, from a small to moderate sized house, with no losses, during a rainstorm, you would get about enough to power half a CFL, or, to put it in terms of economic benefit at current electricity prices, about 0.1c / hour.

    Take wellington – annual rainfall about 1270mm. This thing (assuming perfect efficiency) would give you about… man. I didn’t remember it being THAT bad. About 17 cents worth of electricty. A year.

    So yeah – sorry. I was all excited when I first thought of it too.

    vto: You need to dam the river to get the hydrostatic head. Otherwise it generates no power. The power you can get from a dam is basically given by potential energy drop per second (joules per second is watts).

    Potential energy is Ep = mgh.
    m is mass
    g is 9.8
    h is the height of the dam (well, the height difference between the water at the top and at the bottom).

    To get power, work out mass/second (flow rate of water – 1000 litres per second is 1000kg/second).

    So called “run of river” hydro is all good, but it still needs a height drop. If you’re thinking of something like a tidal flow turbine then… well, I wouldn’t want one in a river in the first place! But anyway, they only work with a truly staggering volume of water. Putting them in a river would be like trying to put a wind farm in a breezy alley.

  18. Kevyn 18

    T-Rex, Thanks for the data dismissing the domestic downpipe hydro concept. However the idea has been implemented on Sydney’s ocean outfall sewer pipe, so obviously it’s one of those ideas that scales up nicely. I had always thought that it might work with skycrapers because the water is collected into a single large downpipe with a substantial fall.

    I have seen several concepts for run of river and tailrace hydro that eschew conventional water turbines in favour of either conversion to compressed air to drive a small turbine or piezoelectric generation from turbulence or eddies.

    A couple of examples:



  19. National’s energy policy is a good antidote to Labour’s Russian roulette attitude to power supply over the last 9 dark years.

    Over NZ $3 B was lost from the economy over this winter due to business having to cut back production not to mention the long term losses from overseas companies not investing here because of uncertain power supply.

    We need to use thermal and coal supplies to give us cheaper energy to stimulate our minuscule growth rate, instead of shipping it overseas for others to warm their hands by.

    The several power crises that NZ has faced over the last 9 years is a direct result of Labour and the Greens stopping the building of power stations.

    Wind will never be a reliable alternative.

    If you are worried about Green house gases-I’m not because the idea of Carbon being a problem isn’t scientifically possible-worry about the record levels of C02 pumped out over the last 4 months as the Whirinaki diesel station is running at full capacity and so is the coal fired Huntly.

    Get your head out of the tramping mountains Ms Helen.

    It would be nice to see ANY election policy released from Labour, kiwis haven’t seen any yet.

    Whats on your secret agenda for New Zealand Labour?

  20. vto 20

    T-rex ta. I was thinking also something like, re the “run of river” system, the water wheels of old. Get the paddles of the wheel in the water and get the wheel turning. Then combined with appropriate gearing and wheel momentum and some big techno brains I am sure something could maybe work. The concepts of things like these are where it all starts though. People never dreamed we would get to the moon after all (if in fact we did!).

  21. Matthew Pilott 21

    Darren, a few things. Labour oversaw the construction of Whirinaki, which played no small part in reducing the impact of a very dry period (worst in 16 years). Labour have overseen about 1000MW of electricity generation over the last nine years – you clearly know very little about this topic (seems to be a running theme, last time it was insurance).

    The coal we ship overseas is top quality coal used for steel production, what we ship in is lower quality coal for thermal generation in Huntly. I gather if you were in charge we’d be building a rocket fuel plant to make fuel for Whirinaki. Guess you don’t know much about coal either (the comment ‘thermal and coal’ kinda sealed it!).

    I’ll ignore your comment about carbon because it stands alone as a beacon of your shining ignorance (how is that sand looking) but whirinaki is a Peaking plant. We had an unusual shortage in hydro so it had to PEAK. Why you act surprised is beyone me…

    Oh if you want some policy from Labour, take a look at the Budget. Christ, anything else you need to be spoon-fed?

    vto – I recommend you have a look at Tidal Stream Power. Unlike industrial revolution romantics like Mr Rickard up there, us non-neanderthals realise we don’t need to resort to 1700s technology for power. Hell, even National don’t want to go as far back as him, at least they’re only wanting us to rely on imported gas.

    TSP is the equivalent of wind power, under sea. The Cook Strait current has 11,000MW potential (NZ is currently 8,000MW all up, ot thereabouts). If you think of the reduction gearing you can use in a light medium such as wind, imagine what you can do with the same in water. The Strait has a dependable and regular current – it’s an incredible resource. Unfortunately it will chop up a few fish, but there’s always a cost.

  22. Felix 22

    T-Rex it was all sounding so good until you brought your damn science into it 🙂

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