Seems a sensible move on solid fuel burners but won’t change anything

NZ Herald overhypes a sensible move to eventually phase out inefficient wood and coal burners: Government moves to ban old-style wood and coal-fueled burners to improve air quality

The Government is cracking down on old-fashioned wood and coal-powered heating as it looks to improve New Zealand’s overall air quality.

Although New Zealand’s air quality is already fairly high, Associate Environment Minister Nanaia Mahuta said there were still areas of the country where there were issues, particularly during winter.

To tackle the issue, the Government is looking at getting rid of all solid-fuel fires – such as older style wood and coal-fueled fireplaces.

Sounds like a big move – but it would allow them to continue to be used. It would just require eventual replacement with cleaner burning fireplaces, and most (90%) that are now for sale are compliant anyway, and many local bodies already require compliance.

The announcement from the Beehive: Proposed new measures to improve Aotearoa’s air quality

Improved air quality to support better health and environmental wellbeing is the focus of proposed amendments to air quality regulations, says the Associate Minister for the Environment, Hon Nanaia Mahuta.

“Under the proposed amendments, households already using solid-fuel burner appliances for heating can keep using their existing burners until they reach the end of their life. If they choose to replace their burner, under the proposed regulations they may need to replace the appliance with a lower-emission burner. Households on large properties (over two hectares) will remain excluded from these requirements,” said Hon Nanaia Mahuta.

“We are not proposing the removal of existing burners because we need to balance air quality improvements with the ability of households to maintain warm and dry homes.

“At present over 90 per cent of the burners currently on the market would meet the proposed standard and large retail chains already include compliant models in their lowest price bracket. A list of authorised wood burners can be found at: 

There is a large number (looks like hundreds) of compliant burners.

Christchurch City Council (who have had strict requirements for yonks) are already getting tougher: Solid or liquid fuel burner

  • From 1 January 2019 any new burner installed must be an ultra-low emission burner.

Otago Regional Council: Clean Heat Clean Air – Subsidy Information

Inefficient burners (coal burners, pellet fires and wood burners) are burners that cannot be lawfully installed or used under ORC’s Regional Air Plan rules.

In towns that have had air quality problems they even subsidise new heating at up to $2500.

If you are a homeowner in Arrowtown, Cromwell, Clyde, Alexandra or Milton, you may be eligible for financial assistance to switch to a more efficient, clean heat source for your home under ORC’s Clean Heat Clean Air programme.

The Clean Heat Clean Air programme helps qualifying homeowners replace their old, inefficient burner with a new, ultra-low emission wood burner or other clean heating appliance such as a heat pump, gas fires or pellet fires.

Modern efficient burners produce more heat and require less fuel so are cheaper to run, and are a no-brainer if replacing a burner.

So little will really change, apart from when old inefficient burners are replaced they will have to be replaced with new ones that comply with standards that many councils already enforce.

“Another 1,000 years” of coal reserves on West Coast

Not surprisingly this tweet from National list MP Maureen Pugh got a lot of reaction on Twitter.

Ministers differ on banning coal

Megan Woods, the Minister of Energy and Resources, interviewed on Q&A this morning and was asked about the future use of oil and gas, and coal.

She gave an assurance they (the Government) “we have done no work on banning coal” and “there are no plans to do that”.

CORIN Where does coal sit in this? Will you ban future exploration of coal?

MEGAN Look, this isn’t a decision about coal; this is about block offers. And this is about offshore oil and gas.

CORIN This is important, though, because you need that coal, as we mentioned earlier, in terms of electricity supply in the event of a dry year. And the papers that were given in terms of the Greens’ questioning during the coalition was that if we didn’t have any more, if you stopped coal exploration, you’re talking 2028, there’d be no more coal.

MEGAN Look, one of the things that we are seeing, Huntly is transitioning to a gas peaking plant, away from using coal. Gas is about half the emissions of coal. But it still is half the emissions, so we’ve always said it’s part of the transition, gas. But I think one of the things that we need to be really clear on, that a transition is not status quo. The status quo is doing nothing, burying our heads in the sand and not having the long-term future-proofing plans for the economy. So we are absolutely accepting that gas will be used as part of that peaking.

CORIN I don’t mean to be rude – I just need an answer on coal. Is there a future for more exploration of coal?

MEGAN Oh, look, we have made no announcements about ending coal, and we certainly haven’t done any work.

CORIN Are you ruling out that you won’t ban coal exploration?

MEGAN Oh, we have done no work on banning coal.

MEGAN No, I’m not saying it’s a possibility at all. What I’m saying is there are no plans to do that. We haven’t done anything.

But this has been questioned: ‘Incredulous’ for Energy Minister to say no work on coal ban been done – National MP

Energy Minister Megan Woods says there’s been no work, plans or announcements around banning coal exploration yet Climate Change Minister James Shaw has signed New Zealand up to phasing out coal by 2030.

In November shortly after the Labour/NZ First/Greens government was formed, Shaw headed to Germany where he told the COP23 conference that New Zealand intends to become a leader in the global fight against climate change.

While there he signed New Zealand up to the international “Powering Past Coal” alliance, which is committed to phasing out the use of coal for electricity generation.

At COP23 Shaw said, “we know that the future of our electricity system is in renewables, not coal, so I was delighted we could recognise that formally at this important international meeting”.

NZH: Shaw to UN conference: NZ now a leader in climate change

At COP23, New Zealand has also signed up to the Powering Past Coal alliance, which is committed to phasing out the use of coal for electricity generation by 2030.

Shaw told the Herald New Zealand’s only coal-burning generators at Huntly are to be decommissioned by 2025.

“But symbolically it is really important, and the more countries that get in on it, the better.”

Newsroom: Our Inconvenient Truth: NZ will keep burning coal

Green party leader and Climate Change Minister James Shaw was unconcerned by the announcement when interviewed before question time on Wednesday.

“We want to get out of fossil fuels by 2035. I think the Genesis announcement is consistent with that,” he said.

He hoped that technological advances would help Genesis get out of fossil fuels before 2030.

Full interview:

We could print money, but can’t print markets

In a post on

Bernard Hickey wonders why New Zealand is not printing money and thinks we are being severely disadvantaged by not following the crowd.

The New Zealand dollar seems set to rise towards US$1 if the current trends continue.

He then went on to explain what is happening around the world, including:

  • The US Federal Reserve announced an essentially unlimited plan for money printing on Friday morning.
  • Economists are now expecting the Reserve Bank of Australia will cut its interest rates through 2013.
  • This month the European Central Bank unveiled its own programme of unlimited bond buying.
  • The Bank of Japan, which has been printing and stimulating with 0% interest rates for almost 20 years, is considering fresh money printing to try to drag its yen lower.
  • The Swiss National Bank has been printing francs in unlimited fashion for months to cap a rise in its currency against the euro.
  • The People’s Bank of China is also on the verge of its own fresh stimulus.

In the meantime New Zealand doesn’t even fiddle while the world’s economies burn money like it’s going out of fashion.

Yet we are standing aside from this giant game of musical chairs and scratching our chins, wondering why the world is so unfair. We point to the skies and say there is nothing we can do about this bad economic weather.

Outgoing Reserve Bank Governor Alan Bollard reiterated in his valedictory news conference and parliamentary appearance that there was nothing New Zealand could do about these acts of economic gods.

And our manufacturing sector shows signs of more strain.

All this chin-scratching and finger waving in the air is having very real world consequences. In recent weeks we have seen hundreds of job losses at Tiwai Point, Spring Creek, Huntly, Kawerau and at a fish processing plant in Tauranga. The Reserve Bank’s own Monetary Policy Report noted a slump in manufacturing, particularly the import-competing type in the last year.

I guess we could print more money.

But we can’t print more aluminium, coal or newsprint markets. I put that to Bernard on Twitter (where he was discussing the issue with Fran O’Sullivan).

As yet he hasn’t responded.

20 year low emissions due to fracking and market forces

The Associated Press reports on US emission reductions:

AP IMPACT: CO2 emissions in US drop to 20-year low; some experts optimistic on global warming

In a surprising turnaround, the amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere in the U.S. has fallen dramatically to its lowest level in 20 years, and government officials say the biggest reason is that cheap and plentiful natural gas has led many power plant operators to switch from dirtier-burning coal.

Many of the world’s leading climate scientists didn’t see the drop coming, in large part because it happened as a result of market forces rather than direct government action against carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that traps heat in the atmosphere.

Better ways of recovering gas leads to lower energy prices:

While conservation efforts, the lagging economy and greater use of renewable energy are factors in the CO2 decline, the drop-off is due mainly to low-priced natural gas, the agency said.

A frenzy of shale gas drilling in the Northeast’s Marcellus Shale and in Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana has caused the wholesale price of natural gas to plummet from $7 or $8 per unit to about $3 over the past four years, making it cheaper to burn than coal for a given amount of energy produced. As a result, utilities are relying more than ever on gas-fired generating plants.

More gas used, less coal (from about a half to about a third):

Both government and industry experts said the biggest surprise is how quickly the electric industry turned away from coal. In 2005, coal was used to produce about half of all the electricity generated in the U.S. The Energy Information Agency said that fell to 34 percent in March, the lowest level since it began keeping records nearly 40 years ago.

And one of the reasons why the use natural gas is increasing is fracking. Therefore…

U.S. Carbon Dioxide Emissions at 20-Year Low Thanks to Fracking

Lots of environmental activists dislike cheap natural gas because it outcompetes their first loves, photovoltaic and wind power. It spooks the nuke folks too. I noted a Washington Post headline back in February that actually read: “Cheap Gas Jumbles Energy Markets, Stirs Fears that It Could Inhibit Renewables.”

I ask again: Can an energy source be all that bad if it scares the two most heavily subsidized sectors of the electric power generation industry?