ICCC report calls for accelerated electrification to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, saying a shift to achieve 100% renewable electricity by 2035 is too costly

ICCC report calls for accelerated electrification to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, saying a shift to achieve 100% renewable electricity by 2035 is too costly

A new report is recommending the Government shift its focus from achieving 100% renewable electricity by 2035, to the electrification of transport and industry to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The paper by the Interim Climate Change Committee (ICCC) was released by the Minister for Energy and Resources Megan Woods on Tuesday.

In 2017 the Government signaled its plans to introduce a Zero Carbon Bill which would establish a Climate Change Commission and help transition New Zealand towards a net-zero emissions economy by 2050. It also established the ICCC which was given the task of investigating how we could transition to 100% renewable electricity by 2035.

It has outlined its findings in a new report titled: Accelerated electrification. The report says currently 82% of New Zealand’s electricity is generated through renewable energy and a high percentage of it comes from hydropower. As a result, electricity generation is responsible for less than 5% of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions, whereas fossil fuels used in transport and process heat account for about 28% combined.

The ICCC says under the current system the percentage of renewable electricity used in New Zealand is on track to rise to 93% by 2035 without any further intervention.

“To investigate future possibilities for the electricity system out to 2035, the Committee commissioned a modelling exercise, the results of which form the backbone of this report. The modelling shows that, under a business as usual future, New Zealand is likely to reach an average of 93% renewable electricity by 2035. More wind, solar and geothermal will be built, and more batteries will be deployed.”

Increased cost

But the report says while it’s technically feasible to achieve 100% renewable electricity, it would be costly.

“This means building additional renewable generation like wind and solar to cover dry years, and substantially increasing battery storage and demand response. However, such a solution is very costly, particularly in terms of achieving the last few percent of renewable electricity. Going from 99% to 100% renewable electricity by overbuilding would avoid only 0.3 Mt CO2e of emissions at a cost of over $1,200 per tonne of CO2e avoided. It is also likely to result in much higher electricity prices than in the business as usual future.”

The ICCC instead suggests the Government should focus on the electrification of transport and process heating in the country, which it says will be crucial to reducing New Zealand fossil fuel emissions.

Transport options

It says transport currently contributes about 20% of New Zealand’s total greenhouse gas emissions and increasing the uptake of electric vehicles would help to markedly reduce the emissions by 2035.

The report says there are a number of policies that can be used to increase the uptake of electric vehicles in New Zealand and cites the Productivity Commission’s Low-emissions economy inquiry. The commission's report, which was released last year, recommended a number of ways to increase the use of electric vehicles.

They include a price feebate scheme for new and used vehicles entering the fleet; financial support for charging infrastructure projects; a Government procurement policy, CO2 standards for light vehicles; incentives for the early scrapping of fossil fuel vehicles and the removal of tariffs for low-emissions vehicles and their parts.

But the ICCC report says action is needed now and recommends a new emissions target for transport to reach by 2035.

“More ambitious policies are urgently needed to speed up the transition to electric mobility. Some policies are in place to encourage EV uptake, such as the exemption from road user charges for EVs and the Low Emission Vehicle Contestable Fund. However, these are unlikely to be sufficient to achieve the rapid fleet turnover required. These policies are also unlikely to be adequate protection against New Zealand becoming a future dumping ground for low cost fossil-fuelled vehicles (both new and used) as increasing numbers of other countries ban their importation or ongoing use.”

Industrial processing 

While the other source of emissions targeted in the report is process heat, which primarily comes in the form of steam, hot water or hot gases. 

According to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) 78% of the process heat in New Zealand is used in industry, and in particular, manufacturing. Examples include the use of heat to turn wood into pulp and paper, or to process milk into powder. And MBIE says 60% of it is generated using fossil fuels such as gas and coal. 

The report calls for the phasing out of fossil fuels in process heat by setting a clearly defined timetable to stop its use, with ending the use of coal as a priority.

But the ICCC says reducing emissions through accelerated electrification will require significant policy changes and the NZ Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) will also need to be reformed so it can play its intended role as a fundamental driver of emissions reductions across the economy.

“Emissions pricing is essential to delivering emissions reductions efficiently across the economy, and a comprehensive NZ ETS that caps total allowable emissions is vital. This is because the key role of the NZ ETS price is to increase the price of fossil fuels relative to low-emissions alternatives, like renewable electricity.

“There are a number of reasons why the NZ ETS price alone may not be able to drive emissions reductions at the pace and scale necessary for New Zealand to meet its 2030 target, particularly in sectors beyond electricity generation.”

The report’s recommendations also include a call for the Government to investigate the feasibility of pumped hydro storage to eliminate the use of fossil fuels in the energy sector. The committee also says the Government must ensure the value of existing hydro generation to New Zealand’s climate change objectives is given sufficient weight when decisions around freshwater are made, as well as calling for greater development of wind generation and its associated transmission and distribution infrastructure.

Ministerial response

Minister for Energy and Resources Megan Woods has welcomed the ICCC report's recommendations, but says the Government isn't planning on giving up on its target of 100% renewable electricity by 2035.

“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," Woods says.

“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." 

She says as a result of the report further work will be done to look at exploring a transport emissions reduction target and revising the National Policy Statement for Renewable Electricity Generation.

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

We welcome your comments below. If you are not already registered, please register to comment.

Remember we welcome robust, respectful and insightful debate. We don't welcome abusive or defamatory comments and will de-register those repeatedly making such comments. Our current comment policy is here.

19 Comments

Comment Filter

Highlight new comments in the last hr(s).

Sounds like a reasonably sensible report but hands off my mint condition old sports car in my garage!
That last very expensive bit of renewables is more than a few percent by the way. Depends how sure you want to be that you never have power cuts. Dry winters can have long periods of being windless. And the greens don't want any more hydro.

Some useful summary about distributed generation. But the report is very timid about the need for an entire change in the electricity market and ownership of the grid.
Example. There are two places I pay line charges for already. In a couple of months I will have powerful solar generation in my sunny rural paddock. And sometime in the future I will have an electric vehicle some 200 kilometers away in the city.
How will I connect the two, essentially using my own power, without cost ? Seeing I already pay line and grid charges. And/or, when I have a surplus, how do I send it over to my daughters without cost, seeing as she is already paying line charges etc.
All this should be possible and easy to do. But a adequate legal change and market system will need to be created. Let's do this.

KH - it's already coming

https://p2power.co.nz/

thanks PDK. I have been following the Blueskin activity closely. I had not put it together with the p2p thing

I should add PDK that the P2P thing is a great initiative. But reaching beyond that, given we pay line charges already, private arrangements for free should also be part of the mix. The interweb thingee makes it easy peasy to track and manage. But difficult now with the existing market arrangements and rules.
My daughter and I already pay line charges for the infrastructure, so I should be able to just send surplus PV energy over to her for free. Why sell it to some intermediary and for her to buy it back for more money.
I am sure these things will come in due course. This discussion is just refining the ideas. Then we need political will.

Wholesale electricity price is 0.08/kWh, home users pay $0.2-0.3/kWh. There exists an opportunity for technologically enabled arbitrage with autonomous battery cars charging cheaply centrally then taking it to peoples homes for use - augmented by rooftop solar and home batteries. The mediators of such a system avoid the grid monopoly, ensuring competition drives down prices, and can certainly arrange to do distributed supply and use circumventing the huge overheads of the grid.

Why plan to go to 100% and then find it too expensive. Maybe the way would be to just pump up the renewable generation, my choice would be households, and if we find it only gets to 90%, it would still be great.

93 % by 2035 without government intervention would be better than that achieved by 93 % of the other sovereign nations on earth ..
.
. that last 7 % will cripple us economically if we push hard to reach it ..

So , I predict the Greens will go all out screaming at us of the utmost necessity of doing so ... meanwhile China keeps burning billions of tonnes of coal annually...

Yes, utility scale PV is only marginally economic in NZ, but household PV will (in a couple of years, particularly for houses with an EV or two as backup power stores) be cheaper than grid supplied electricity due to the roughly $0.15-0.22/kWh above wholesale electricity prices that domestic users are charged for grid supplied electricity. Home battery systems are currently around $500/kWh, but likely to come down to $100/kWh in 5 years as battery production and competition ramp up. Going off grid will soon be cheaper for users in sunny parts of country, particularly when their autonomous EV can toodle off to a grid connected charging station and bring a few days worth of electricity home in bad weather.

Expect this gravy train to run until the next ice age kicks in - "7. The public service will continue to act as the Government’s primary policy advisor on climate change alongside the Committee and the Commission."
...“The interesting thing about the Green New Deal,” he said, “is it wasn’t originally a climate thing at all.” Ricketts greeted this startling notion with an attentive poker face. “Do you guys think of it as a climate thing?” Chakrabarti continued. “Because we really think of it as a how-do-you-change-the-entire-economy thing.”
https://www.iccc.mfe.govt.nz/who-we-are/terms-of-reference/
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/magazine/wp/2019/07/10/feature/how-s...

The media and reinsurance have certainly figured out how to monetize it.

As long as we think çostly', we're shot. That doesn't measure anything anymore. We just need to do stuff, or we're going to self-annihilate.

BTW - Is it time for Interest.co to have a policy of requiring industry touts to identify themselves?

I continue to be gobsmacked that the so-called 'experts' persist in saying the ETS pays a part in this. when will they learn that the ETS is just a BS means of letting the biggest polluters off the hook, albeit at a cost, while others suffer. Only Government regulation the world over and enforcement will create the change required. These 'xspurts' (x = unknown quantity, spurt is a drip under pressure!) should get a basic understanding of human psychology.

One of the things that always makes me smirk is New Zealanders sense of over-importance. We are not a player in this climate change thing. Nothing, absolutely nothing, not a thing we do will have any effect. But there is money to be milked from taxpayers!

If rising sea levels sink out best farmland would that make us a player?

There is no evidence the CO2 price will go where they predict it will. Setting an agenda based on a predicted price of CO2 is exceedingly foolhardy.

This is truly tranformational: 3800km Singapore-Australia underwater DC power link. Using this tech we could hook up to low cost PV in north west Australia to cover our high-use nights, and supply electricity to early morning Australia eliminating need for most batteries: https://cleantechnica.com/2019/07/16/high-voltage-undersea-transmission-...

Both wind and solar are non-dispatchable (try ordering 1.73 gWh of Windy Electrons for December 2020, or 3 kWh of solar for 0300 tomorrow). So storage (batteries, grid backup via perched water) is essential, because baseload via hydro, nuclear, coal, gas, geothermal or co-gen) is always needed. Dispatchability cannot be waved away.

Plus, both wind and solar are extremely diffuse forms of power, so need lotsa lines to hook 'em back to points of consumption, and are thus vulnerable to weather, sabotage, and plain old Murphy.

Actual power engineers tend to regard the non-dispatchables as a fad and a nuisance: they take quite some wrangling to play nicely with grids, require instant spinning reserve to cover drop-outs, maintain frequency and voltage stability, cannot be used to black-start entire grids (as SA discovered in 2016), and lower the economic efficiency of the baseload generation sources (which have to be kept spinning at much less than optimal outputs, or kept permanently on standby for quick start if that be even possible). All of that implies much increased end-user costs, which (Murphy rules...) fall most heavily on Them as Wot can Least Carry them.

None of this is a recipe for Sustainability.....but the fad rolls on....