Power blackouts will be more likely because of the Government’s energy strategy, says the oil and gas industry.
The Government believes 90 per cent of New Zealand’s electricity can come from renewable sources such as wind and hydro without compromising supply.
“We disagree entirely,” Petroleum Exploration and Production Association executive officer John Pfahlert said.
The target, compared with the 70 per cent of power from renewable resources now, was unrealistic without raising the supply risk and the cost of building back-up generation sources, he said.
Contact Energy said getting a streamlined resource consent process would be critical to achieve the 90 per cent renewables target.
Chief executive David Baldwin called the target “ambitious but achievable”.
However, if renewable power projects were blocked or delayed through the consent process, New Zealand would have “no choice” but to develop new base-load thermal power generation to ensure enough electricity was available.
Contact already has consent to add a gas-fired station in Auckland, at Otahuhu-C. Earlier this year it indicated plans to build two windfarms at a cost of $1 billion, adding 400 megawatts of power in the next five years.
The Petroleum Association said the Government energy strategy, announced last week, would lead to a long-term decline in the local oil and gas exploration industry.
The strategy means a 10-year ban on new gas-fired power stations, such as Genesis Energy’s two planned 240-megawatt stations at Rodney, north of Auckland.
That would cut the demand for domestic gas in Taranaki, and could halve the size of the oil and gas industry in the region over the next 20 years, the association said.
The Government wants to get 90 per cent of electricity from renewable power by 2025. Critics say this raises risk, because of the possibility of low hydro-electric lake levels and poor wind conditions.
New Zealand already gets about two-thirds of its power from renewable resources such as hydro, geothermal stations and wind.
Construction has just started on Meridian Energy’s $430 million West Wind turbine project in Wellington.
An announcement is expected today from a different company on another large new wind farm in the upper North Island.
The Government expects wind and other renewables to replace coal and gas fired power plants, but the association said that was risky.
“To place such a high reliance on renewables is a very risky strategy and significantly increases the risk of the lights going out in dry years,” Mr Pfahlert said.
In dry years, gas and coal fired stations produced about a third of all electricity.
“Four years ago we had blackouts when we were 65 per cent reliant on renewables,” he said.
State-owned Genesis started up its 385-megawatt E3p plant at Huntly in the middle of the year, adding another big chunk of gas-fired power to the system, though that had allowed it to cut back on burning coal at existing Huntly power generators.
National Party energy spokesman Gerry Brownlee said that under Labour renewable power had reached an all-time low of 62 per cent. Power from coal had risen from 4 per cent to 12 per cent.
By James Weir
The Dominion Post
16 October 2007
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