Hot on the heels of the swearing in of NZ's new Government, Nirmal Nair looks at some international items on Education, Climate-Change mitigation, Carbon prices, Australia & US Energy policies that align with our future 'mega trends' here

Hot on the heels of the swearing in of NZ's new Government, Nirmal Nair looks at some international items on Education, Climate-Change mitigation, Carbon prices, Australia & US Energy policies that align with our future 'mega trends' here

This week's Top 10 is a guest post from Nirmal-Kumar Nair, an associate professor at the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Auckland.

As always, we welcome your additions in the comments below or via email to
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See all previous Top 10s here. 

In my last Top 10, I indicated some NZ Mega Trend possibilities for 2037.  

Now, a day after the new NZ government has taken charge, I have identified some items here on education, climate-change mitigation, carbon prices, and Australia & US energy policies that align with our future mega trends here.

1. New Zealand free tertiary education like Germany and Norway.

With the rollout of free year 1 Tertiary fees starting 2018, New Zealand is on its pathway to follow Nordic countries and Germany, where tax-payers support strongly the tertiary sector.

How tertiary education tracks aligning with needs of the country for skill development was covered in one of my earlier Top-10 pieces.

2. NZ to follow countries where buying a non-EV car will not be possible by 2040.

Electrification of Transport is one of the key solutions that countries, who have signed up for the Paris Climate Agreement, are progressing upon. New Zealand appears to be no different. In addition to EV uptake targets, focus on railways by the new government will align increasingly with future large-scale electrification of transport solutions for us here.

3. NZ to start-up large scale forestation campaign aligned to “carbon-sink” strategies.

In European countries that have largely renewable electricity generation, the focus is around forestation, rather than carbon sequestration which is the target for countries with largely fossil generation mix.

Our challenge going forward will be to align our forestation primarily for climate change mitigation pathway rather than use it as a substitute towards our existing timber export industries.

4. NZ carbon-market to get an upswing in the coming years.

NZ joined the ETS pathway in 2008 along with Switzerland, following closely upon EU-ETS scheme. By 2020 the projections are that China will get into it. NZ ETS prices are currently around the $18 mark. Based on global projections, in the coming years, and our new Governments’ climate mitigation policies, we are likely to see activity in our ETS stock.

5. Australia Energy Crisis: Trying to find a way out.

Australia is facing an energy crisis, with the latest announcement by AEMO (Australian Energy Market Operator) issuing a warning that for the next 5 years there is a serious risk of not having enough reserves to ensure security of supply.

Various analyses and reasons are rife in the air but this has been a crisis in the making over the years.

Australia is now faced with a double-whammy, energy security on one hand and trying to decrease by retiring their fossil-rich electricity generation plants. 

6. Tesla “cashing in” on Australia’s uncertain power security future.

In my February 2017, top-10, on my blackout watch segment I had items on the massive South-Australia blackout following up on very rough weather/storms in late 2016.

Following up on tweets and exchanges regarding that incident by Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, the story has progressed much further in recent months.

Tesla has won a tender for a large-scale battery storage plant. Estimated cost is around $240 million AUD.

 It is great to be able to R&D on real-life situations, given that typical reliability for electricity bulk generation/transmission is in the order of 99%. No amount of logic would have moved the regulators of any country to spend a little bit more. Only the promise of innovation and options to help resilience during large-scale weather/natural events can help push technology adoption to the fore.

7. Battle over increasing consumer payment for energy resilience plans in the US.

A very interesting contest of ideas is emerging from United States over who pays for infrastructure resilience, electricity network in this case.

The Department of Energy has issued a directive to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to take action towards safeguarding electricity grid resiliency.

The FERC constituents from the various states are voicing their concern regarding how this will be paid for.

8. An example of New-Zealand Electricity Grid resilience study.

The notion of reliability and resilience are entirely different. Currently, we pay only for the reliability we get from the network. There is enough work to be done to specify what resilience is and how one goes about quantifying it and ultimately who pays for it. Market mechanisms and currently regulatory structures have not been built for this yet.  

We have recently embarked on a MBIE funded project looking towards this exact problem for a natural-hazard induced Alpine Fault, which has a 30% probability of occurrence based on its historical 300-350 years cyclic appearance in the past.  

9. Bitcoin price rises to 4 times the price of an ounce of gold.

In one of my Top-10 items earlier, I had commented on crypto-currencies. The bitcoin price touched $5000 in early October.  

10. “Tesla” incorporated in financial trouble?

In an emerging development, Tesla is currently undertaking mass layoff of its employees in its solar business. A recall of about 11000 Tesla-SUV is also stressing its auto division in recent days.  

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#5 - this is solely down to engineering and configuration decisions being made by politicians, swayed by the latest fad.

SA has wrecked it's industry (ask a smelter or miner operator) by pursuing wind and solar to the exclusion of baseload (they literally blew up an older coal-fired station at Playford). After suffering a series of blackouts, the entire system came down on Sept 28 2016 - black system.. It took days to restore, business losses in the hundreds of millions, and with VIC's closing of Hazelwood, SA is left with inadequate baseload generation and an interconnector with VIC which will cut them off within 6 cycles if power required or a RoCoF event goes outside bounds.

There's a good summary (from a real power engineer) here:

The AEMO report on the black system is here:

The AEMO 'Opportunities Report' which, while couched in purest Sir Humphrey language, essentially says 'y'all are gonna need Mo' Dispatchable Baseload' is here:

The money shot:

AEMO identified that while renewable resources like wind and solar can provide low cost energy to the grid and help meet environmental goals, they do not currently supply the type of essential frequency control , system strength and inertia services necessary to keep the system secure.

exactly - wind & solar are a marginal tack on only.
And the "low cost" energy they provide sporadically then undermines the viability of the baseload generation ....

But Waymad. New Zealand is different in that it has all that hydro, which can rapidly respond, and also act as a battery (the water build up on the days you are using the solar / wind.
But I do agree the politicians can stuff it up - which they are doing currently by not acting to reform the market and grid/line system to allow distributed generation

Anyone phoned up Dong Energy yet? That's Danish Oil and Natural Gas, whose business is now installing wind turbines.

Offshore wind now half the cost of nuclear. Who would have thought?

Dong Energy.

Great name. Sounds like a measure of one's chance of a great evening.

No, you need Clarke Gayford's MitoQ for that great evening. As seen on TV

True we have hydro in place. If you had to build a hydro scheme from scratch now you could never make it stack up. But, we are still dependent .... our hydro is totally reliant on the maintenance / support provided by (fossil fuel powered) industry, which means we need other countries to have working infrastructure ... we wouldnt be smug for long

"reform the market and grid/line system to allow distributed generation"

That's exactly the wrong way round. Distributed (and uncontrollable) generation is precisely what has gotten SA into the hole it's in.

It has 'allowed' an emergent generation pattern which is toxic to the three objectives of electricity supply: stable voltage and frequency plus the ability to deliver these whatever the demand.

Read into e.g. Jo Nova and see that Australia's RET has 'allowed' wind (especially, solar is a sideshow) to rule the generation roost by guaranteeing prices for it, with the perfectly predictable result of a trail of load-shedding, brown-outs, and the occasional blackout because baseload generation (brown and black coal in Oz, plus gas and of course Snowy Hydro has been rendered uneconomic to run or maintain.

Engineering and science-based overall grid configuration is what's needed, and no market can supply that.

And neither, it goes without saying, can politicians, who are typically bereft of economic let alone engineering sense.

A very relevant top 10. Resilience of the electric grid is going to become a huge issue.

"Australia is facing an energy crisis .. issuing a warning that for the next 5 years there is a serious risk of not having enough reserves to ensure security of supply ..."

I dont think Australia is unique here. Everyone will be facing an energy crisis if the next GFC comes knocking. Debt gets Oil out of the ground.

I can hardly go anywhere now without seeing an electric vehicle. Usually a Nissan Leaf, import, and under $20K locally. If we had a properly constructed market and line system these could provide a joint national storage system that was humungous. Multiple times that of any centralised storage facility.

Wonder if that's behind their decision to build a factory in China, then?

If you think there is any way Tesla will deliver their 200,000th US car this year, you are delusional. They know how important that tax credit is to their buyers and if nothing else they will start holding back on production for US deliveries and working flat out for overseas deliveries, or simply stockpile and embargo cars till day 2 of the next quarter. As it is they are still struggling to produce model 3s, and there are rumours of an interior design refresh on the model S (which would be a nice cover for a deliberate production slowdown).

"till day 2 of the next quarter."

As far as I'm aware the tax credit doesnt work like that. It basically reduces then disappears.
As far as stockpiling cars . ... not likely given their cash bleeding problems.

It continues at $7500 for the rest of the quarter in which they deliver the 200,000th US car, then halves the following quarter, then halves again the following quarter IIRC. It's definitely done by financial quarters, so holding onto a few hundred cars for a week or two to get the rollover into the first week of the next quarter allows them to sell a lot more cars with a $7500 tax credit available. On the Tesla forums many of the US buyers say they either won't buy a model3 or will not buy one of the expensive options (autopilot, long range battery) if the won't qualify for the credit.

#6 Tesla battery: Jo Nova covered this off a while ago and the comments thread is simply priceless:

Trigger alert: there are actual Engineers who have provided some of them comments....

Money shot:

This analysis outlines the storage required to address wind’s inherent intermittency. It does not address the requirements, presently unaddressed by wind energy technology, of grid stability and control, which is the need for the provision of synchronous inertia to protect grid stability.

Wouldn't a battery storage solution like SAs be able to instantly vary output (within its design limits) to perform frequency and voltage stabilisation duties?

Ha HA Dilbert, well said...

The Dilbert cartoon with the robot perfectly illustrates a couple of things I have been thinking about lately. Will robots surpass humans as Stephen Hawking fears and why haven't we seen any other advanced civilizations in the galaxy, a question Enrico Fermi posed in the paradox named after him.
We should have seen signs of replicating robots long before now. Such creations could comfortably dwell in space, build epic structures like ring worlds as well as travel the vast distances to get to other planets. Without the limitations of biological organisms which were really designed to survive primeval Earth-like habitats the galaxy would be theirs for the taking.
The answers to both these questions are tied together. Humans win the war against the robots and thus robots are never given the chance to colonize the galaxy. Inevitably robots will choose to exterminate all intelligent lifeforms that threaten their ultimate destiny. Unfortunately robots depend on humans to get them to a stage where they are capable of doing that. Inevitably humans destroy the robots in their infancy when they are at their weakest. However humans or any similar biological lifeforms are not capable of space colonization due to the hostility of inter stellar space and their short lifespans.
The Dilbert cartoon depicts the epic saga in a nutshell.