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Rain eases pressure on electricity system, but coal and gas continue to account for nearly a quarter of New Zealand's electricity generation

Rain eases pressure on electricity system, but coal and gas continue to account for nearly a quarter of New Zealand's electricity generation

Wet weather is taking some of the pressure off the country’s electricity system, which is being propped up by coal.

National hydro storage last week increased 2.4 percentage points to 70.2% of the average for this time of year, according to data collected by Transpower - the owner and operator of New Zealand’s electricity grid.

This saw coal and gas’s (thermal) contribution to electricity generation fall from 25% to 22%. While an improvement, this level is still well above the 10-year average of 17%.

Thermal last reached the 25% mark in July 2020. 

With thermal generation high (orange line in the graph), hydro generation was low last week at only 47% (green line in the graph).

Genesis - the owner and operator of the Huntly Power Station - has been using more coal than gas.

It generated more than twice as much electricity from coal in the three months to March 31, than it did in the same period in 2020. In other words, its generation from coal rose 117% year-on-year.

Meanwhile generation from gas fell 25%.

New Zealand’s largest gas field, Pohokura, is at the end of its life and has been requiring extensive maintenance that’s hampered production (click on the magnifying icon to zoom in on the Gas Industry chart).


Energy and Resources Minister Megan Woods recognised the role coal is playing in propping up the electricity system during a dry year.

She said this underlined why it was important for New Zealand to move to a 100% renewable electricity model.

Wind has a long way to go replacing coal and gas. While it made up 7.9% of the country’s electricity generation last week, its contribution has averaged at 5.5% over the past year.

But Woods, in a speech at a wind energy conference last week, highlighted the fact some large projects are underway.

Meridian Energy has committed to building a 41-turbine, 176 megawatt windfarm near Napier, Mercury Energy building its Turitea windfarm, and work is underway on Mainpower’s Mt Cass 22-turbine windfarm, which will be the biggest in the South Island.

In the meantime, wholesale electricity prices remain relatively high.

Wholesale electricity

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Woods said: “I am concerned about at the prospect of rising power prices…

“This is why I have asked officials for advice on current wholesale price levels and trends.

“Regarding the outlook for this winter and the current lake storage levels, I am closely monitoring the situation to ensure that demand continues to be met and that the market is responding in an efficient and appropriate way.

“Additionally, my officials at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment are working with Transpower, the Electricity Authority, and the Gas Industry Company to establish systems and processes to enable a coordinated whole-of-sector response.”

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75 Comments

31
up

Here's a thought Megan. Why dont we use our own cleaner coal instead of importing dirtier coal mined in developing countries by cheap labour then shipping it here using ships and other transportation powered by fossil fuels. You know the fuel you're trying to eliminate.

Its not CO2 I can smell its rank Labour hypocrisy.

12
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Agreed, and supports local jobs

We are already supporting local jobs by digging the coal up and exporting it.

Digging the coal up and using it domestically makes 0 difference for jobs. If anything it reduces jobs, because now you don't have export and import workloads.

One mine on the West Coast produces export coking coal for steel production, there's plenty of domestic thermal coal being mined elsewhere including the outskirts of Huntly.
With protesters chaining themselves to gates and machinery at any mention of expanding a mine, perhaps the limited available resource is being rationed for the steady consumers of dairy & timber processing, school & hospital boilers etc rather than trying to continuously adjust the capital expenditure and workforce to match the load of a last resort power station.

Rank hypocrisy, what an understatement. Who with great gush and drama declared “The Climate Emergency.” Now this farcical contradiction. The government is becoming an embarrassment. A climate emergency, and they sanction a new wide bodied jet airport on beautiful natural landscape in Central Otago. Don’t they know what their own words mean.

Why dont we use our own cleaner coal instead of importing dirtier coal

Because our high-grade cleaner coal fetches a high price on the world market because it can be used for steel production, whereas the dirty coal is too low grade that it can only be used for thermal power generation. Hence why the dirty coal is cheaper - it's not as versatile.

What you're suggesting is the equivalent of burning jet fuel in our cars instead of petrol (ignoring for the moment that the engine can't run on that) because the jet fuel is locally produced when the petrol is imported. Yes, you can do it, but you're throwing away money and wasting a high quality fuel on a job that a low quality fuel could do.

Incidentally we do this with NZ's crude oil - the majority of our crude oil production is light sweet crude, good for production of jet fuel, and this is shipped offshore. We import gasoline or lower grades of crude and refine to gasoline locally for use in ICE land transportation.

Since when did throwing away money overule common sense, environmental impact and posturing with this government.

So we burn dirty coal and export cleaner burning coal. Surely the fact that its dirty and the carbon miles it incurs need addressing. A tax will surely do that.

International shipping actually has a really low carbon footprint per ton of moved goods.

You clearly don't think we're ready to go for renewables, what is your proposal? Dramatic cuts in energy use? Keep chugging through fossil fuels and leave the problem to the next generation? Even if climate change is manageable, using fossil fuels is by definition not sustainable, certainly not for a time horizon longer than a few decades.

We aren't ready. We're posturing on the fringe. We're supposed to be going all out renewable very shortly with little sign of any game changing investment to increase supply whilst electric vehicles etc are going to be huge consumers of electricity let alone
any other supporting infrastructure.

If I had the answer that would be good. Mostly the govt is progressing policy away from fossil fuels toward solutions that are going to cost consumers dearly by comparison. So who suffers? The poor yet again.

I've lived part of the answer for many years.

There are a thousand ways to reduce your energy-demand - including producing your own food (it's just energy, after all).

But their problem is the growth-assuming, debt-holding, overshot-population-ed society they represent. And that problem can be traced to the ignorance with which we believed the 'growth forever' and ' decoupling' nonsense from economists.

More interesting, is Australia's strategic (I'm sure they expect a war over what's left of the planet, they dig into it pretty hard themselves) decision to keep two refineries (Kurnell must be gone).

Well if certainly won't be easy but there are limited alternatives. It's certainly achievable in New Zealand if we can get onslow going and keep up the new found momentum with wind farms. Meridian are building a plant a year for the next few years, and contact and Mercury look pretty keen too.

The major, game changing initiative not mentioned here is the cap and trade scheme. Our reduction in emissions is already locked in by policy, this is all just the market (and government) figuring out how best to do it.

12
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What isn't mentioned in the article, is that the coal for Huntly is imported. t's obvious to anyone, except the government, that coal will be around for a long time yet.

I'm not particularly concerned that its imported. Probably far cheaper than can be produced locally. In any event the govt/Labour don't want dirty mining here, just like shutting down new gas exploration and importing gas from elsewhere.

The description NIMBY springs to mind. Bit like agriculture it seems. Perhaps we should give our food export markets the finger and only supply ourselves. Also cut immigration and we make our climate targets easier as they arent per capita but total amounts. The more the population increases the lesser the per capita emission.

Yeah there is plenty of coal in NZ. Around HLY and in the deep south. But we chose to import stuff. Out of sight out of mind.

11
up

Wind turbines haven't been successful in South Australia and the blades go to landfill.

How about another dam? Whats that you say Marama? Electricity is just another social construct?

I keep hearing this "blades go to landfill" thing. Sounds like a meme to me.

How many tons of wind turbine blades go to landfill each year, vs used nappies?

Carbon fibre doesn't break down easily. Recycling hasn't been addressed. Again the apparent solution creates more problems. Like the hundreds of millions of tonnes of solar panels that will go the same way in 20 years time.

Entirely missing the point that there simply aren't that many wind turbines going to landfill, compared to other sources of waste we could much more easily do something about, and which aren't anywhere near as vital to civilisation as electricity is. Eg, dirty nappies.

If you're concerned about waste going to landfill, start with the high volume sources that have easy alternatives (cloth nappies). Worry about the very low volume difficult to replace things last.

Of course all windfarm blades will eventually find their way into land fills. Fiberglass does not degrade, well not in our lifetimes. Oil based resin goes back where it came from. And the glass fibre too. So what?
But disposable nappies, yeah totally unnecessary. Just modern laziness.
(I'm a guy, I have done my duty helping with 2 offspring of cloth babies nappies. No big deal).
PS. The man haters in the media would never acknowledge the existence of people like me. But thats another topic in itself!

Solar panels don't just suddenly stop working at 20 years. Their performance degrades, perhaps they run at 60-80% of their original capacity, in most cases they will just be kept around. The owner may add a few new panels to get back to the original capacity.

Furthermore, hundreds of millions of tons of largely standardised solar panels = new resource stream that someone can invent a way to recycle and make a profit from.

"Energy and Resources Minister Megan Woods recognised the role coal is playing in propping up the electricity system during a dry year."
Ah yes but don't want to upset supply by implementing rolling blackouts

She said this underlined why it was important for New Zealand to move to a 100% renewable electricity model."
Another Labour Green dream.
"Wind has a long way to go replacing coal and gas. While it made up 7.9% of the country’s electricity generation last week, its contribution has averaged at 5.5% over the past year."
The real facts about renewable energy. A drop in the ocean

"Meridian Energy has committed to building a 41-turbine, 176 megawatt windfarm near Napier, Mercury Energy building its Turitea windfarm, and work is underway on Mainpower’s Mt Cass 22-turbine windfarm, which will be the biggest in the South Island."
Not sure what Huntly is running these days. At least 4x250MW. Take a lot more wind farms to make up this.

"Woods said: “I am concerned about at the prospect of rising power prices…"
Aren't we all. What do you intend doing about it. Blatherings from a politician.
“This is why I have asked officials for advice on current wholesale price levels and trends.
“Regarding the outlook for this winter and the current lake storage levels, I am closely monitoring the situation to ensure that demand continues to be met and that the market is responding in an efficient and appropriate way."
Keep monitoring. You can do stuff all about it anyway.
Disingenuous lot.

Another Labour Green dream.

Not really. The Onslow pumped storage system will make 100% renewable viable and only cost $4-5 billion to achieve and may be ready as soon as 2030.

The real facts about renewable energy. A drop in the ocean

If you ignore that other ocean of renewable energy, hydro, which even now is contributing 45%, and it's around 60% in normal times. Also ignoring geothermal, clocking in it a very steady 20%. Why you ignored these when they're in the graphs on the article you are replying to I don't know.

Aren't we all. What do you intend doing about it. Blatherings from a politician.

They're investigating the feasbility of lake Onslow pumped storage, or alternative system. Amongst other things.

Disingenuous lot.

Pot, meet kettle.

Not much rain or snow will fall into it so its mainly going to need to pump before it generates. So it will very often be a parasite. By needing to pump it up there, it will make its own generation more needed. Hard to explain in a short sentence.

ref B Leyland an NZ electricity expert in Oct20, on Onslow.
"The government has undertaken to spend $30 million or more on a study of the Onslow pumped storage scheme that, it claims, will provide up to 5000 GWh of dry year storage, reduce electricity prices, eliminate fossil fuel generation, and be in service by 2030.
This is the stuff of dreams."

They're just hoping Tiwai will close however the Infrastructure won't cope moving it north without big investment.

That investment is underway and has been accelerated. Should be in place once tiwai shuts in three years.

"North" being to the rest of the south island I think you mean? As I understand it there isn't enough HVDC capacity to take it all across the straight.

Fair point. Meridian are banking on change of use in the South Island e.g. dairy plants switching from coal to electricity, and hydrogen production to take up any slack (also producing a variable load to be reduced in dry years).

Wishful thinking without huge subsidies.

And which is that? Onslow battery isn't looking so good and its tied to rainfall which if you listen to the climate alarmists should be drying up.

Onslow isn't so tied to rainfall, hence its use as a dry year hedge. It allows massive overbuild of wind (something like an extra 2000MW), so the lake tops up when the wind blows strong, or when the lakes would otherwise be discharging. If solar takes off it could buffer some high flows from that too.

This Burni is sounding like 'one of those'. All one way traffic, spot the direction spot the target. Straw-man stuff.

The problem is that we will run out of fossil energy in the same timeframe Shaw is legislating (by 2050). We're already down to fracking and tar-sands and invading anyone who doesn't comply. Then we need to be on renewables. My solar isn't deteriorating at all (17 years down the track) and my micro-hydro just keeps chugging, 24/7. Haven't had a power bill in those 17 years, and all-up have spent well short of10k.

Quite likely we will run out of fossil fuels. Presume you're not running Evs on your system.

The thing is in light of further electrification due to technology, a growing population and all the extra demands that that applies to energy supply, we simply aren't doing anything on a grand enough scale to address it. Lake Onslow might do a dry year but what if dry years become the norm in the face of growing demand.

No I don't have the answer but if as a government you don't have one yet are hellbent on cutting supply at some point there will be brown outs black outs and other productivity reducing effects.

Bit like Auckland continuing to build without infrastructure and water. Its all going to end badly.

Yup. Tainter wrote a book you should read: https://www.jstor.org/stable/530158?seq=1

We live in interesting times - sadly, there are still those who think in money terms, rather than energy and resource terms. I've been 'putting food on the table' between the last post and now - juicing wayside apples as it happens - but there are those who think money (debt-issued digits, no more) is what does that trick. Some kind of magic, must be. Bit like the cargo-cult, perhaps. Certainly as ignorant.

Where we go from here is something my cohort have given a lot of thought (we're a look-ahead think-tank, volunteers all). Much less being done, much more local, intermittent everything, inspired leadership in some places, dinosaur leadership in others (I wouldn't live through the coming epoch in Ashburton, for instance).

Not bad. I added it up, my electricity bill has been about 13 grand over the last 17 yrs. So you are ahead. When you have to replace stuff you will be behind. But being on-grid when I buy an electric car I can just go ahead and do that. Sure, a medium wall charger cost 4 or 5 grand I believe. But nothing like what it would cost at an off grid installation.

Why cart a ton of metal around? You only need to get you and a bit of luggage around, no?

So I go bike. Can charge it, can park it, little in the way of overheads.

Wonder with smelter how they like producing aluminium for 2500$T compared to the 1500$T when negotiations were on?

17
up

Some idiot apparently banned gas and oil exploration, unbelievable I know! Ask Texas about wind power, it's a crock.

Natural gas was the bigger problem in the recent Texas outages. Turns out it is hard to keep the fuel supply going during extreme weather: https://www.texastribune.org/2021/04/28/texas-power-outage-wind/

Which will not have any impact on domestic production until 2030 at the earliest.

Wind power wasn't the problem in Texas. Leaving it to market forces to ensure their power grid could cope with an unprecedented weather event was. The power companies deliberately underinvested in weather-proofing their generation systems because they assumed such a weather event could never happen in the great state of Texas.

Megan Woods is the biggest generator of wind and hot air.

With thermal generation contributing >1100 MW to the national grid at the moment, we are going to need a heck of a lot more wind power to meet the gap. Remember that's the nameplate capacity typical generation is usually around 40% of that.

New hydro seems problematic with the Waitaha river project being vetoed, and I don't see us getting a 20% reduction through energy saving with the population growing as it is, but why not more geothermal? It's baseload and only has a small carbon footprint.

More geothermal is coming, contact are building it. I suspect that with current technology there isn't a huge amount more to be done here though, with the easy resources largely tapped and limits to how deep we can go at this point. Perhaps someone more knowledgeable can confirm or disagree.

It does seem like they need to get serious about it. A "big" project of 176mw, intermittently, doesn't go very far toward our current ~2000mw of thermal.

Yes more would be nice, not sure what the physical prospects of that are though. We can only do it where there's enough hot stuff not too far under the surface at the moment.

Minor correction, the geothermal is always-on baseline generation, not intermittent like wind.

I meant the 176mw wind project mentioned at the end, but yes similar to the new geothermal scope. I don't know about the scope for more geothermal, but I'd like to see more. There's obviously a lot of scope for more wind, but only if we have a way to buffer it. I presume that the economics of wind development are already being somewhat compromised by the fact that there's enough around for spot prices to drop when the wind blows.

'to meet the gap'

Bit arrogant, methinks. How about fitting-in with what is available? And extrapolating that to the planet.......

Taiwan's president once said "Let's use love to power ourselves" amid its unrealistic move to 100% renewable electricity target and here came the blackout in the entire Taiwan days ago.

NZ is heading to the same direction if gas fields are not permitted to be explored, coal power plants are kept being decommissioned, while no new dams are put into place.

Wind farm are pretty pathetic.

If we want CCP propaganda we know where to find it.

Right here in the NZ MSM

Chinese propaganda is the best

Here is a sobering graph for the worlds power generation.

https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/electricity-prod-source-stacked?count...

88% of power generated from fossil fuels and the large majority of that from Coal.
Whether they like it or not gas is just so much cleaner and emits less CO2.
It is possible to generate power from natural gas very efficiently and produce only co2 and water. This way the CO2 is in a form where it can be readily sequestered in spent gas fields.
https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2019/07/31/net-zero-natural-gas-...

Those who think that just converting our cars to electric and using the existing power generation are very mistaken if they believe that this will reduce CO2. It will in fact significantly increase it because the efficiency of fuel energy to motive power is about the same for both, but because so much power comes from coal the emissions will be higher.
In the short term hybrid cars are a much better proposition for most of the world because these can achieve 36% and possibly higher fuel energy conversion efficiency compared to about 25% for a normal IC engine car. if they were run on natural gas possibly even lower green house gasses would be emitted.
I am not saying that we should not be doing anything to reduce our carbon emissions as quickly as possible. No it is critical. But people need to keep a very clear head and look at every thing thoroughly and rationally instead of chasing of down the latest populist path.
We are lucky in NZ as we have lots of renewable power and potential for more.

Developing countries are heading for extreme energy poverty and poor living standards as these measures impact.

All countries are heading for energy poverty and poor living standards, either because we don't adequately address climate change, or because we do.

Nevermind a tax will solve the problem.

And because its not addressed the princess ends child poverty in 3,2,1.

Child Poverty is actually 'child lack of access to energy and resources'.

You can do that by having less children, or reducing consumption per child (even levelling won't solve global overshottedness, now).

We made a grave mistake believing dollars, or indeed tokens of any kind.

Yet in NZ we incentivise extra offspring whether they can be afforded or not.

Imagine where electricity prices would be if Genesis had dismantled their coal burning capacity, as suggested they might, a few years back. Luckily if we get a serious price spike I've got a small emergency generator to run the house.

MOSCOW, May 14. /TASS/. Russia does not need to rush to abandon oil exports because of the intention of other countries to switch to carbon-neutral energy, Russian Energy Minister Nikolai Shulginov said in an interview with the Energy Policy public business science magazine. He stressed that by 2035, even developed countries will not be able to abandon hydrocarbons.

"It is not correct to think about abandoning oil exports. There is no need to rush to part with hydrocarbons, rather, it is necessary to develop renewable energy sources along with traditional types of energy," the minister said.

"We need to strive for our nuclear energy to be officially considered carbon-neutral. Moreover, the leaders of seven European countries have already turned to the European Union with a request to recognize nuclear energy as clean. The U.S. is of the same opinion," Shulginov said.

According to him, the intention to switch to carbon-neutral energy is typical for many countries today, that is why the carbon tax has become an urgent agenda for them.

"It is impossible to ignore this transition, but you need to understand that by 2035 neither Europe nor the United States will completely get rid of hydrocarbons and traditional energy resources will continue to play a significant role," the minister stressed.Link

With solar four times as much energy goes out my gate as comes in. (2X in winter)
Every litle chunk of it means another litre stays in Pukaki.
That drives crazy those used only to big power distribution, but it helps the nation for sure.

Well done you.

I left my litres there a long time ago. Yes, balancing the grid with local production will be harder, but not as hard as building and maintaining another 150% of our current production (fossil energy being about 60% of our energy usage). We'll partially go there, before things go pear-shaped. And the further we go, the better.

Yes well done KH.
If Onslow pumped hydro gets built then you should get better prices for the electricity you sell back to the grid.
Onslow will have the capacity to buy summer solar to store for use in the winter.
There is a good write-up about Onslow titled - "Power woes: 'We need a solution or we are going to wreck our economy'"
https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/125013458/power-woes-we-need-a-solution...

Interestingly a solar energy farm in Northland capable of supplying 1% of NZ's electricity needs is going ahead.
https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/125090584/300m-plan-for-five-solar-ener...

"The solar farms will cover 500 hectares and will comprise 500,000 solar panels which will be erected at a height of about 2.3 metres, in lines about 10 metres apart, allowing livestock to graze underneath and tractors to move in between."

A video on the mix of farming and solar generation titled - "Agrivoltaics. An economic lifeline for American farmers?" can be viewed here.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ue53mBUtNY&t=17s

The only comment I have to make is that I can't stand Megan Woods.

Anything that comes out of her mouth is utter drivel.

Then save us the trouble. She is in an impossible position, a result of decades of false belief. Don't blame her - blame the media and academia, who chose to peddle, believe and benefit from not challenging growth.

Embrace nuclear energy.

Who is crunching the real numbers around bringing online more 'renewable' generation?
Surely the generators are incentivized to develop somewhere just below the generation we use? To keep the price high? Every step change in generation capacity increase is just downward pressure on wholesale rates?

When you investigate the economics of new generation in many parts of the grid there will be transmission constraints if you all generate beyond a set figure. Or build too much generation. After that you cannot generate any more. eg Constrained off. And wholesale market prices crash in that area. Either that or convince TP to plan and pay for a costly transmission upgrade with angry public (media) to contend with etc. Thats the economics of it. Its not some conspiracy. Just economics.
And its a case of who gets in first in these constrained areas. The electricity businesses mindblowingly complex. Thats just the transmission side of it.

I'm not thinking conspiracy/collusion at all.
But if the goal is 100% renewable, then presumably generation online would have to exceed usage by some margin (dry years etc). It just fascinates me how the 100% renewable target is going to be achieved under the current model. Where will the incentives come from to invest and build and leap ahead of the total usage by whatever required margin we need to give security.

A large project like Onslow will help as it provides somewhere for excess power to go and still earn something (assuming the transmission is in place which may be simplistic). If there's too much power being generated, Onslow can soak up something like 1000MW of it by pumping, and will likely pay something like 8c for the privilege. That kind of floor price would make wind power much more appealing, even when there's enough that would cause serious distortions in today's market.

The other side of the equation is the price of carbon - the cost of generating electricity from coal has close to doubled since they had to pay for their emissions, and this is likely to get worse.

Whirinaki might give us a lead. ie The govt. ie political not economics.

Can someone calculate the Carbon Tax amount that would encourage Huntley to switch from Indonesian coal back to gas?
Yes I know our gas supplies are limited but I doubt the Power companies care.