Why pump sewage uphill?

James Weir writes in the Dominion that if there’s no rain in the next three weeks we’ll be asked to start conserving power. Hydro storage is down to 54% of average, the worst levels since the 1992 power crisis.


It isn’t very difficult to save a bit of power – The Listener (preview available now full story on-line in a month) reckons that turning off at the wall the “vampire” appliances which suck power while on standby will save $75 a year – but an uncharitable corner of my mind is asking why bother?


I understand the problem we’re facing and that every little bit helps. But I also wonder what’s the point of individuals doing our little bits when for example, Queenstown Lakes District Council is building a sewerage scheme which will pump Wanaka’s sewage 10 kilometres uphill all day, every day.


Let’s set aside the question of what happens when power fails, as it does now and then when it snows; and the fact that the oxidation ponds where the sewage ends up will attract birds which could cause problems for the nearby airport.


Let’s just ask why, when we’re supposed to be aiming for sustainability; when gravity is free and less prone to breakdowns than electricity; when ratepayers (of whom I am one) are already struggling with the cost of infrastructure for the rapidly growing town; would you build a new scheme which requires you to pump sewage that distance uphill with the attendant financial and environmental costs?


Hat tip: The Hive

3 Responses to Why pump sewage uphill?

  1. truthseekernz says:

    It’s also worth remembering the market model for power implemented by Max Bradford and national was supposed to use price signals to ensure power generators had the funds to build generation to meet supply. Later, Labour added an levy on all power users to provide funding for a commission to over see the industry and ensure security of supply.

    The problem with a market in electricity is that the best profits are to be had when you don’t spend a penny on generation and supply becomes tight. Prices go through the roof. Money for jam.

    So there has never really been any incentive to build new capacity. Yes, wind power has been successfully deployed, and quickly, at relatively low cost by crown power generators. Private operators have proposed essentially unfeasible gas generation and nothing has come of it. Much to talk about while doing nothing.

    The funny / sad part of it all is that this was all warned of prior to the reforms that created the present environment. The usual folk who know it all while knowing nothing ignored this advice and did their thing…..and made a pile of money without doing anything significant to ensure security of supply.

    I’m increasingly of the view that electricity should not be a market. That has lead to a “do-nothing” premium being extracted from every power user by commercially motivated generators – public and private alike.

    We’ve PAID the money. Where’s the power?


  2. Max Bradford says:

    There are no problems with a proper market in electricity….after all they work elsewhere in the world. The problem here is that the government owns 2/3rds of the generators. The answer to “where is the power?” is that the SOEs have paid billions in dividends to the Labour government since 1999 which has not all gone back into generation, and the stifling regulatory framework imposed by Hodgson and Parker have stood in the way of effective price signals which would have seen sufficient generation built.

    On top of that is the government’s moratorium on new thermal generation which is unavoidable as renewables (primarily wind and hydro) won’t meet growing demand. Unless of course we want to build nuclear plants, which are green, renewable and non-polluting.

    And pigs might fly too……

    So it seems the country is condemned to a narrow renewables future, but the price we pay is a lack of security of supply, and when the water isn’t there for the hydro stations, we burn diesel in the government’s top-up thermal station at very high marginal costs while at the same time polluting the atmosphere. Daft policy in my view…..


  3. Michael Hunt says:

    The dividends from NZ pwned power stations go back to the people of NZ whereas the dividends from private power stations mainly go overseas.

    Max Bradford just needs to look in the mirror to find who created the problems associated with our power supply


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