Energy use unsustainable with renewables

29/09/2018

Current trends of energy use won’t be sustainable when New Zealand relies only on renewable energy:

. . . Energy Research Centre co-director Michael Jack said the infrastructure and market structures needed to change.

“Wind is variable. It’s only generating when the wind blows.

“Solar is generating during the middle of the day, when there’s less demand for it.

Hydro generation is more reliable, except when droughts decrease river flows, but the chances of getting new hydro schemes through the consent process are remote.

“What you need to do is either shift your demand to those time when the renewables are being produced or somehow store those renewables for use at later times,” he said. . . 

Improved technology could provide better storage, but is unlikely to come up with something affordable in the near future.

He said if changes were not made, the switch to completely renewable energy would be costly.

Of course it will be costly and that will hit poorer people hardest.

This is another reminder of how ill-advised the government was to rush into the ban on oil and gas exploration.

Apropos of which, this week we learned that not only did the government rush into the ban, it’s also going to be rushing the select committee process:

PEPANZ says it is undemocratic and deeply unfair for the select committee considering changes to oil and gas legislation to have its consultation period slashed to just four weeks.

“Given the strong public interest and enormous ramifications of this decision, it’s crucial this process isn’t rushed,” says PEPANZ CEO Cameron Madgwick.

“Our industry doesn’t want a Block Offer this year if it means an undemocratic process. This means there should be no reason now for urgency.

“There has already been a shocking lack of consultation since the surprise announcement was made in April. To now slash the consultation time doesn’t seem fair, open or transparent to the communities, workers, and iwi directly affected.

“Given some of the outrageous comments from relevant MPs in the debate tonight, we have little confidence in a fair hearing from the Environment Select Committee. This is especially so in such a short timeframe which gives so little time for MPs to consider evidence and write a properly informed report.

“The legislative changes in the bill involves serious economic and environmental issues and go even further than expected. There needs to be proper scrutiny of the impacts through a normal four to six month select committee process.

“The entire process has been a disgrace with no warning, no consultation and the Government trashing their own expert advice on the devastating impacts of this policy.”

Why the rush?

Because the decision is made and the government has no wish to hear the facts submitters will put up to prove the economic, environmental and social damage the ban will do.

 

 

 


Exporting Industry Saves Power

19/06/2008

The Listener  asks why manufacturers have had to cut production in four of the last seven years.

If there is a silver lining in New Zealand manufacturers packing up and shifting offshore, it must be that some other country has to provide their electricity. Right now, it seems certain that if we manufactured rather than imported many of the products we depend on, the current electricity generation capacity would fall far short.

The Bluff aluminium smelter reports it cut production by nearly 300 tonnes last month in response to the record highs reached on the electricity spot market. Similarly, Pan Pac pulp and paper mill in Napier reported it had shut down three of its five pulping machines.

This indicates the spot market is working properly – it is deterring consumers when prices reveal a risk to supply. But what sort of economy do we claim to have when in four years out of the past seven some of our biggest industrial companies have had to cut production for fear the electricity will run out?

We’re supposed to have a first world economy. But exporting industry and the jobs which go with it should be a long way down the list of strategies for saving power in a first world country.

This can hardly inspire overseas investment. But it is not only the economic picture that looks tarnished when the electricity situation is closely examined. The clean, green brand takes a hit too. For example, the start of this year has seen the most electricity ever produced by gas-fired stations in a March quarter.

The March quarter covers summer for at least part of which hydro lakes should be at their peak because of the snow melt, so why didn’t we have enough generation to meet demand then?

Demand has increased – more poeple, more electrical appliances and a lot more irrigators – our summer power bill is tens of thousands of dollar because of irrigation.

But in a first world country capcity should expand to meet demand. The expensive and torturous RMA process is one reason it hasn’t – a farmer I know has spent more than two years and hundreds of thousands of dollars getting consent for a private hydro scheme, on his own property, which will provide enough power for more than 1000 homes.

 


Yes, Yes, Yes, No Crisis

11/06/2008

Is this the Clayton’s crisis – the one we have when we’re not having one?

 

Energy Minister David Parker  says we’re not having one:

 But Transpower CE Patrick Strange  says there is.

We as an industry are very concerned. We are risk averse, so things concern us….it is serious when we call on New Zealanders to be prudent with their [power] use. For the electricity industry, we call that serious.”

 

At a meet the candidates meeting when he was first seeking election in Otago in 2002 Parker said one of the reasons he was standing for Labour was because of Max Bradford’s power reforms.

 

When questioned at another meeting when he was an MP about why he hadn’t done anything to change the system he was so opposed to he said something to the effect that once something was entrenched it was too hard to change.

 

 He has a point there, sometimes when a policy is embedded it is difficult – for practical or political reasons – to do much about it and it becomes one of those dead rats MPs and their parties have to swallow. That is the reasoning National is giving for agreeing to continue with interest-free student loans – there would be no real practical impediment to changing the policy but it would do too much harm politically to even contemplate it.

 

 The power system is different – it was a very unpopular policy when it was introduced and if anything it’s even more unpopular now.

 

 The idea of competition might offer consumers choice in theory, but in practice it’s too much hassle to exercise that choice and change your energy supplier unless you’re really, really unhappy. Even there what do you gain when you get six from one and half a dozen from the other?

 

 The other flaw is that the companies are businesses which need to make profits which they do by selling power. There is nothing wrong with profits and a profit motive but power companies make a profit more easily when demand is high because the price goes up so there is absolutely no incentive for them to encourage conservation or alternative generation. The more profit they make, the better the dividend the Government receives from its SOEs so its desire to avoid the political consequences of power shortages conflicts with its desire/need to receive more money.

 

 And let’s not forget there’s an election soon.

 

The Government is understood to be concerned that the elderly in particular may panic and try to conserve power at the expense of their health. It also does not want to be responsible for telling voters in an election year that they must cut their consumption.

Parker yesterday denied downplaying the situation, saying the Government had been “absolutely transparent” about the hydro-lake levels.

He admitted politics did play a part. “I suppose politics is involved in everything in an election year.”

[Update: Truthseekernz opines that the marekt model isn’t working and points to energy consultant Bryan Leyland saying the market system has cost consumers $7b over 10 years.

 

And Keeping Stock comments on the irony of power companies campaigning for power savings.]


Power Cut Practice

09/06/2008

There is never a convenient time for the power to go off but there are less inconvenient times than Sunday evening when I’m cooking dinner for six. The lights and everything else electric went off four times within half an hour from just after 6pm yesterday. Each time the power came back on within a minute or two but at about 10.15 everything went off and stayed off.

We’ve been having strong nor westers which might have been the cause of the problem, or maybe it was just to let us practise for what will happen if the hydro lakes don’t fill and voluntary savings  don’t conserve enough to stave off black outs.


More power or more carbon?

07/06/2008

After 36 hours of nor westers the wind has swung to the south and it’s raining. I don’t know what’s happening at the hyrdo lakes which are about 50 kms further inland from here, but friends at Millers Flat report 3 inches of snow.

However, the rain means its colder and I’m having one of those what do you do if you see an endangered insect eating an endangered plant? conundrums.

Do I ignore calls to save power and use the electric heater, or forget about trying to reduce my carbon footprint and light the fire?


First world power supply

07/06/2008

We’re just four weeks away from major power shortages unless the hydro lakes get topped up.

Auckland Regional Council deputy chairman Michael Barnett said he did not think Civil Defence was over-reacting.

“I’m thinking of an exporter … ” said Mr Barnett, who is also Auckland Chamber of Commerce chief executive. “Is he talking to his clients offshore today about his June-July deliveries and saying, ‘You will have to wait until I see if the village generator is working that week’? That to me is a nonsense.”

 Oh dear. We’ve had strong nor westers since yesterday morning which usually means precipitation in the mountains, but at this time of year that’s much more likely to be snow than rain.


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