Increase in electric vehicle numbers, fleet still tiny

The Government has significantly increased the number of electric vehicles in it’s fleet.

NZ Herald:  Just how green is the ministerial car fleet?

The Government has confirmed it intends to transition its full fleet, including the 32 BMW 7-series vehicles, to emissions-free vehicles by 2026.

In total, 29 per cent of all ministerial vehicles – including Crown and self-drive cars are electric vehicles (EVs). That’s up from 2 per cent this time last year.

A major increase, with plans to continue converting the fleet to EVs.

The complete Crown fleet is made up of 72 vehicles, both owned and leased.

But a tiny fleet.

EVs aren’t viable for everyone yet. The up front cost will put many people off, with few fully battery powered vehicles and chargeable hybrids costing from about $50 thousand. With reduced energy costs the life time cost may be lower, and the Government can ‘afford’ to invest up front, but many people will be reluctant to do this.

This comes not long after the number of electric vehicles (EVs) on New Zealand’s roads passed 10,000 – that’s up from just 210 five years ago.

Although that’s a dramatic increase, it makes up just 0.25 per cent of New Zealand’s total vehicle fleet.

A tiny fraction of cars on the road.

Apart from around town driving there are other drawbacks. One major one is the limited range of EVs – it is improving, but still well behind the range of a car on a tank of petrol.

There is also only a small number of charging stations around the country.

And even if you can find a charging station on a trip you have to wait until the car is recharged. This takes much longer than pumping petrol.

One option without the limitations are hybrid EVs that use a petrol engine supplemented by battery power. These are much more competitively priced – new Toyota Corolla hybrids cost much the same as conventional Corollas. But they only reduce fuel use by up to a third, a significant saving making these economically attractive, but only a partial solution in reducing fossil fuel use.

Another issue I haven’t seen addressed – if there was a major shift to EVs, where would the power come from to charge them? Most of our current power supply is renewable, mainly hydro, with some wind.  A big increase in wind generation would create continuity of supply problems because of weather variability. Wind power can only supplement on demand power sources.

The Government is setting a good example switching to EVs, but they would do much better if they came up with a plan for how to fuel the inevitable increase in EV use.

‘Hasty’ lawmaking may lead to increased emissions

The Government surprised many with an announcement that they would limit future oil and gas exploration. Some hailed it as a sign they were serious about reducing fossil fuel use and reducing carbon emissions, but others have warned that it may actually increase emissions as people are forced to switch from gas to more polluting fuels.

Reductions in energy use and a switch to alternative energy would help alleviate the situation, but the Government has done little but talk about any of this side of the energy equation.

ODT:  Effect of ‘hasty’ law-making

The hasty passing of legislation banning offshore oil and gas exploration is another example of how little the Government is considering the longer term implications of its ideologically-driven law-making.

Our country’s ongoing energy security is an issue for all New Zealanders, but the Crown Minerals (Petroleum) Amendment Bill, passed under haste on November 7, will impact significantly on this.

It deserved far more consultation and analysis than was permitted by its fast-tracking.

The Minister for Energy Dr Megan Woods admitted that no assessment had been undertaken of just how the ban imposed by the new law would lower greenhouse gas emissions, or what the economic fallout will be.

Some commentators argue the ban will actually lead to an increase in carbon emissions, because in the absence of a new gas supply coming on stream here, users will either be compelled to import fuel potentially from less environmentally-conscious producers or switch to coal, which is hardly an eco-friendly substitute.

Furthermore, energy costs are likely to increase, which will hurt not only our economy but the most vulnerable in society.

Many New Zealanders may not be aware that our current gas supply is likely to last for just seven more years and production volumes will diminish from 2021 onwards.

Given that the Government has effectively ruled out new offshore oil and gas exploration; and the fact onshore activity is unlikely, our chances of finding alternative gas supplies within our jurisdiction rest on prospecting activities permitted before the legislation came into force. Two of these are in South Island waters, off the coast of Otago and Southland.

But the business of realising a commercially viable discovery on a hydrocarbon prospect is a lengthy and complicated one. There is no certainty of outcome; the historic chances of success are one-in-five. Should either of these prospects fall inside those odds, however, the ensuing development offers our region and our country many benefits, even as we move towards a carbon-free future.

Of course, let’s not forget the hydrocarbons lying beneath the ocean floor are a carbon-based energy source, something we’re moving away from. But gas is a cleaner-burning fuel than oil or coal. Surely, as we move towards a carbon-zero future, a transition away from oil and coal using cleaner fuels is the most sensible option to enable us to continue to be productive.

New Zealand Oil & Gas chief executive Andrew Jefferies has said that if our dairy plants transitioned from coal to natural gas, and if fertiliser and methanol plants could be built here, New Zealand gas would be better for the Earth than alternative energy sources such as Canadian tar sands, or bitumen from Venezuela.

Everyone acknowledges that we need to move away from the consumption of fossil fuels, but until sufficient alternative energy sources are found we need to secure our energy future so we can sustain our economy and our homes.

-NZ Oil & Gas has until April 2019 to commit to drilling off Oamaru, and April 2020 to similarly commit to the Toroa permit, south of Dunedin. OMV was granted a two-year extension in October, pushed out to July 2021, to drill an exploratory well off Otago’s coast.

The Government rushed through a ban on more exploration, something that thrilled Greens and dismayed NZ First, hobbling the cart before they have found a replacement for the horse.

Perhaps this year they will come up with an alternative energy plan.