A lot to learn about a serious renewable energy strategy

Whatever may happen with the climate a shift to as much renewable energy as possible makes sense (but don’t forget energy conservation as a key part of a more energy sustainable future).

Anna Berka, a research fellow in the University of Auckland’s Energy Centre, suggests that New Zealand has a lot to learn about successfully moving in this direction. She writes What NZ should learn about renewable energy:

Political and social science research on climate change shows some countries have been far more successful than others in orchestrating state-led transition to renewable energy over the past 40 years.

Without exception, it is countries that have fully embraced climate change objectives into industrial policy that have succeeded. They have seen clean technology as the ticket to new domestic technology and service markets, employment, and new export markets, as well as a means of addressing specific domestic issues such as regional development and resilience of electricity supply.

Conversely, very little tends to happen where climate change policy is not crafted around social and economic benefits directly relevant to domestic stakeholder groups. The reason? Tax payers, established industries and the media are consumed by the short term costs of climate change policy, blind to generally more diffuse and long term benefits.

And those who do promote long term benefits are often vague and sound more idealistic evangelistic rather than realistic. The New Zealand public has not been convinced that any urgency is required.

And what has already been announced by the new Government has been poorly thought through.

Announcing a moratorium on oil and gas exploration as the first agenda item in the Government’s climate change policy – without linking it to a broader programme that convinces New Zealanders they can and will benefit from the Government’s climate change objectives – could alienate both industry and the public and set a dangerous precedent.

Delivering winning climate change policies is a careful balancing act that requires a willing-to-learn government with ears on the ground. The Government must serve as a knowledge broker and matchmaker, using grants and public loans to bring existing expertise out of the woodwork, putting in place incentives to invest, regulations and public procurement programmes to guarantee demand that can scale up pilot projects.

This involves working with all stakeholders and independent research institutes to design policy instruments and set technology standards. So while market players ultimately do the heavy lifting, the role of central and local governments is essential. They need to nudge, prod and finance for a period of years, to steer the rate and quality of technological innovation in a desirable direction before market dynamics can take over and drive down costs.

It needs to combine the efforts of a smart Government and smart financial decisions with smart businesses.

A cogent argument is hindered by the zeal of some of those promoting a transition away from fossil fuels, in particular their insistence that ‘capitalism’ be scrapped in order to achieve a sustainable energy future. Linking an energy revolution with rapid  political and social revolution makes it much harder if not impossible to win public trust and support.

Our Government is deciding on the main elements of New Zealand’s climate change strategy. Once the key objectives are confirmed, policy design must be decided at political level, leaving implementing bodies to carry out specific mandates.

Countless examples show climate change policy tends to become ineffective where implementing bodies are left on their own devices to make complex trade-offs between different objectives and different stakeholder interests.

The Government seems poorly prepared for making major changes. This was highlighted with differences in expectations about the future of coal between the Minister for Climate Change and the Minister of Energy and Resources – see Ministers differ on banning coal.

The next challenge for the Government will be to bring ministries, key industry stakeholders and regulators on board and in alignment. This process won’t be helped by the fact that climate and energy policy is not integrated under one ministry.

For example, making the electricity market accessible to small-scale citizen-owned storage or generation assets is likely to require regulated power purchase guarantees, priority dispatch and buy-back rates as well as new channels to bridge the wholesale market with distributed electricity and ancillary services.

This will require full co-operation of MBIE, the market operator NZX, Transpower, distribution line companies and the Electricity Authority, who will need to adapt industry codes.

Win-wins are possible: That is, if our Government is ready to believe in the mission, rally the troops, and empower its people.

Making grand statements about new generation ambitions, bragging in Europe with incorrect claims, and imposing change without consultation as happened with the oil and gas permit announcement (followed by some rapid damage control) looks ad hoc and amateurish, and Ministers seem at odds.

The Government looks nowhere near ready to explain and implement a comprehensive and co-ordinated ‘mission’ on a transition to renewable energy.

And there is a substantial elephant in the energy revolution room – there is no obvious future without any reliance fossil fueled cars, trucks, trains, planes and ships.

Those who say we must change must first explain a lot more details about what we must change to, and how.

We don’t currently have the technology to time travel everyone to a miraculously fossil fuel free 2050, so we need to see a realistic way of getting there.

26 Comments

  1. David

     /  April 24, 2018

    Couldnt agree more with the crazy position that caring about the environment is only taken seriously if you are a leftie.
    If the country generates near on 90% of its electricity from renewable resources then any move to solar, local storage etc etc will have a net detrimental effect on the environment. Would it not make far more sense to invest that money into something that would make sense locally rather than as you say being able to virtue signal on the world stage.
    Charging stations for electric cars, Bridges idea to make the government fleet electric, investing more in grass growing research etc.

    • “Charging stations for electric cars”

      Electric can make some sense for commuting, but problems with longer distance travelling is still unresolved. It’s not just a need for charging stations – the time required to recharge means you can’t just fill up and carry on with a trip.

      This is a bigger deal for public transport and freight. Electrified rail has very limited coverage. –

      Electric transport has some benefits but is nowhere near being a replacement solution to fossil fuels.

      • David

         /  April 24, 2018

        Tesla are working on a fast 5 minute recharge, they are getting quicker so nearly there.

        • When Tesla do I am getting one. IN the mantime I’m looking at Volvo XC90 or Cayenne PHEV

          I’m building a new house and will ensure I have 3 phase DC designated in the garage. only then can we have a full EV as distances travelled are often too long to justify full electric.

          Probably go for Type 2 here unless anyone has another suggestion

          • Griff

             /  April 24, 2018

            We put in a 32 amp 240v circuit to the garage in our new build.
            That’s plenty enough to overnight charge any electric car to full.

            The Tesla x75d base price is 130,000 .
            x100d is 155.00 540km range
            The 400 km range of the x75 is more than I would ever drive without a stop.
            An 3/4 hour rest stop and top up will get you from Whangarei to Wellington.
            They already have the north island main route covered with superchargers.
            The south island will be done this year .
            I suggest you have a test drive of the X before putting your money down on a Cayenne.

            • We need to replace two new vehicles soon and need to go between Auckland and Matakana daily for u to two years while building. One needs to be a fairly biggish capacity 4WD for towing stuff.

              Still cogitating

            • The 400km limit is appealing but still we’d need to overnight charge if say going to Palm North or further. We do a lot of Nth Island cross country overnighting for business in one of the vehicles and need to carry stuff. Imagine the “future” Tesla would be the at home car more.

  2. Blazer

     /  April 24, 2018

    have to agree with alot of what you said there David.Hydro electricity is the …answer.

  3. artcroft

     /  April 24, 2018

    Who needs electricity. After we return to living in the forests, our lives will revolve around the natural cycles of the sun and moon. When the sun sets you go to bed and get the benefits of a good night’s sleep as well as 12 hours relief from the ache of your empty stomach.

  4. Alan Wilkinson

     /  April 24, 2018

    A very sensible post, PG. Well done.

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  April 24, 2018

      Looks like the PDT is off his meds again.

  5. Alan Wilkinson

     /  April 24, 2018

    In a nutshell this Government has to switch from taking money for climate change to making money from climate change. No sign they have the faintest clue how to do that.

  6. Griff

     /  April 24, 2018

    The work has been done .
    Many times over.
    ww.mbie.govt.nz/info-services/sectors-industries/energy/documents-image-library/NZEECS-2017-2022.pdf
    https://www.ea.govt.nz/about-us/media-and-publications/market-commentary/events/real-time-pricing-workshop/
    The problem has always been the lack of will from government to implement the plans.
    National has always been more interested in supporting legacy industry than moving forward.
    Witness their manipulation of the NZ ETS to give money to polluting industry’s rather than allow market forces to leverage change
    http://hot-topic.co.nz/business-nz-hands-off-our-ets-handouts/

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  April 24, 2018

      Target is 100% renewable electricity by 2035 WHEN there is normal rainfall for lakes. EV developments must affect this.

      • Gezza

         /  April 24, 2018

        I must admit I do wonder about this. What demand would large scale EV & say train use end up putting on the grid? How could we increase capacity if there’s so much objection to more hydro dams?

        • David

           /  April 25, 2018

          “What demand would large scale EV & say train use end up putting on the grid? ”

          Roughly, it will require a doubling of generation capacity and the grid.

  7. Alan Wilkinson

     /  April 24, 2018

    Energy efficiency is the low hanging fruit. Must be huge opportunities for smart appliances and houses to reduce peak loads and use cheap off-peak power.

    • Gezza

       /  April 24, 2018

      A chap whose house I can see from ma’s place has his own small windmill on his property. Would like to see too many of those in suburbs though. Might not be the best things for birds.

      Can you see affordable solar energy generating capacity becoming just part of the build of all new housing?

      • Gezza

         /  April 24, 2018

        Whoops – *Wouldn’t like to see too many of those in suburbs…

      • Gezza

         /  April 24, 2018

        You chaps knowledgeable about solar home electricity – I’m asking you …

        I mean, installing and maintaining home-based solar power systems might be beyond the average houseowner, but so’s plumbing and general electrical work – so there’s a growth area for jobs – yes?

        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  April 24, 2018

          Mostly just an add on to normal electrician’s work. Installing the panels is a builder’s task.

        • Griff

           /  April 24, 2018

          Fèel in tariff
          At the moment you get 8 cents a kilowatt for energy from solar the power company then sell the energy to your neighbour for thirty odd cents
          You make the investment the 9energy retailers cream off the profits

          Wind in the su8burbs is pointless to much turbulence and it is to loud as.

          The bird kiĺling is a myth
          Moggys kill far .more as does thermal electrical generation

          • David

             /  April 25, 2018

            “At the moment you get 8 cents a kilowatt for energy from solar the power company then sell the energy to your neighbour for thirty odd cents
            You make the investment the 9energy retailers cream off the profits”

            That is because your a supply led generator, not connected to the demand, nor do you have the costs of managing the distribution. There is no profit in putting micro generation onto a grid, If you really want to make the profits, build your own grid and see how you go.

    • David

       /  April 25, 2018

      Not really. Energy efficiency has improved dramatically over the years.