New Zealand is using less non-renewable energy according to a government report.
But a question mark hangs over the pace of future progress, with resource consent for some long-planned wind farms soon to expire.
Renewable energy sources such as hydro, wind and geothermal power plants accounted for 84 per cent of the country's electricity generation in the year to the end of December, according to an annual report produced by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).
That was up from 82 per cent in 2017 and thanks in part to record output from geothermal plants and increases in home-solar generation.
That also meant renewable energy accounted for 40 per cent of the country's total energy consumption for the first time.
Much of the remaining 60 per cent is accounted for by petrol and jet fuel used for transport, and coal and gas used in industrial processes, for example by NZ Steel and Fonterra.
Energy Minister Megan Woods said more than $650 million had been committed to new renewable generation "for the coming year".
Enough wind farms have received resource consent to add the equivalent of 45 per cent of the country's current hydro-electric capacity, or 1800 megawatts, to the electricity supply.
"That means we are well placed for growth in renewable generation in the years ahead," Woods said.
However, it appears possible that consents for most of that extra wind capacity will lapse before those wind farms are built.
Almost half of the 1800MW of consented wind energy is accounted for by a massive 850MW wind farm that Genesis Energy has permission to build by 2023 at Castle Hill in the Wairarapa.
Genesis – which is the operator of the coal and gas-fired Huntly power station – has not provided an update on that potential development since 2013 and spokeswoman Emma-Kate Greer said in July that it had "no immediate construction plans".
If the wind farm was developed in future, Genesis' existing consents would need to be altered to take advantage of improvements in wind generation in the past five years, Greer said.
Another 130MW is accounted for by Meridian Energy's proposed Central Wind farm near Ruapehu.
Consent for that development, which was received in 2008, is due to expire in January and construction has not yet started.
Meridian says the development may proceed when "market conditions are right".
The construction of a number of the other wind farms within their consented periods appears uncertain.
Contact Energy let consent for a massive 540MW wind farm on the Waikato Coast lapse, spokesman Andrew Austin confirmed in August, but is pressing ahead with investment in other renewables.
Wind would play a big role in New Zealand's energy future, but Contact believed geothermal energy was "the best first step" in further decarbonising electricity generation "as it is low cost and not weather dependent", he said then.
Woods has set a goal of achieving 100 per cent renewable electricity by 2035, though some in the industry remain sceptical.
She intends to publish a discussion paper on renewable energy strategy later this year that will be designed to set a path to boosting renewable generation and reducing the use of fossil fuels in industrial applications.
Genesis now plans to stop burning coal at Huntly by 2030, but chief executive Marc England said in May that was a goal and not a promise. chief executive Marc England said in May that was a goal and not a promise.
The New Zealand Government has recognised the importance of renewable generation; its current energy strategy includes a target of 90% electricity from renewable sources by 2025 up from around 75% today.
Achieving this target requires a substantial increase in renewable generation – renewable electricity needs to grow much faster than electricity demand.
The use of these renewable energy resources will be important for New Zealand’s economy.
The country is fortunate in having ample supplies of renewable energy resources to help meet future energy demand. These renewable resources can shield the economy from global price and supply issues associated with fossil fuels. They can help combat climate change.
Renewable energy also ties in strongly with New Zealand’s clean and green image around the world, supporting tourism and providing other business opportunities.
New Zealand has much of its electricity supply ‘eggs in one basket’, with hydro supplying two thirds of our electricity needs. Our geothermal resources are also well developed. But it is hard to see how these technologies can continue meeting all the increasing electricity demand. Development sites for large hydro dams are becoming very hard to secure.
New Zealand is coming to the end of sites for cheap “brownfield” geothermal development – although there may be plenty of new geothermal potential it will be more expensive and uncertain than previous development.
In terms of renewable electricity generation, wind is likely to play a very significant role over the next 20 years.
This country’s wind resource is one of the best in the world; in fact, the Global Wind Energy Council calls our wind resources “spectacular”. We have only scratched the surface of its potential.
Although the New Zealand wind industry is still young, wind generation technology itself has come of age. Wind power already produces 5% of the country’s electricity. That figure is predicted to grow because New Zealand has a lot of wind, it is a very cost effective form of new generation, and many onshore development sites are available. Investment in new wind farms makes economic sense for generators.
In 2011 a report showed that existing wind farms have long run marginal costs that make them among the best choices for delivering low cost electricity, and Bloomberg showed that costs are continuing to fall. Looking out into the future, turbine manufacturers say that because of technology improvements, operations and maintenance costs will be much lower than in the earlier years of the wind industry.
Read more of the NZ Wind Energy Association 'Wind Energy Report' here
Investigations into the suitability of the Tirohia site for the proposed Kaimai Wind Farm began in 2005 although CEO Glenn Starr admits research into the ideal site began many years earlier.
“The need to generate power from environmentally sustainable sources is a concept most Kiwis embrace but this is often accompanied by a desire for the sources of that generation to be out of sight.
“However, the reality is that while there are lots of remote locations in New Zealand, they are mostly constrained by their remoteness from the national grid and transport routes. To be viable, wind farms in New Zealand need to be of moderate scale (to fit into the demand gap in the market) and be close to roads and grid; they obviously also need to be sited where there is an excellent wind resource.”
Glenn Starr said the three privately owned properties which are the site of the proposed wind farm have the right topography, adjacency to the national grid and have the potential wind strength and consistency.
“In 2005 we erected a 20m tall monitoring mast on the site to measure wind strength. Initial results supported the erection of two further monitoring masts (50m and 60m tall). Data received over the intervening years has confirmed the site has the wind strength and consistency needed for a viable wind farm.
“The site of the proposed farm adjoins DOC forest park land which has significant bush cover that provides habitat to indigenous bats and birds. There are also scattered bush remnants on the site property which have the potential to provide some habitat. To gain an informed understanding of the ecology, acoustic receivers were installed in several locations in 2007 to measure resident populations and movement. More than a decade on we have a pretty comprehensive set of information on bird and bat numbers and movement – data which has helped us in the placement of the proposed turbines and in developing mitigations to minimize impact.”
Glenn Starr said a range of investigations have taken place over the last decade to test the suitability of the site, including slope stability, landscape and wind.
“All of these insights have enabled us to tailor the proposal to the environment. For example, the original proposal was for around 60 small turbines but technological advances in turbine design, combined with indepth knowledge of the site, has enabled us to come up with a design concept which will, hopefully, see 24 turbines generate power – enough for around 50,000 homes.”
Glenn Starr said all of the research conducted to test the suitability of the site is now public and can be accessed on the Hauraki District Council website.
“Our application for consent to construct and operate the wind farm has been lodged with the Hauraki District and Waikato Regional Councils with a Hearing, hopefully, later this year.
“In the meantime, we will continue to work with the wider Paeroa community to understand and, hopefully, alleviate any concerns.
“The proposed Kaimai Wind Farm aligns with the Government’s plan for a renewable, sustainable energy for all New Zealanders.”
Kaimai Wind Farm Ltd has lodged resource consent applications with Hauraki District Council and Waikato Regional Council for consent to establish and operate a 24 turbine wind farm on the northern reaches of the Kaimai Ranges at Tirohia (south of Paeroa).
The resource consent application to the Hauraki District Council seeks consent to all land-use activities associated with the construction and operation of the proposed wind farm.
The application site covers 771 and 604 Rotokohu Road and 6356 SH26 (1304 hectares).
The proposed turbines, which are of two different sizes, have a hub height of 110m and 130m. Each turbine has three rotors measuring 146m and 160m respectively. The total height of the turbines, when measured from the base to the tips, equates to 180m and 207m respectively.
Proposed associated structures include a substation, two lattice transmission towers, two overhead lines, and 18.9km of roading – all within the application site.
Earthworks will include 900,000m3 of cut material and 113,500m3 of engineered fill.
It is estimated that 53,000m3 of finishing aggregate will be needed for the on-site roads. This is proposed to be obtained from roading excavations and one on-site quarry.
The main site access is proposed to be from the south- from Wright Road, which comes off Rawhiti Road – the turbine parts are proposed to be transported from Tauranga, through Matamata-Piako District to the site. All other construction and materials transport traffic is also proposed to access the site from Wright Road.
The resource consent application to the Waikato Regional Council seeks consent to specific aspects of land use – removal of vegetation, earthworks, to permit the discharge of surplus soil and surface water associated with the construction phase of the project and culvert upgrades.
Hauraki District Council will take urgent action on climate change.
The Extinction Rebellion Waihi Group asked Council at a recent Community Services and Development Committee to declare a climate change emergency for the Hauraki District and establish a citizen’s assembly.
The committee requested staff report back to council so it could make a decision.
In the 31 July, 2019, meeting, Council resolved to recognise the urgency of addressing climate change to support a greater mobilisation of resources and accelerate the climate change programme that Council had already committed to through its 2018 Long Term Planning process.
Hauraki district Mayor John Tregidga said the word ‘urgency’ best described the approach council needed to take, rather than declaring an emergency.
Climate change challenge
“We agree climate change is one of the biggest challenges facing the international community and New Zealand, but actions speak louder than words,” he said.
“We will work with the Extinction Rebellion Waihi Group and the community to identify some achievable goals and actions that will make a difference.
“We’re also looking at what we can do as a business to take the lead on climate change action.We’re planning an internal review of our operations in relation to emission reduction and sustainability and we’ll be identifying steps we can take to reduce emissions and likely costs.”
Community involvementDeclaring a climate change emergency was an issue that needed to be discussed in the next Long Term Plan in consultation with the community, he said.
“We have not got the mandate from the community to do this. I don’t think it would be fair to the community to go and declare a climate change emergency and not be able to do it.”
Climate change funding
Council’s ability to take action was also affected by available funding, Mayor Tregidga said.
“We have a small population. If Auckland Council asked for $1 from each ratepayer and resident to put towards climate change action, they would raise about $1.6 million. In the Hauraki District, we would raise about $20,000.”
Addressing climate changeThere were many things council was already doing to address the long term challenges of climate change, he said.
“Hauraki District Council is doing a lot now, particularly when you look at what we’re doing in Kaiaua,” he said.
“We’re working with Waikato regional and district councils, iwi, technical experts and affected Kaiaua Coast communities on a jointly developed and community-led strategy that will describe how we will respond to coastal hazard risks in the future.
“We’re doing stuff that no other council is doing in the Waikato, we’re taking the lead.”
Council initiativesCouncil also signed the Local Government Leaders’ Climate Change Declaration, had a plan in place to address climate change impacts and was involved in many local and national climate change initiatives including work with NIWA, GNS Science, multiple universities and the Future Living Skills initiative.
Council welcomes the introduction of the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill as a necessary step towards meeting its international obligations to reduce greenhouse gases.
The Bill requires the Government to plan for how it will support Kiwi towns, cities, businesses, farmers and iwi to respond and adapt to the effects of climate change.
Media release from the Minister of Energy and Resources, Hon Dr Megan Woods
Hon Dr Megan Woods
Minister of Energy and Resources
16 July 2019
NZ embracing renewable electricity future
A future where New Zealand’s electricity generation is entirely renewable is within our reach, says Energy and Resources Minister Megan Woods.
The Minister today welcomed the recommendations of the Interim Climate Change Committee’s (ICCC) report on Accelerated Electrification.
“New Zealanders are calling for a clean, green and carbon neutral economy. Increasing our renewable electricity will play a big part in helping us get there,” Minister Woods says.
Our government’s goal is to decarbonise our economy while keeping electricity costs low for consumers and creating new jobs in renewable energy.
The Minister says the challenge of reaching 100% renewable electricity by 2035 has been well signalled.
“We can have an ambitious goal while also being pragmatic. We will be conducting five-yearly assessments to ensure the energy trilemma of affordability, sustainability and security is well managed.
“A simplistic trade-off won’t be needed. We will move our country towards a zero-carbon future while keeping power prices in check for households.
“An investigation into customer electricity pricing is underway with decisions on that to be released imminently.
“We also know reaching our aspirational goal of 100% renewable electricity by 2035 will mean a sharper focus on lowering process heat and transport emissions. This work is already being prioritised.
“My renewable energy strategy work programme will also assist New Zealand’s transition to a low emissions economy.
“We are confident we can get to our 100% renewable ambition, and are confident new technologies will be developed to help us get there affordably, but we also want to signal we will be pragmatic about this goal and we won’t die in a ditch over the last couple of percent if it places unreasonable costs on households and puts security of supply at risk.
“That is why we are putting five year reviews in place and have given ourselves a 16 year lead in to achieve this ambition that is so important to achieving our emission reduction goals,” Megan Woods said.
Minister Woods accepted the recommendations, and stated that further work, such as further storage solutions, exploring a transport emissions reduction target and revising the National Policy Statement for Renewable Electricity Generation would also be investigated.
The ICCC report is available here: www.iccc.mfe.govt.nz/what-we-do/energy/electricity-inquiry-final-report
Media contact: Penny Arrowsmith 021 406 069
A lot has happened since I last wrote to you. As you know, the application to construct a wind farm on the northern reaches of the Kaimai Ranges at Tirohia was lodged with the Hauraki District and Waikato Regional Councils in June 2018. It was publicly announced in November and around 220 submissions were received from the public – 57 in support and 157 opposed.
Submissions in support talked about the benefits of sustainable renewable energy, positive impact on the environment and economic benefits to the region. Main areas of concern were potential advertise impacts on cultural values, the appearance of the turbines and their impact on the landscape, the sound of the turbines and impact on the ecology of the area.
I want to thank everyone who took the time to read our application and make a submission. The detailed submissions gave us a deeper appreciation of concerns. To foster dialogue and explore opportunities to mitigate any concerns, I wrote to all submitters inviting them to meet with me either at the site, in their homes or at a venue of their choosing.
A significant number of submitters responded to that invitation and met with me to provide a personal perspective on their support or opposition to the proposal. All meetings were constructive and I want to acknowledge the willingness of those people to devoting their time to learning more about the proposal and, in particular, discussing the potential to reduce the impact of their specific concerns.
Consultation with stakeholders (including iwi) is ongoing and we are hopeful the Hearing will be held later this year.
In the meantime, if you have any questions please refer to
With best wishes
Kaimai Wind Ltd