New Zealand should be taking urgent strides towards Energy Independence.
A major step to take in this direction is to install 100% renewable electricity NOW. There is no need to wait for technological breakthroughs in renewables and alternatives, we just need to do it now!
One of the primary objectives of FreeNRG4NZ is to resist the construction of a LNG (Liquid Natural Gas) import terminal as a contingency for when our gas supplies in Taranaki run down (we have maybe 10 years of gas reserves at the current rate of consumption because we are burning this valuable resource to make electricity, an inherently wasteful thermal process). Construction of a LNG terminal is the current plan of the gas and electrical industry – this will tie us down to a volatile international LNG market for many years and make us dependent on fossil fuels for our electricity. We already depend heavily on imported Crude Oil for our transportation – It is probable that any LNG supply contract signed by “New Zealand” companies would be indexed in some way to the Crude Oil price – we must not let ourselves get into this situation.
With a little bit of foresight and long term planning New Zealand could easily install Additional Renewable Generation (mainly wind) along with a Pumped Storage Hydro Scheme that would eliminate our reliance on gas for electricity generation. Such a scheme would also set us up long term for more electrical transportation and eventually less Crude Oil imports – for many good reasons, we believe that the future price of Oil is heading towards $300 a barrel or more by 2020 and we must get off this crack.
While we recognise that smart grids, tidal power, PV solar, wave generation and the like are all laudable renewable goals to be pursued, we take that stance that the appropriate technology is already here TODAY to achieve the 100% renewable electricity goal for New Zealand. Some discussion on future or “fringe” type technologies that are yet to be commercially proven will be had here but this interesting topic area is not FreeNRG4NZ’s Raison d’être.
We take the position that further Coal Generation and Nuclear Generation are not the way forward for New Zealand. The old (and not so faithful) coal powered Huntly Power Station will be decommissioned in the future, once this happens we simply need to get rid of our gas plants over time – just like we have done for other old thermal stations that were bad mistakes – think Marsden B (Oil) and Mercer (Coal). We certainly don’t want NZ to be building any further gas generation and we believe the moratorium on such developments that was put in place under the previous government should be reinstated immediately by National.
Nuclear power is proven to be dangerous especially for countries that are seismically very active – major earthquakes in Christchurch and the Japan disaster in 2011 painfully prove this point. Along with fact that all the technology, high level expertise and fuel (Uranium also has a limited global supply) for a Nuclear Plant would have to be imported into New Zealand leads us to conclude that Nuclear is a non starter for our Energy Future.
While we are not associated or funded by any particular industry group, we believe that Wind Power is the only currently proven renewable technology for New Zealand and the world, we simply must get on with the job of installing more capacity today. Therefore FreeNRG4NZ supports all planned wind generation developments in principal. There is going to be a cost associated with any form of energy generation, we understand that, and we know that some (but not all) people perceive wind turbines to be unsightly. Our view is that the perceived visual impacts of wind generation is but a small price to pay to help New Zealand achieve 100% renewables and to position us for future energy independence and reduce our Crude Oil expenditure. We think danger to bird life from wind generation, while possible, is somewhat overstated, and more steps could be and should be taken in others areas such as pest control and ecological islands to help restore New Zealand’s bird life to it’s former glory. There is great potential in New Zealand to develop a wind turbine industry, in principal we would commend any government action supporting start up’s in wind technology. We can not understand why Windflow Ltd, a New Zealand company has struggled while major New Zealand State Owned Generators and others have imported overpriced equipment (including steel masts!) all the way from Europe – this is madness.
We believe that renewable energy storage is easily solved for New Zealand (where it might not be elsewhere in the world) due to our advantageous hydrology and topography in the form of PROVEN Pumped Hydro Storage Infrastructure. Coupling pumped storage with our existing hydro generation in an intelligent way could put New Zealand is in a unique position NOW to enable more intermittent forms of renewable generation without having to wait for storage developments like flywheels, compressed air, large scale batteries, hydrogen storage etc etc etc and the ad-infinitum “paralysis by analysis” that some proponents of alternative energy fall into when it comes to storage. Yes pumped hydro storage is a net consumer of electricity – but so are all forms of energy transition and storage. The type and size of storage scheme that New Zealand would require is by no means unprecedented – many such schemes are already in operation or under construction around the world and FreeNRG4NZ will focus on pumped storage case studies from time to time.
Technology already exists to realise More Energy Efficiency for NZ – solar water heating, improved insualtion, smaller and more efficient cars, these are all here now. We agree with all such programmes to improve New Zealand’s energy efficiency and want more steps to be made in this direction. While we think such concepts as small scale localised embedded generation may be an option for some Kiwi’s and should be encouraged, it is clear that the National Grid is not going to disappear any time in the foreseeable future and so we must focus on moving this infrastructure towards 100% renewables with the technology that is already available.
New Zealand Inc spends about 17% of it’s income on Crude Oil / Liquid Fuels and this is surely set to increase dramatically in the years to come. We would all be better off with a system that consumes less Crude Oil. As mentioned above, proceeding with a 100% renewable electrical system is a first step to reduce our Crude Oil consumption in the long run. Alternative fuels for transportation such as Coal to Liquids, CNG, LPG and the like are all possible ways we can become more energy independent in the short term and should be looked at again – just like they were during the 70’s oil crunch. We also support bio fuels but only where they do not utilise existing or potential famland.
Regarding our Transportation network and budget – we should immediately complete the electrification of the main truck railway (the section from Hamilton to Auckland was never completed) and look at moving freight off our roads. This would also reduce the need to constantly keep improving and adding to our (already perfectly adequate) roading network – spending less on roads is also the obvious approach for a global future where everyone drives less (and probably more slowly) as crude oil production plateaus. Money saved from roads could be used for renewable energy initiatives, primarily a large scale pumped storage scheme and some other programmes that will be required. The NZTA spent $2,000,000,000.00 in 2010 – that is 2 Billion Dollars! We are calling for 10% of this to be put towards Energy Independence for New Zealand – this is not a big ask.
We believe that the Government’s non-interventionist approach (except when it comes to selling stuff) in the electrical and energy sector is simply Wrong! Market forces may possibly operate intelligently in a truly free market system – however in a small / isolated nation situation, like New Zealand, and for an industry that is monopolistic by nature (all civil utility infrastructure is monopolistic) it leads to nothing more than Cartel’s, Oligopolies, Profit Gouging and Foreign Ownership of Assets (eg. Contact Energy). We firmly believe the government needs to show some leadership by stepping in to make some intelligent moves towards Energy Independence for New Zealand. Pulling the pin on the planned sale of Mighty River Power in 2012 would be a good idea as privatisation of this company will make intervention in the electricity sector even more politically difficult in future. The current renewables “target” set by government has no teeth, not a single incentive or penalty is associated with it and according to IPENZ, it is not going to be achieved! The government needs to show some leadership in the Energy Sector rather than relying on the non existent “intelligence” of short term market forces to shape our energy future.
Whatever you believe about Climate Change does not matter – FreeNRG4NZ will embrace you (but we will not focus on this issue and make it a point of contention). Whatever way you look at it, moving to a 100% renewable electrical system and eventually less fossil fuel consumption will mean a carbon credit to New Zealand in some form or other – it will also make us a world leader in the Energy Age which has already dawned and this is surely a marketing angle for tourism and our exports if ever there was one. Now is the time to stand up again New Zealand and take our place on the world stage again.
FreeNRG4NZ is not associated with any particular political party, industry group or company. We are a fledgling not for profit group that does not plan to make money from advertising or pushing any particular product on this website – we plan to move towards formal non profit status in the future and to be staffed by volunteers and unpaid contributors where possible, we would like to work together with other like minded groups to meet and educate people about our ideas for Energy Independence and the fascinating topic of “New Zealand’s Energy Economy in the Global Energy Age”. Utilising all aspects of Social Media will be a focus for how we spread the word. We are currently looking for donors / seed money to assist with further set up of this network including graphic design, an Energy Independent NZ Poster, and other materials for distribution and educational purposes.
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