Local Govt | National News Video | Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Search

 

Tiwai Point Closure – Let’s Not Squander This Opportunity To Use Surplus Energy Responsibly

On the 9 th of July Rio Tinto announced the closure of the Tiwai Point Aluminium Smelter in Southland, New Zealand. This is a devastating blow for the community of Southland, and those facing employment disruption as a result will need to be supported to transition into another employment or business opportunities.

Tiwai Point Aluminium Smelter is New Zealand’s largest user of electricity, with the majority of the Manapouri Hydroelectric Power Station output being used by the smelter. While a huge set-back for the local economy over the short term, the closure of the smelter presents an opportunity for New Zealand. The power used by Tiwai is generated by the Manapouri Power Station. And while we may consider it ‘renewable’, this scheme was built at great cost to the environment. Every cubic meter of water that is used in the generation of electricity at Manapouri is lost to Deep Cove, instead of taking its natural course down the Waiau River, significantly impacting that freshwater ecosystem.

This electricity surplus needs to be used in a way that benefits New Zealand both socially and environmentally. This is a significant amount of additional, cheap generation for New Zealand, representing around 13% of New Zealand’s electricity demand. To put this into perspective, the smelter uses more electricity in a year than the whole Wellington region.

In the coming year, as the aluminium pots begin to ramp down, there will be an increasing surplus of hydroelectricity for the South Island. Transpower are already well underway in planning transmission upgrades that would allow this surplus electricity to be brought north – for example, the Clutha Upper Waitaki Lines Project, which will enable additional generation to be exported from Southland.

With such a large increase in available cheap power to the electricity system, we would expect that the wholesale price of electricity to near crash, but electricity companies are profit driven. The big generators/retailers gain the highest profits when the last MWh generated to match demand is priced high, generally from burning coal or gas. All generation that is used to meet this demand at that time, including cheap hydro, geothermal and wind, is rewarded with this high $/MWh. The announcement of the smelter closure is likely to defer geothermal and wind projects in the North Island.

Due to the profit-driven nature of the generators/retailers, and the complexities of the electricity system in ensuring system reliability, such as needed reserve capacity, I am not holding my breath that we will see a large decrease in electricity prices in New Zealand as a result of this surplus. What we could see is a more strategic use of Lakes Manapōuri and Te Anau as a part of New Zealand’s wider storage system. We may also see an earlier retirement of the Taranaki Combined Cycle and/or Huntly Power Station coal/gas-fired rankine units.

New Zealand’s resources are valuable. Our resources should be used in a way that is socially desirable for New Zealanders, and enables economic diversification for businesses that have the environment in mind.

Some in industry at discussing how this surplus electricity could be used is in the drying of milk, a process that currently uses coal. This would be an inappropriate use of this highly valued resource for the following reasons:

  • Electricity is an energy carrier with a uniquely high thermodynamic potential (high quality energy carrier). Electricity can be used efficiently for heating with heat pumps, use in electronics, refrigeration, lighting, electrified rail etc.
  • Using electricity to generate process heat for drying milk requires electrode boilers which degrade the uniqueness of this highly valuable energy carrier.
  • Electrode boilers may require long term electricity contracts with Transpower, further incentivising the use of agricultural practices that cause long lasting impacts to our fresh water systems, especially those in Canterbury.
  • Big demand uses of electricity drive up the electricity price for everyone.

In the short term, if Fonterra (and other sites requiring process heat) wish to decarbonise, they should look at using industrial heat pumps for pre-heating and low temperature heating, and waste biomass for the higher temperatures. Utilising waste biomass for process heating provides more value than utilising it to generate electricity only.

The surplus electricity should be treated as a highly valuable resource, and used efficiently for businesses that are wanting to make a positive social and environmental contribution to the economy. Additionally, in the short term, as surplus hydroelectricity increases, a limited block of electricity, say 2,000 kWh per year of cheap electricity could be provided to increasing numbers of householders as the smelter winds down. The smelter currently uses around 5 billion kWh per year.

This should start with those closest to the smelter, extending north as new transmission capacity is built.

Southland is currently being hit hard. There will be job losses as a result of the smelter closure, at a time when it is already suffering from low tourism numbers. Southland residents, especially those with cold, damp homes, would benefit from this cheap block of electricity over the winter months.

As an energy specialist, and member of the Better Futures Forum, I believe that we must strive for an electricity system that benefits people without further degrading the environment. Our electricity system must be designed to optimise resource efficiency so that its environmental impact is minimised. In other words, we should not be using more than we need to. Every kWh generated should be used in the best interest of New Zealand as a whole. Surplus electricity should not be an excuse to inefficiently decarbonise industries that are not making a positive environmental and societal contribution to New Zealand.

Authored by Glen Baxter, a core group member of the Better Futures Forum, a forum advocating for a more resilient Aotearoa New Zealand in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis. Glen is an experienced adviser to New Zealand industries in strategies to reduce energy usage. Having seen the high energy wastage and inappropriate usage of energy in New Zealand, Glen joined the Better Futures Forum as a way to help build awareness about the responsible use of energy.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

Covid-19: Dissolution Of Parliament Delayed As Govt Hunts Source Of New infections


The dissolution of Parliament has been deferred by at a least a few days due to the new covid-19 cases, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.
This was in case Parliament had to be reconvened as more information came to light, Ardern said at a briefing on the three-day level 3 lockdown in Auckland and level 2 alert for the rest of the country.
A decision about the dissolution of Parliament and any flow on effects for the timing of the election would be considered on Monday, Ardern said... More>>

 

Government: Plan To Tackle Problem Plastics

Following the success of the phase out of single-use plastic shopping bags, the Government now has plans to phase out more single-use and problem plastics to reduce waste and protect the environment announced Associate Minister for the Environment ... More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The New Lockdowns, Leadership And Lebanon

As Melbourne has shown, the webs of urban life overlap so extensively that community transmission can be very hard to trace, let alone control. Each of the family members in the South Auckland family at the centre of the current outbreak will have had ... More>>


ALSO:

National: Emma Mellow As Auckland Central Candidate

Tonight the National Party has selected Emma Mellow to stand in the Auckland Central electorate for the 2020 General Election. Emma Mellow replaces retiring MP Nikki Kaye who first won the seat from Labour in 2008. Emma leads a team of communications ... More>>

ALSO:

Travel: Update On New Zealand And The Cook Islands Bubble

The Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern and the Prime Minister of the Cook Islands Henry Puna have welcomed the completion of phase one in the establishment of a travel bubble between New Zealand and the Cook Island. More>>

Election 2020: Labour Launch

E ngā mana e ngā reo Ngāti whātua ngā mana whenua o Tāmaki Makaurau, e tika te kōrero Ehara taku toa he toa (taki tahi) he toa (taki tini) No rēira tātou e huihui mai nei, ka ‘Hoake tonu tātou’ Thank you for that welcome. And thank ... More>>

Gordon Campbell: On Political Twins, And On Labour Extending Its Wage Subsidy Scheme

A quick quiz for the weekend. Which political party currently represented in Parliament issued a press release yesterday that contained these stirring passages: “[We have] long supported a free trade and free movement area between Canada, Australia, New ... More>>

ALSO:

Democracy 2.0: NextElection Partners With Scoop For Exciting Democracy Tech

Joint Press Release: NextElection, Scoop.co.nz, ScoopCitizen NextElection , a technology platform empowering democracy and Government accountability, and Scoop Independent News have partnered to strengthen citizen participation in the 2020 New Zealand General ... More>>

ALSO:


Covid-19: Poll On Management Approval

New Zealanders’ overall trust in the Ministry of Health and Government to manage the COVID-19 pandemic is at 82%, down from 91% during April. Overall distrust that the Ministry and Government will manage it in ways which best protect themselves More>>

Election 2020: National Releases 2020 Party List

National’s 2020 Party List is a strong mix of experience coming up through our Caucus, and new and exciting talent joining our team from communities across New Zealand, Party President Peter Goodfellow says. “The National Party is incredibly ... More>>

Horizon Research Limited: How Judith Collins Stopped The Bleeding

Horizon Research includes questions on voting from time to time in its surveys – for both forthcoming referenda and general elections. More>>

Your Vote 2020: Bringing Election Coverage To Viewers Across TVNZ Channels And Platforms

As New Zealand gets ready to head to the ballot box this September, 1 NEWS is bringing voters comprehensive coverage and analysis of this year’s General Election. TVNZ’s coverage will draw on the depth of experience held across the 1 NEWS team, says Graeme ... More>>

Economy: 30% Believe Households Worse Off, 298,000 Expect To Lose Jobs

64% of New Zealanders feel the economic position of their households is the same or better than a year ago – and 30% think it is worse or much worse, while 298,000 think they will lose their jobs in the next 12 months. Households’ perceptions ... More>>

State Services Commission: Findings Of Investigation Into COVID-19 Active Cases Privacy Breach

Deputy State Services Commissioner Helene Quilter has today announced the findings of an investigation into a breach of privacy regarding sensitive personal information. The investigation looked into who or what caused the disclosure of the information, ... More>>

International Security: New Zealand Suspends Extradition Treaty With Hong Kong

The New Zealand Government has suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong and made a number of other changes in light of China’s decision to pass a national security law for Hong Kong, Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters says. More>>

ALSO:


 
 
 
 
 
 

LATEST HEADLINES

  • PARLIAMENT
  • POLITICS
  • REGIONAL
 


 

InfoPages News Channels