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Avoiding a repeat of electricity crisis

Energy and climate change policies key to avoiding repeat of electricity crisis

“New Zealand needs stable government policy that enables the development of renewable electricity generation in order to reduce the risk of electricity shortages in future dry years” says Fraser Clark, Chief Executive of the New Zealand Wind Energy Association.

“While it is heartening to see converging support for renewable energy in the emissions trading debate, we now need to move from debate to stable policy.” The Government’s proposed Emissions Trading Scheme, the New Zealand Energy Strategy, and the National Party all express support for the 90% renewable electricity target. Public opinion polls continue to show strong support for renewable energy.

“The current uncertainty around energy and climate change policy, such as the future of the ETS, is a disincentive to investment in new generation. This investment is needed to ensure we do not experience supply shortages in future dry years. While efforts are rightly focused on alleviating the current tight supply situation, we also need to consider how we might avoid shortages in the future.”

“The key to a secure supply of electricity and reducing the risks associated with dry years is to make use of a variety of sources of generation. Greater use of wind energy, in combination with baseload geothermal, will improve security of supply by reducing New Zealand’s reliance on hydro generation.” In 2007 82% of renewable electricity was from hydro generation.

Wind energy’s value is in its natural synergy with New Zealand’s existing hydro resources, providing more choices for how and when the water stored in hydro lakes is used. “Such choices become increasingly valuable when managing generation in dry years,” says Mr Clark.

On a quarterly and annual basis wind generation is much more consistent than hydro. “As energy sources are managed over annual cycles, it is this long-term reliability that matters, not short-term fluctuations in generation,” says Mr Clark. “We worry about dry years, not dry days or hours.”

In a dry year, every megawatt of wind generation would mean one megawatt of energy left stored in our hydro lakes. Such stored energy could be used to meet peaks in demand or to balance wind’s natural variability.

“Consider where water storage would be now if the Project Hayes, West Wind, Mahinerangi, Te Uku and Kaiwera Downs wind farms had been built and operating. These wind farms have the potential to generate over 4500GWh of electricity in a year. With this additional generation we would not need a power savings campaign – lake levels would probably be tracking closer to average.”

“Measures to ensure New Zealand continues on a sustainable and low emissions energy path, such as a price on carbon through the ETS and a National Policy Statement for renewable energy under the RMA, are essential to avoid a repeat of the current tight supply situation.”


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