Listening to Gerry Brownlee can really take it out of you. He’s been crying wolf the whole year about a “looming” energy crisis. It’s just around the corner! Cold showers for everyone! Honest, it’s really here this time!
Nobody else thought there was going to be a crisis. There wasn’t a crisis. As the Herald said: it was “all just politics”. But John Key won’t let that little fact stand in his way. It’s a convenient excuse to push his climate-change sceptic energy policy, and he isn’t about to miss out.
Do we have a security of supply issue? Let’s look at National’s numbers (below). They say that our dry year security margin (the red lines) has been falling since 1999. Actually, there was a spike in 1999 because new power plants were kicking in, in preparation for old ones shutting down. Apart from that spike, our security margin has been stable ever since the early 90s, when the glut of capacity built during the Think Big era was finally absorbed.
But it looks like it’s taken another dip at the end, right? That’s because National has fudged the graphs. They’ve cut off the graph at its lowest point and deleted all relevant information from 2007-11. Busted!
This is the *real*, undoctored graph, straight from page 61 of their source document, the Electricity Commission’s Survey of Market Performance paper
The red line shows what would happen if we took all the planned projects that haven’t been committed and threw them into the bin. The green line shows what we’ll have when all the projects that are “highly likely” to go ahead are finished, and the purple line includes the projects that will “probably” go ahead. (They all dip after 2011 because the assumptions about future projects stop at 2011.)
This is what National didn’t want you to see. Right now, our dry year security margin is higher than it’s been for most of the 10 years. When the “highly likely” projects come on stream in a few years’ time, we’ll have a greater supply margin than we’ve had for 20 years.
More importantly, nearly all of it comes from renewable sources. This includes geothermal power, which is every bit as stable as fossil fuel generators.
What does Key consider to be a sufficient margin? 10%? 20%? Funnily enough, in an energy policy supposedly all about “ensuring security of supply”, he doesn’t say what security of supply actually means. Not once. We don’t call him slippery for nothing.
Why have an energy policy entitled “ensuring security of supply”, then say absolutely nothing about what security of supply? Because the security of supply issue is a smokescreen for what National really wants to achieve: Backing out on the fight against climate change and to gut the RMA.
This whole “power crisis” is an excuse. There is no bottleneck – 1300 megawatt of generation (nearly all renewable) will be coming on stream in the next four years. Yet, Key wants us to drill for oil and build new fossil fuel power plants.
that gas is a good option for New Zealand
The thick blue line represents how much we need, the coloured area represents how much we have. That big fat white space in between? That’s how much gas we’re going to have to buy and ship in from overseas. The report says:
“Several factors will determine how long these supplies last, but, without new discoveries, it seems likely that New Zealand will face a gap between gas supply and demand sometime in the 2010s.”
The domestic supply of gas will run out before the paint dries on these gas power plants. Then we’ll have to start buy gas from overseas producers to keep them running. Why is this a really, really dumb idea?
“The countries with the largest gas reserves tend to be the OPEC countries and Russia
suggesting that a supply disruption affecting the oil market could also have an impact on the world gas market.”
While the rest of the world is moving towards sustainable energy, Key is proposing that we move in the opposite direction. He wants us to slow down on renewable energy, increase our exposure to skyrocketing international energy prices, and increase our reliance on an unsustainable energy source.
That ain’t ambitious.
Electricity Commission’s Survey of Market Performance paper