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NZ can play role in minerals-intensive shift to low-carbon

NZ can play role in minerals-intensive shift to low-carbon - Parker

By Gavin Evans

May 28 (BusinessDesk) - The global shift to a lower carbon economy will require greater development of mineral resources and New Zealand is well-placed to show how that can be done, Economic Development Minister David Parker says.

Rapidly developing energy technologies, including solar panels and lithium-ion batteries, will require greater extraction of minerals, while new technologies will also shape how they are extracted, developed and recycled.

Parker told delegates at the New Zealand Minerals Forum in Dunedin today that this country will be better off economically pursuing that change. Not only can it save "billions" not buying oil from the Middle East, but it also has potential for the rare earths and other minerals needed in new technology.

“We know that the shift toward lower emissions will be minerals-intensive. It shouldn’t be fossil-fuels intensive, but it undoubtedly will be minerals intensive,” he said.

“Globally, there is a focus on minimising the environmental and human impact of mineral extraction and New Zealand's pretty good at this.

“We’ve got a strong position to take a leadership role here. Our labour and environmental standards do make us, and could further make us, an example for sustainable production.”

Parker was speaking after about 100 highly organised protestors blocked entries to the conference venue and delayed the entry of some of the 300-plus delegates.

Parker thanked delegates for “running the gauntlet” to attend the conference and added that he is not among those who deny the important role fossil fuels will continue to play in the multi-decade transition that is underway.

But he urged delegates to remember the fear-mongering that happened when in September 2007 the previous Labour government had set the 90 percent renewable electricity by 2030 target, Back then, hydro, wind and geothermal were only delivering about 64 percent of the country’s electricity.

Now, renewables are up to about 85 percent; power prices have not risen the way they were forecast to, and the cost of those new technologies is continuing to fall, he said.

Parker said natural gas would “obviously” be needed as a fuel for intermittent renewable generation for some time to come.

“But as base-load, it is going to become less and less relevant, and by 2050, if not earlier than that, I think it will have been phased out.”

Coal still plays a small role in dry-year back-up at Huntly, but that will end in coming decades, he said.

Coal’s use for industrial heat will also have to be phased out, and he pointed to power sector expectations that Fonterra will shift from coal to electricity within the next one to two decades.

Coal may have a “slightly longer life” as a raw material for steel making and in anode production for aluminium smelting, “but technology will either replace it or require it to be offset through trees or other methods of sequestration.”

Light transport will increasingly be electrified and EVs may achieve price parity with conventional cars by the mid-2020s, he said.

Hydrogen will likely play a bigger role in heavy trucking and public transport, and some trial projects have already sought funding as part of the government’s commitment to assisting a just transition to a lower-carbon economy.

Delegates challenged Parker as to why some government ministers had appeared so reluctant to fund development of carbon, capture and storage technology.

Parker said there was no “ban” on CCS and anyone wanting to deploy it would probably get consent to do so.

He would personally like it to be available, given the world needs it 100-times more than New Zealand does. But, having been promised the technology was close 15 years ago, he said he remains sceptical as to its cost and how soon it may be available..

“Whether it proves to be a part of New Zealand’s future, time will tell,” he said.

“If CCS becomes an affordable and proven technology, then the current decisions on fossil fuels may be reversed by a future government.”



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