New Zealand’s use of coal for electrical energy era surges

Digger loads up a truck at Stockton Coal Mine.

2021-06-10 23:20:06

New Zealand has considerably elevated its use of coal in recent times, regardless of its standing because the worst, most polluting fossil gas on the planet.

Digger loads up a truck at Stockton Coal Mine.

Picture: 123RF

Within the first three months of this 12 months, the identical quantity of coal was used to generate electrical energy as in all of 2016 and 2017 mixed. Coal generated 10.35 petajoules from January to March, just below the ten.52 petajoules in all of 2016 and 2017, in response to MBIE’s Quarterly Vitality Statistics, launched yesterday.

Local weather campaigners say it is ridiculous that we’re nonetheless burning the worst, most-polluting fossil gas at such scale, and harshly distinction with feedback made simply this week by the prime minister – that local weather motion was life or loss of life.

“The problems which were occurring – low hydro-lakes, but additionally a lot of outages and lack of reliability on the fuel fields – [mean] we have been burning coal as a again up gas,” Greenpeace head of camaigns Amanda Larsson stated.

“However we would not should be burning coal if there had been good funding in wind and photo voltaic within the final decade, and there simply hasn’t been.”

It isn’t as if coal makes up a tiny proportion of our electrical energy use. In 2020 coal produced 19.4 petajoules (PJ) of electrical energy – sufficient to energy greater than 350,000 properties for a 12 months, in response to an Australian authorities metric.

Climate campaigner Amanda Larsson.

Greenpeace local weather campaigner Amanda Larsson.
Picture: RNZ / Jonathan Mitchell

Coal emits about 30 p.c extra carbon dioxide than the following worst fossil fuels, diesel and petrol.

Others say coal is sensible and its inevitable we’ll use it for many years to return.

Westland mayor Bruce Smith would not see coal going anyplace any time quickly.

“It is easy to speak about renewable vitality however on the finish of the day we won’t govern the extent of the lakes. There is a diploma of frequent sense, a sensible side that must be checked out. It is merely that one of the best type of heating that we have in the intervening time and one of the best type of vitality is coal, and I do not see that altering,” Smith stated.

Cindy Baxter of the Coal Motion Community stated profit-driven retail electrical energy firms, of which the federal government owns simply over 50 p.c, would use no matter gas was wanted, and economics – not the setting – was the most important issue.

“It actually factors to the best way our electrical energy system is about up whereby the electrical energy retailers revenue from coal being burned.

“So till we truly change that electrical energy system to encourage using renewables that is going to proceed,” Baxter stated. She stated the extra worthwhile the businesses have been, the more cash they return to their shareholders, together with the federal government.

Westland mayor Bruce Smith

Westland Mayor Bruce Smith
Picture: RNZ / Katie Todd

Genesis Vitality had deliberate to shut the coal boilers at its Huntly Energy Station in 2018, however remains to be utilizing them.

To March this 12 months, 44 p.c of Genesis’ whole electrical energy era got here from coal. Of 1959 GWh whole energy generated, 868 GWh was generated by coal. Extra coal was burned within the March quarter than every of the years 2016, 2017, and 2018.

Genesis stated it has signed short-term agreements to cut back coal use this winter.

A spokesperson stated over the previous few months near-record low lake ranges and a good provide of fuel had created very troublesome market situations. “Whereas tight fuel provide could proceed for a while, Genesis has labored laborious all through to supply fuel to help electrical energy era at Huntly and lately confirmed two short-term agreements as we head into the height demand interval of winter.”

Larsson stated dry summers wouldn’t be as a lot of an issue if we had invested higher.

“Throughout a number of the driest, sunniest summers, now we have been burning coal in the course of the day once we might have been capturing a lot photo voltaic vitality,” Larsson stated.

Smith desires extra electrical energy era from rivers.

“We now have 206 rivers on the West Coast. I am unable to consider that run-of-the-river hydro will not be an absolute precedence. From a standard sense perspective… the Cropp River will get 12 metres a 12 months. Certainly you’d harness it, put it via a turbine, after which it go to the ocean.”

Baxter stated the current Canterbury floods – preceeded by lengthy, broad droughts nationwide – illustrate why we should sharply restrict our emissions.

“What number of occasions are the farmers going cap-in-hand to the federal government to get payouts for droughts or floods or storm occasions. And that is solely simply over one diploma of warming – you double that, and the financial carnage that will likely be brought on by the impacts of local weather change do not bear desirous about.”

By the tip of this 12 months the federal government has to launch an emissions discount plan for the next 4 years.

This week Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern stated performing on local weather change is life and loss of life, and never a selection, however an crucial.

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