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Engineers overstate renewable energy concerns

Engineers overstate renewable energy concerns

“The Institute of Professional Engineers overstates concerns about increasing wind and renewable generation in its report, Electricity Generation – Achieving New Zealand’s Objectives,” says Fraser Clark, Chief Executive of the New Zealand Wind Energy Association. “And in doing, so it misses the opportunities that renewable energy offers our economy.”

“The world is making greater use of renewable energy as countries seek to protect their economies through energy independence and energy security. It is disappointing that the professional body for New Zealand’s engineers appears locked into yesterday’s solutions at a time when the foundations of New Zealand’s electricity supply are changing and there are very real concerns about the lack of investment in new generation,” says Mr Clark.

The IPENZ report identifies issues with New Zealand’s reliance on hydro generation and the significant uncertainties around gas supplies for electricity generation beyond the end of the decade. Nonetheless it goes on to predict a likely future scenario with three new hydro schemes on the Clutha River by 2025 and a continued reliance on baseload thermal generation.

The report fails to recognise wind energy is established and well proven as a mainstream source of electricity generation – instead calling it a “new” technology. Wind energy has been the largest source of new generation capacity in Europe for the last two years, well ahead of gas and coal, and it has been equal to natural gas in the USA.

“There is a huge wealth of experience – and success – to draw on for managing increasing wind generation in electricity systems. Many countries are already well ahead of New Zealand with integrating wind into their electricity systems. These countries include Ireland and Spain, which are comparable to New Zealand as they have very limited connections into other power systems,” notes Mr Clark.

The report draws selectively from Professor Goran Strbac’s examination of the impact of wind energy on security of supply in New Zealand. Importantly, it disregards his conclusions that the New Zealand system can accommodate significant amounts of wind without incurring high costs. Professor Strbac identified that this is achievable because of the high quality of New Zealand’s wind resource and the inherent flexibility of the existing hydro system.

“There are some aspects of the IPENZ report that we agree with, such as the need to create a market structure that adequately rewards the generators that provide for and increase system flexibility,” says Mr Clark. “In this sense we welcome many of the changes proposed in the Government’s Electricity Industry Bill that provide such market signals, including scarcity pricing and changes to the reserve generation policy.

“New Zealand’s high level of renewable generation and the extent and quality of its renewable resources provides a low cost and secure energy supply - a competitive advantage for our economy. They also create the opportunity for New Zealand to export the skills and expertise gained from our own sophisticated solutions as other countries catch us up.”


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