Christchurch – New Zealand is at an exciting crossroad of changing its future in terms of supporting climate change and reducing the nasties, which are coal, oil and gas burnt in the open air.
The country has in-ground resources of all coals of more than 16 billion tonnes. We produced 3.4 million tonnes of coal from our 18 coal mines in 2015, of which 1.4 million tonnes were exported. Coal accounts for about 10 percent of New Zealand’s primary energy.
Together, coal, oil and fossil gas, non-renewable sources of energy, make up about 60 percent of our energy supply.
Petrol and diesel are a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, making up around 40 percent of Aotearoa’s primary energy supply. Together, coal, oil and gas currently provide two-thirds of New Zealand’s energy. This has to be reduced to near zero by 2050.
The future for New Zealand is electricity generation which is already around 80 percent renewable, with just more than half of that provided by hydro power. New Zealand already has more than 100 conventional hydropower stations supplying renewable electricity.
In the coming years Aoteaora will see rapid changes in climatic conditions and the shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, as well as more hydro power. Bio fuels such as bio mass (wood pellets), bio diesel and bio gas are likely to play a part too.
New Zealand appears to be unable to meet its climate change commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions without electrifying its economy with low-emission, renewable sources of energy to make that electricity.
Nearly 60 per cent of New Zealand’s total energy needs will be met from renewable sources by 2035, up from 40 per cent in 2020 if New Zealand is to be on track for net zero long life gas emissions by 2050.
Worldwide, pumped hydro energy storage is seen as a promising option to support cheap and secure 100 percent renewable electricity grids.
As a result of increasing generation from renewable sources, electricity supplies will become increasingly variable, dependent on sun, wind and river flows. This creates a challenge for matching supply and demand, especially with climate change impacting weather patterns in coming decades.
As fossil fuels are phased out in the coming decades, the NZ Climate Change Commission says electricity will take up much of the slack, powering the Kiwi vehicle fleet and replacing coal and fossil gas in industrial processes.
Climate Change Commission chair Dr Rod Carr says Aotearoa could get to 93 percent renewable electricity generation by 2035 under current market conditions.
“We believe the most cost-effective solution would be to retain some fossil-fuelled generation as a backup for the few occasions when demand overshoots supply. Accelerating overall emissions reduction from coal, oil and fossil gas is the priority,” Dr Carr says.
More households and businesses are switching to electric vehicles. Farm irrigation is becoming widespread and creates new demand peaks in rural areas. Heat pumps are increasingly used for both heating and cooling. These all create new patterns of demand.
More and householders are installing solar and feeding surplus back into the grid or storage batteries. Local community energy schemes are starting to emerge.