Solid Energy’s future is in clean energy

There hasn’t been a great deal of good news lately for Solid Energy. It’s long-term chief executive Don Elder has just tendered his resignation, the company has announced it plans to cut 450 jobs and mothball mines and even the Government’s has passed its judgement on the State Owned Enterprise (SOE) saying they don’t think Solid Energy is fit for privatisation.

Solid Energy is struggling. It posted a $40.2 million net loss last year and write-downs of $151.7 million and still more to come.

This run of bad news and results should be the catalyst to transform this struggling SOE.

The fact is, Solid Energy looked to the past for its economic inspiration and didn’t look to the future. Solid Energy focused on coal mining, ‘Think Big-esque’ and climate-harming lignite coal projects and experimental coal gasification for its future at a time when coal prices were plummeting and concern around the warming climate was increasing.

Its annual report bears this out: Spring Creek Mine resulted in an write-down of $64.3m, Huntly coal seam gas $18.5m, Huntly East Mine $33.5m, and they wasted $29m on a briquetting plant that may never work and may never have markets, though this is not impaired in the accounts at present. Ultimately, Solid Energy dug themselves a $116 million hole, digging for fossil fuels.

Admittedly, there were much small write-downs in Solid Energy’s biofuels and Nature’s Flame wood pellet businesses, but changing Government policy towards biofuels has much to do with this..

At a time when the world is crying out for clean energy solutions and international renewable investment is outstripping investment in fossil fuels, focusing on the old fossil fuel economy was clearly the wrong strategic decision for Solid Energy.

The challenges facing Solid Energy really are tremendous opportunities. The Government could direct the SOE to focus on and lead the country in terms of clean energy. A transformed Solid Energy, let’s call it Sustainable Energy, could be developing sustainable liquid fuels, helping replace wasteful and polluting coal burners in schools and factories and supply them with carbon-neutral wood pellets, and possibly exporting these products and the associated intellectual property. With a future-focused strategy, an appropriate carbon price signal, and Government support through a biofuels mandate or grant, (as scrapped by the National Government) we could see a refocused Solid Energy at the forefront of the smart green economy creating green jobs. All it takes is Government leadership.


163 Comments Posted

  1. Sweden’s coal use for electricity generation goes up and down, but it is typically higher than NZ for the last 20 years.

    Sweden has less hydro than we do… so they have some nukes

    What coal ?

    Sweden improved on what might otherwise have been a rather worse outcome in terms of CO2…

    “Sweden’s carbon tax is a sham”

    It isn’t perfect, but a sham? Hardly likely. I am sure they are getting coal generated electricity from outside Sweden, but that’s the only coal I see in their mix.

    … and RATHER than getting into the details of what Sweden did and didn’t accomplish with their taxes

    I want to know how YOU would propose to limit the CO2 we are putting in the atmosphere

    Find me a better answer than a CO2 tax. Seriously, if there IS a better answer I want to know what it is. I have been looking for years.

    You who (in a very socially stupid way) regard us as stupid, need to recognize that you then have an obligation to provide BETTER answers than the ones you find fault with.

    My old CO told me to NEVER come to the CO with a problem that I did not also have a suggested solution for. HE went on to become Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Smart guy. Always polite too.

    You and we are not entirely in disagreement about the PROBLEMS…. are we?

    Auckland power suck is inconvenient to ANY major renewable source.

    Renewables are usually not as reliable as the power sources we are used to having “at our command”.

    We have to reduce our CO2 emissions – (one we MAY disagree on? unclear)

  2. ChrisM – in case you hadn’t noticed, Sweden and Denmark are linked into the European grid. Denmark’s use of coal generation probably hasn’t changed much because it is still cheaper than generation in other countries, so they can export what they don’t need themselves, irrespective of how much wind power they harness. Similarly if they are not exporting, use of their own coal reduces the amount of electricity they would need to import, again irrespective of how much wind generation they have.

    I was going to thank you for the link but it was so generic that I gave up trying to navigate to the information you referred to.

    Net electricity imports up to 2010 were only a few percent of their total – hardly a lot. Were you also including fossil fuel imports?


  3. You must be rather desperate to quote Wikipedia as your primary source. I was going off the OECD data of which this gives as good as summary as any:

    Though the data doesn’t go past 2010, Sweden’s coal use for electricity generation goes up and down, but it is typically higher than NZ for the last 20 years. They also use about 50% power per capita more than us and import a lot.

    Sweden’s carbon tax is a sham as they reduced other taxes on fuel by about the same amount when they introduced it, and they exempted all the big users. If the purpose of the tax is to reduce fossil fuel consumption, then the data shows it is a fail. It has slowly increased over the last 20 years.

    While in the data, look at Denmark. About 50% of their power is still generated by coal (they burn twice as much as us) and this hasn’t changed that much since 2000. Hardly a great advert for wind power.

  4. ChrisM – I am not sure where you get your facts about Sweden’s electricity generation. However wiki has different numbers:

    5TWh of oil, gas and coal generation in 2008 vs 2 TWh from wind – only 2.5, not 3 times. In 2010, wind was 3.5TWh and forecast to increase further, so it seems unlikely that coal, gas and oil usage for electricity generation would have doubled in two years. These figures are small compared to their other generation – or New Zealand’s generation. Sweden’s main electricity sources are hydro and nuclear.

    And I fail to see any fact presented by BJ which is different to your figures. The charge is around $150/tonne. BJ wasn’t clear whether this was per tonne of carbon or per tonne of CO2, but he wasn’t wrong. (CO2 is 3.7 times heavier than the carbon it contains.)


  5. Could you guys at least get your “facts” right on Carbon tax.
    The info from the Swedes is:
    In 1991 a carbon tax was introduced in Sweden as a complement to the existing system of energy taxes, which simultaneously were reduced by 50%. Since then the system has changed several times but a common feature is lower taxes for industry and electricity production than for other sectors. Currently, industrial consumers pay no energy tax and only 50% of the general carbon tax. Neither energy nor carbon tax are applied on electricity production. Today the general carbon tax level is 36.5 öre/kg CO2 (approximately $ 150/tonne C). The most obvious effect of the carbon tax has been an increased use of biomass in the Swedish district heating system. Biofuels peat currently contributes about 50% of the energy supply to the Swedish district heating systems. The demand for biomass has encouraged the development of new methods for utilising wood fuels which in turn has led to price reductions on these fuels. The impact of the carbon tax on the energy and resource efficiency of the Swedish industry has probably been rather limited for three reasons: 1) the carbon tax on industry is only 50% of the general level and, 2) only a relatively small fraction (30%) of the energy supply to industry was fossil fuel-based when the tax was introduced and 3) for most industrial companies the energy cost is a relatively small fraction of the total cost and has therefore low priority.

    So they reduced other taxes to pay for the carbon tax, industry gets it carbon consumption at a reduced rate and electricity generation isn’t affected by the tax at all. The major effect was on householders, particularly car owners. That could be why in 2010, the last year I can find data for, they produced more power from coal, oil or natural gas than they did from biomass and three times as much as their wind generation.

  6. Not your fault. Not anyone’s fault really. Threads drift. Energy storage is important but the real reason the Aussie “Carbon Tax” isn’t doing much is because it is a tenth what it needs to be. Look at what was done in Sweden and the level they set for their CO2 charge… $150/ton

  7. Adding pumped storage either to existing hydro sites or creating new storage lakes may also be part of the answer, and incidentally part of what is missing from the South Australia/Victoria/NSW system. Perhaps a sea-water pumped storage system in the ranges north of Auckland?

    Understanding why the so-called “Carbon Tax” hasn’t (yet) lead to significant changes to their CO2 emissions is also important. However I agree that the thread did wander away from Solid Energy and for that I apologise.


  8. The thread has wandered into arcane uselessness. Anyone who is actually interested in what the New Zealand company called “Solid Energy” should be doing has long since disengaged.

    We don’t think it is the only answer. Wind is part of the answer.

    Load shifting is part of the answer. Biofuels of various flavours are part of the answer. Solar is part of the answer. Improved grid is part of the answer. Geothermal is part of the answer. None is perfect, nor is any of it likely to be easy for us or enable BAU to continue as usual.

    Which is part of the point here. The minutiae of the experiences in South Australia don’t really help us solve the problem for Auckland. A new generation nuclear plant north of the city would be better than burning another ton of coal but in the long run that is not really a sustainable answer either.

    Solid Energy eff’d up big time. It is and has been a long story of failed leadership of the corporation and the country, impairing our nation’s ability to deal with future energy needs and future climate liabilities.

    This thread goes on forever otherwise.

  9. While I have no reason to dispute your claim that the Australian economy is going down, there may be multiple effects. For example, one sensible reaction to an increase in energy costs is to invest in energy efficiency improvements, such as more efficient lighting. This applies to industrial and commercial energy users as well as domestic. How do you separate reduction in demand due to shrinking of the economy from reduction in demand due to less wastage?


  10. If you search for the Australian power companies, you will see they don’t offer night tariffs as they don’t need to.
    And remember this all comes back to you querying my comment about their power consumption dropping, because their economy is going down. The same reason why the mining super tax isn’t bringing in anywhere near the money that Labor is spending.

  11. At least that is a more reasonable reply than your previous replies. So in answer to my question, you don’t believe that they have a significant amount of night rate water heating.

    Night rate for my electricity supply company used to be 11pm to 7am, (but they brought forward the start time to 9pm). 4-5 hours of hot water heating starting at 11pm would finish around 3-4am – longer if there is hot water being used during this time e.g. by a dishwasher. The idea behind night rate power is of course to make use of generation capacity that has to run at times of low other demand.


  12. Trevor29
    Before you try to give me an earnest polemic, the typical hot water cylinder takes about 5 hours to bring a full load of cold water up to temperature. Even if they have a lot of ripple control (I don’t know what the take up is in Australia, but I suspect most have a single meter and many have gas heated hot water), the power authorities generally only use it to clip the cost peaks like the one they had this morning at around 6:30. Generally, the maximum demand in Australia is around 5pm (as opposed to NZ’s 9am)so by sundown, any demand side regulation isn’t needed.
    The baseload at 3am is a good indication of industrial demand.

  13. So, you have ripple control on your solar water heating. Well – you certainly are consistent, if not novel.

  14. You are really making a fool of yourself now.
    The minimum consumption happens about 3am. And according to the just released data for the September quarter from their Climate Change Commission, the lignite burn was basically unchanged. Total power consumption is dropping because their economy is starting to go belly up.

  15. That drop in minimum power consumption wouldn’t have anything to do with increased deployment of solar water heating by any chance?

    The Carbon Price Market Review attributes some of the falling demand to increased use of rooftop solar photovoltaic installations.


  16. I don’t have any inside knowledge. I just read and retain information. When you see statements like:
    “From 1 January 2013, there are no longer any distributor funded feed-in tariff schemes for new applicants in Victoria. However, as an energy retailer, we’ll be offering a retailer funded Victorian Feed-in Tariff of 8 cents per kilowatt hour for eligible customers.”
    you know there won’t be much of an uptake.
    And I think from my quick look at the data, they just increased the generation out of the other Latrobe stations, probably Hazlewood. From current prices, I would say the power is going north and west out of Victoria so lots of lignite burning.
    The total demand is also way down. Minimum power consumption is about 18GW, whereas 2 years ago it never seemed to go below 20GW. They have plenty of capacity to pick up generation at the other stations.

  17. ChrisM – if you don’t like my use of “may” and “would” – because I don’t have accurate facts at my fingertips – perhaps you would like to share some of your sources of information.

    You confidently state that consumption patterns haven’t changed, so would you like to share with us your information about no increases in the installations of photovoltaic systems or solar hot water systems? After all, if overall demand would have gone up expect that the increase has been met by increased domestic substitution, then the CO2 tax has changed what would have been consumed.

    The effects of the Yallourn flooding are being dismissed. However the Yallourn flooding reduced the amount of generation from brown coal – lignite. The CO2 tax would also have been expected to reduce the amount of generation from brown coal, but had very little effect – probably because the generation that could have moved from brown coal to other sources had already moved a few weeks earlier as the result of the Yallourn flooding.


  18. “If the papers are to be believed, the electorate is not happy with the increase in electricity costs. The states can easily point to the spot market and say that is why the prices have gone up. It could well be one of the major factors that decides whether the Gillard government is voted out.”

    Unfortunately the spot prices are determined by the most expensive generation needed to meet the demand, so naturally they will have risen by around the $20/MWH mark. Owners of wind and hydro generation must be happy. The big question that I have is what is the Gillard government doing with all of this extra income? They need to return some of it to lower income households so that the electricity price rises don’t hit them too hard. Otherwise they are likely to be voted out and the CO2 tax reduced.

    Perhaps this is why we are not seeing much change in behaviour from the power companies – they don’t believe that the tax is here to stay.


  19. ChrisM said:
    “If the supplier is having to pay you twice as much for your power as you can buy it from then – of course home generation will be more attractive. It is just gaming the system for short term gain though with no real benefits.”

    …except that that offer is not available to new connections. Home generation to reduce the amount of electricity drawn from the grid is more attractive with the higher prices and does reduce the overall CO2 emissions. The same applies to commercial and industrial power users as well, and may be more relevant because of the times of day that they need power.

    And as you say, it is still early days.


  20. One option available to the generators who are still using coal is to start cofiring other biomass with the coal. Any biomass which is not of fossil origin shouldn’t count towards the CO2 tax. Whether this would show up in the generation mix statistics is anyone’s guess.

    Another option for generators who are running thermal plant is solar pre-heating, to reduce their thermal fuel usage when the sun is shining. Again, this may not show up in the generation mix statistics.


  21. Trevor,
    There are a lot of mays and woulds in your response. A true politician’s floundering response.I found the current spot price data for Oz. Their power is now more expensive than ours and historical data indicates that there has been little change since the introduction of the carbon tax so the report is probably still valid.

    And no, they hadn’t shifted their production. if you look at the CO2 intensity data, it has been about there for more than a year. From what I gather, the mine is still flooded. With all the rain they are having, it is likely to stay that way for a while too. At least they won’t need the white elephant desalination plants.

    It is still early days yet, but the facts are the carbon tax initially did not change consumption, just raised the prices for everyone. Fuel poverty is already an issue for many city dwellers like it has in Britain and for the same reasons. NSW had 23,000 disconnects last year for non-payment of bills and the number is predicted to rise, specially with all the recent price rises that have been announced.

    If the supplier is having to pay you twice as much for your power as you can buy it from then – of course home generation will be more attractive. It is just gaming the system for short term gain though with no real benefits. Almost like trying to get out of financial problems by printing more money;-)

  22. The flooded coal mines would have caused some generation to have been shifted from lignite to black coal or gas before the CO2 charge was applied, thus reducing the apparent impact of that charge. The market has also had about a year’s warning, so there may have been some changes to the generation mix during this warning period which were made because of the looming CO2 charge.

    Even if the generation mix isn’t affected by the CO2 charge, consumer behaviour may be affected. Solar water heating for example should now be significantly more appealing – for both domestic and commercial applications. Rooftop solar photovoltaic systems may also be more attractive.

    Although I doubt that there will be much to gain, I would also expect the generators to take a greater interest in their plants’ efficiency and to make more efforts to keep this as high as practical.


  23. Everyone generally agrees that the mine flooding appeared to have no effect on prices, especially as it came at a relatively low demand time of the year. It was also a lignite mine, so the carbon charges made the fuel cost of black coal cheaper as the report shows. The start of carbon trading has been been closely analysed like here:
    The next three months of data should be interesting. It is overdue for publication. I tried to find the current spot price in their markets but I can’t find it. The price may drop, but there is no indication of new generation coming on to lower the costs. I can’t see the generators lowering their margins, especially as they allow bids down to $-1000/MWh. Makes our zero bids quite tame. Even with loss making bids, some windfarms in SA have been dispatched off. I also note that many of the historical models used as justification for carbon charges that Google finds show they got it totally wrong, which just reinforces my cynicism about the parallel universe the modellers and analysts live in.

    I do note that when the data doesn’t show what the Australian government said it would, it tends to stop being publically available. The example most relevant is windfarm generation. The monthly agglomeration data stopped in March 2012, just after an anti-wind farm campaigner showed that the windfarms didn’t average out but generally accentuated the peaks.

    It is well known that the State governments haven’t been putting any money into generation or transmission infrastructure but milking the assets. a lot like Labour did 10 years ago with Transpower. (Justification given by Bob Thompson was distributed generation was going to make grids unnecessary.) Any new investment has to come from the consumers’ power bills. A typical major new line adds about $50-$100pa to everyone’s power bill. NSW is looking at selling the assets off but can’t because the proposed carbon charges 2015 onwards have given some of the power stations a negative value.

    If the papers are to be believed, the electorate is not happy with the increase in electricity costs. The states can easily point to the spot market and say that is why the prices have gone up. It could well be one of the major factors that decides whether the Gillard government is voted out.

  24. Thanks for the link. Having a coal mine flooded just before the start of the period under discussion might have changed things a bit.


  25. Try

    One interesting point is about 10000MW is offered into the SE Australian energy market at less than zero price

    And the best tarriff for domestic power in Adelaide seems to be 25c a unit plus about $1 / day meter charge. They also had the rider:
    “Customers who received approval to connect prior to 1 September 2010 will remain eligible to receive the 44 cents per kWh for all energy fed into the grid.”
    Is it any wonder they are going broke?

  26. If you provide a link to this public domain report, then I shall certainly consider reading it.

    3 months is not a long time to plan and implement any significant project. It is hardly enough time for the increased power prices to show up on the consumer’s electricity bill. However there is one obvious effect – the government has received more money, which it can use to reduce other taxes or spend on research, etc for increasing the use of renewables. (Upgrading transmission lines would help in Australia’s case.)


  27. If one reads the market review report on the first three months after the introduction of carbon price trading in Australia from the energy market operator (the report is public domain), it shows the $23/tonne had no effect on either the gas or coal consuption. All it did was increase the market price for power by $20/MWh. The carbon dioxide intensity index in the report (Figure 7.1 if you get a copy) showed carbon charges made no difference. There was no noticeable change in the wholesale gas markets.

    It also notes that they closed the four 63MW units at Playford solely because of the carbon charges and imported the power from the coal burners in Victoria.

    So other than putting the price up to consumers, what were the benefits of a a carbon charge?

  28. Tever29.
    I do not know where your website gets its data (some comes from AEMO but it is out of date), but I am using the 2012 annual report of the National Energy Market Operator. It shows 2007-8 as the peak import year at about 700GWh and 2011-12 as 500GWh (figure 8)Incidently, it shows 2005-6 as about neutral. However, in 2007-8, the consumption was 13500GWh, while in 2012 it had fallen to 13000GWh (figure 2).

    Their coal fired stations were small old brown coal fired, unreliable and inefficient. The report says they are planning to build a 570MW coal station and 3 gas stations totalling 695MW – all assuming their economy recovers.

    All your plans for demand shifting involve massive expenditure with probably negative rates of return. As the consumer has already been hit by high prices to pay for wind, those are are still left will just love paying more to make the wind reliable. Yeah, right.

  29. ChrisM – The table in the link provided earlier ( shows that there was no significnt interconnection power in 2007-2008, but significant importing on 2006-2007 – more than any year since except for 2011-2012. However even this is dominated by the amount imported in 2005-2006. And as for why they are importing power despite their wind generation – it is because they are closing their oldest coal-fired stations.

    As for demand shifting from midday to midnight – no problem for pumping water for irrigation or desalination, or domestic hot water heating, or a variety of other applications. If the electricity price signals are large enough, it would also be worth looking at running air conditioning units at night and storing the cold (as ice) for use the next day – especially given the lower outside temperatures at night.


    PS: I agree with trying to get the original data but much is either hidden behind paywalls or not normally available to those outside the relevant industries.

  30. Trevor29

    Your comment about reduction of gas consumption doesn’t match the embedded link which actually says
    “… a massive 26% of South Australian electricity was generated by wind, up from 18% in 2010 and less than 1% five years ago. Since 2006-07 the share of gas in power generation has fallen from 58% to 49% but the big change has been in coal, which has fallen from 42% to 25%. Wind is effectively replacing coal.”
    What it doesn’t say is how much electricity comes interstate out of the Latrobe Valley or from the other coal burners. SA is now a nett importer of power. Since 2005 (when they started the wind expansion) they have gone from neutral to importing a nett 8%. They are having to look at upgrading their interconnectors because of the demand growth. This is in a situation where electricity demand has fallen about 7% because manufacturing is moving out of the state. I also note it doesn’t mention how the power price to the domestic consumer has gone up from 15c/unit to 25c in the last three years, mainly to pay for the renewable (wind) subsidies.

    Australia has relatively few CCGTs and I was not referring to them. They mainly use gas for peakers. I was actually commenting on the US and European experiences. It actually comes from the trade documents which don’t publish on the web.
    I also note when one actually looks at the data that the South Australian windfarms often don’t produce power when it is needed. Most days, there is a distinct drop between about 9am and 7pm, so gas would have to be fired up then to meet the load. At noon yesterday (they don’t do live data) the 1200MW was only producing 200MW and it was a good wind day. Demand shifting from middle of the day to midnight is a bit extreme, would you say? In Britain, they are now back up to 2GW from 6GW after spending most of the last 8 days below 1GW. During that time, the CCGTs went from their normal 10GW to a two shifting 15GW.

    I try not to quote newspaper or partisan sites. I try to get the actual data (which is probably public domain, if you know where to look) for my information.

  31. On Feb 12, ChrisM wrote:
    “The experience overseas is that fuel burn does not significantly change when you hold CCGTs in reserve to cover for wind. You just lower their efficiency.”

    Whether wind farms reduce the use of gas by CCGTs and other gas fired plant was covered in an earlier thread. See the last dozen or so posts to:

    The South Australian experience is that their wind farms are reducing their gas usage.


  32. …you only need spinning reserves to cover wind generation if that generation is not supplying loads which can be turned off (demand management)…

    I have written many yards of words above on demand management, and yes, agree that if implemented it would remove the need for additonal spinning reserve. heck, it could even reduce the size of spinning reserve ordinarily needed.

  33. ChrisM:

    I heard rumours that the DC tap up north was going to be so they could run each of the lines as a single pole to split sites. I don’t know how viable that would be.

    That would be very viable.

    Each pole operates entirely independently. Under normal use although in theory you could run one pole north and one pole south, it would never make sense to do that.

    When there is a current imbalance between the two poles, the earth return path carries the current imbalance

    But… with a split at the top of the south, there will be some operating combinations and loads that cause addition of the earth currents at Benmore, rather than cancellation, and thus an upgrade needed at Bog Roy earth station.


  34. Right of course Trevor… my wee-hours postings tend to have those.

    We deal with the intermittent nature of our supply and save ourselves from going over the cliff chasing fossil solutions…. but only if there is a price signal for the market.

  35. Nice summary BJ (although I don’t agree that geothermal needs to be in the ‘use it or lose it’ group).

    Direct heat applications use a large portion of our fossil fuels too, including water and space heating and industrial heat needs. To reduce emissions from these applications we need to switch them to biomass or geothermal, or use more electricity. Direct solar heating may help but is not a solution on its own.

    In many cases the heat can be stored for a few hours, giving the option of using intermittent renewables (tidal comes to mind) or off-peak power.


  36. To summarize and clarify :

    1. CO2 emitting sources of energy need to be shut down or converted both to cope with reduced availability of the hydrocarbons in future, and the fact that we are altering our climate. This will be very inconvenient for a society built on very cheap energy that the extraction industry has provided for the past 100 years.

    2. The Coal has to go as soon as possible because it is the worst

    3. Solid Energy should have put its efforts into making renewable energy sources available.

    4. Available sources of power that do not emit CO2 are Wind, Solar, Hydro, Geothermal, Biomass, Wave, Tide, Nuclear and Muscle. None of these is without some associated problems. All of them are more expensive than fossil fuel plants at current prices. Leaving aside muscle, as going back two centuries doesn’t seem to me to be a good way to preserve our civilization… the only ones that are not entirely “use it or lose it” are Nuclear, Hydro and Biomass… and as observed here, Hydro can be.

    5. Energy emissions have to include transport emissions which are largely from petroleum liquids. The reduction of these must result on greater reliance, directly or indirectly, on electricity. Demand will therefore grow.

    6. A price has to be placed on the emissions of CO2 that is large enough to alter our emitting behaviour… in other words, it has to be large enough that the alternatives are cheaper than the fossil fuels. This entails economic support and penalties for import of goods from nations that do not similarly charge for their CO2 emissions.

    7. There is a resulting market for energy storage technologies to work with renewables. This is a need not currently met by the market. Price again is a signal.

    This thread evolved into a discussion that could be characterized as “whether wind farms make sense in NZ”. Several of the downsides of wind are highlighted above. Yet wind has a large potential availability in NZ due to our position in the roaring forties and the funnelling effect of our mountain ranges.

    Wind is however, a “use it or lose it” resource. Transient, and not predictably available. It cannot therefore be used as a sole support for our current civilization and energy demands and is not particularly useful yet given the absence of storage capacity.

  37. And yes, I know that can be ameliorated, but so far, no evidence that there is any will for it be so

    The will for change comes with the bill for not changing. Nicht Wahr?

  38. You only need spinning reserves to cover wind generation if that generation is not supplying loads which can be turned off (demand management) or pumped storage. Irrigation is one type of load that could be managed relatively easily. I believe there could be quite a bit of pumped storage capability added to the existing South Island hydro stations at relatively low cost. However I don’t know of many easy answers for the North Island. This is why I believe that an upgrade to the HVDC may be worth considering, possible a second set of pylons from Benmore to Cook Strait, 5th and 6th undersea cables and a new line to a second NI convertor much closer to Auckland with a total transfer capacity around 2800MW.


  39. dbuckley
    I heard rumours that the DC tap up north was going to be so they could run each of the lines as a single pole to split sites. I don’t know how viable that would be. It was going to be their answer to the proposal to put big windfarms up there because they couldn’t uprate the lines north of Islington. Without anything else up there, there would be big voltage instability issues. I think you may be a few orders of magnitude out on your windfarm areas as well unless you are talkin about the land directly under the turbines.

    If one goes back to the original post, most of the PIGS tried to do a “the smart green economy creating green jobs”. All they got was massive debts, crippling youth unemployment and a whole lot of uneconomic plant. Nothing has been shown to demonstrate why Gareth’s plan will be any different. There isn’t an export market for the wood pellets when the subsidies stopped and biofuel companies are going bustall over the world.

    bj caustic corrosion is actually a form of stress corrosion cracking and can occur in reducing environments. But that is getting way off topic. The reason I came here was one of my kids recognised that there was a lot of errors in what was written (and they are still only at high school)and why didn’t someone try to put it right. I actually learnt stuff from db which I appreciated but you are just an alienating unguided missile. And going from your previous form on other topics, I would suggest that the Greens keep you away from the public if they ever want to swing the uncommitted voter. Sure, when the Green Party get 50% of the vote, you can change the electricity system to have all the windfarms you like. I’m not worried about that. I know I will still be able to get work in another third world country.

  40. Ahhh.. I see you’ve again fail to have an answer. You really have nothing at all. Just Bullshit.

    You can’t answer the actual questions.

    Perhaps it is good that you know your limitations.

    Asperger’s perhaps?

  41. – Water-side corrosion (caustic corrosion, hydrogen damage, pitting, stress corrosion cracking)

    I can’t see waterside oxidation in there. If you did have it in your boiler, I hope you sacked the chemist.

    How true… and why is it that you would say that? Because waterside oxidation IS a distinct possibility IF the water is not kept in a reducing state, yielding the problems of “caustic corrosion”, and “hydrogen damage” as listed, of that go with that.

    So you are still picking nits.

    Stop trying to be “right” and start trying to work out what the question really is. We listen well enough… but you’re trying to prove something that isn’t true and I doubt that you can even recall what it is any more.

    In the process you’ve gotten into levels of detail that are not relevant to environmental questions, political considerations or policy.

    You’ve failed to answer the environmental question…

    So here’s another question.

    What did you come here to prove/show/inform us of ? I will give hou a hint. It is not about Engineering.

    It is important to know what you are trying to do as well as what you are doing… what you are attempting to accomplish. Human negotiations are much the same, but it is easy to forget.

    Step back. Look again. I’m p!ssed off at you but I am old enough to not to make that a permanent thing.

    You can’t make the Green Party wrong about the future of boilers and gas turbines by proving that you know more about boilers and gas turbines than we do. You may well be in that position, as I haven’t been inside a boiler in 35 years, but it doesn’t make any difference at all… boilers fired by biomass are apt to be out there working for us anyway. It is the gas coal and oil that will increasingly, be left in the ground as Mother Nature explains why it must, for all for generations to come.

    Greens understand why this will happen. What do you understand?

  42. The big problems with wind generation are 1. It works.

    I’ve read that article too.

    It says this:

    The study shows that electricity can be supplied from a new wind farm at a cost of [$80 per megawatt hour in Australian dollars], compared to [$143 per megawatt hour] from a new coal plant or [$116 per megawatt hour] from a new baseload gas plant

    The first problem is where you are going to put that windfarm? The shelved (for the time being, mark my words!) Project Aqua was a 500MW project. To do that with typical wind would need about 25 hectares of turbines, and it would require the wind to blow. So thats 25 hectares of typical area. Project Hayes had a much better wind area, so used a lesser area, but look how well that went.

    When its generating, because of the way the grid works, and the intermittency of wind, you still need non-wind spinning reserve to cover that. The report didn’t mention that. (And yes, I know that can be ameliorated, but so far, no evidence that there is any will for it be so)

    Then there is my other point. Wind turbines are apparently designed to have a twenty-five year life, and many fail even to acheive that. So you need to build your wind farm three times to get the lifetime of the hydro project. And twice for a low cost gas. The report didn’t mention that, either.

    So yes, wind is, on paper, cheaper than conventional. But the proof will be when folks start putting their money where Bloomberg Energy’s mouth is.

    I wait with baited breath.

    And I’m pro-renewable energy, so I hope they are right. But call me unconvinced – yet.

  43. …about the DC, I thought it can only operate point to point (one input, one ouput) and you can’t take spurs off it. If that is the case (perhaps dbuckley can advise), then you would need to build a completely new separate line and Cook Strait cables.

    Conventional wisdom is the current-sourced HVDC such as we have is point to point, however, Transpower have a HVDC converter station and tap on the drawing board in the upper south, so quite how that is going to work I have no idea, but presumably, it will be made to, or it wouldn’t be on the drawing board….

    HVDC Light is voltage sourced, and can have multiple converter stations along the line, each station being able to contribute to or load from the line. HVDC Light is the more recently developed technology and is widely used for low power links where conventional HVDC would be unaffordable or uneconomic.

    HVDC Light (which is a trade name of ABB, the other manufacturers have similar things but under their own proprietry names) was originally called such as it was only suitable for lower voltage links, as it uses IGBTs rather than thyristors. However, progress being what it is, there are HVDC Light links now in the 1GW plus range, and that will only grow.

    Conventional HVDC has difficulty (though not insurmountable) being the sole source of power to an area, it works best if the receving grid is stiff. HVDC Light can feed anything, including somewhere that otherwise has no grid without difficulty.

  44. bjchip
    Quite an angry little rant, isn’t that. You really do have some issues, don’t you. I know you aren’t a power engineer as they would never let anyone with your temper near a control room. And going back over the exchange, I notice I’m not the only one who doesn’t answer questions. At least I haven’t resorted to shouting and the same level of insults. pot – meet kettle.

  45. There is zero pricing in a lot of overseas markets. UK, PJM and NEPOOL are three I know of – all for must run reasons. Anyway, I have never believed in the market as it can be gamed (that’s how Enron broke Edison).
    The DC is down for both maintenance and upgrading. They don’t tell us plebs exactly what they are doing, just not to do anything that could cause a trip. They are bound to have some puff piece on their website, but I can’t be bothered looking.

    From what I remember being told about the DC, I thought it can only operate point to point (one input, one ouput) and you can’t take spurs off it. If that is the case (perhaps dbuckley can advise), then you would need to build a completely new separate line and Cook Strait cables.
    Even if the DC can be extended right through to Whakamaru (I gather the Green Party would have no objection to a new power line through a National Park) you need major AC lines upgrades You cannot get the power north out of Manapouri, if Tiwai closes, unless a new double circuit is built all the way to Benmore.

  46. I didn’t know what your argument was as there were so many errors of fact in it.


    In most of your comments, you were arguing from a position of ignorance and digging yourself deeper.

    I said you had an attitude problem you prove it handily.

    Insults and evasion. Picking nits.

    Your misinterpretations of plain English are clearly intentional at this point. I’ve explained more than once but you continue to avoid the actual question. NOTHING from you that answers or addresses the changing of the planet’s atmosphere. That issue has been plainly and clearly raised several times now.

    You have only one point which we agreed to long long ago. “Wind isn’t dispatchable”. You cannot apparently answer any question without coming back to that as though that makes if forever impossible to shut down the burning of coal, steam and natural gas power generation.

    They WILL be shut down. One way or another.

    The nature of civilization is more malleable than your attitude and your interlocutors here are more knowledgeable than you are able to admit.


    I didn’t claim to be a power engineer AND I DO NOT HAVE TO BE to know a plant has to go down for maintenance. The details you are still carping about are irrelevant nits.

    Claiming that somehow not knowing the detailed why of the maintenance makes the larger questions unanswerable is lame. Asking me what tubes need cleaning

    What tubes do you clean in a steam plant?

    … and then saying that the boilers have a “water wall” as though that means they don’t have tubes with water inside… (and yes, I do know the difference between dry and wet steam mate)

    Boilers nowadays at Huntly and the CCGTs are water wall with superheater and reheat tubes generally suspended within them.

    … yet the water wall IS tubes, and you call ME imprecise… 🙂

    No ChrisM… whatever you actually are in terms of being an engineer, you’ve proved you can’t address actual questions and you aren’t actually any smarter than Greens. Not smarter than me. Not smarter than Trevor. Not smarter than Kerry. You know power plant jargon but can’t get past that to the actual point.

    You’ve offered a lot of insult and attitude but you haven’t offered any answers. That’s pretty normal for right wing nut jobs… but it is a lot less common for actually competent engineers.

  47. ChrisM – you keep dodging the real questions. I asked “How many other markets have periods of zero pricing, when must-run supply exceeds demand?”. Note the word “other” implying that New Zealand’s electricity market is excluded from the question – in this case because I know full well that we have periods of zero pricing.

    And everything else you added are all further reasons to look at enhancing the HVDC link. (Last I checked, the HVDC link was still down – is this due to a fault, routine maintenance or a planned outage required to support the new Pole 3’s installation?)


    PS – the wind is back.

  48. Kerry Thomas

    I don’t know what you are referencing but my stuff says:

    “There are many different types of boiler tube failure mechanisms, which can be sorted into six general categories:
    – Stress rupture (short-term overheating, high temperature creep, dissimilar metal welds)
    – Water-side corrosion (caustic corrosion, hydrogen damage, pitting, stress corrosion cracking)
    – Fire-side corrosion (low temperature, waterwall, ash)
    – Erosion (fly ash, falling slag, soot blower, coal particle)
    – Fatigue (vibration, thermal expansion)
    – Lack of quality control (damage during chemical cleaning, poor water chemistry control, material defects, welding defects)”

    I can’t see waterside oxidation in there. If you did have it in your boiler, I hope you sacked the chemist. And don’t insult me by calling me an accountant. I’m one of those hairy eared relic engineers who everyone derides until things go bang and they need someone to fix it.

    For power station costs, you need to use better sources than quote the dodgy stuff from Bloomberg. They are a latter day Enron. Even the tore their report to shreds gives a totally different perspective and they don’t factor in either transmission costs or back up generation which further penalise wind. Their gas price is also higher than what is now coming ashore.

    I haven’t been to Coleridge for 30 years but when I was there, they still had original bearings in the machine that was apart and the penstocks were the same. I believe that the plant may have been rebuilt with fewer but bigger machines, like Mangahou was. Ohakuri is just having its runners replaced after 50 years operation. It is the dirty running on part load that does the damage, something that supporting wind will increase.

    dbuckley is also correct about the poor life of wind plant. Current economic life is around 12-15 years from the latest data out of Europe.

  49. The big problems with wind generation are
    1. It works. Costs are approaching those for fossil fuel stations.

    2. Given the same subsidies as we have for fossil fuels. Renewables would totally displace fossil fuels for reliability, costs and efficiency in the medium term.

    There are potential savings, in New Zealand, of 4 billion a year, in foreign exchange from renewable stationary energy alone. More than dairy, earns!
    Not to mention savings in the costs of troops to support US oil wars, and the end of subsidies, and tax breaks, to the oil industry

    Making investing in renewables an economic “no brainer”.

    Even without the massive sunk costs in fossil fuel supply and distribution.
    People forget the huge State investments that started the distributed power industry, and the oil industry, everywhere. Not to mention, every war conducted by the West, since 1918, has been about access to oil supplies

    A viable and innovative starting industry for New Zealand.

    Those are big problems for peddlers of fossil fuels. Hence the chorus of dodgy science and propaganda against wind power we are seeing.

  50. How many turbine blades and pipes has Lake Coleridge replaced in 100 years? I expect rather a few.

    ChrisM blew any credibility he had a little while ago , when we showed that his power engineering knowledge is sketchy at best. (I suspect he is an electricity company accountant?) No oxidation in boiler tubes!! So all that scaling and derusting we did on our economiser water tubes, last month, was an illusion.

  51. There are two big problems with wind generation, quite apart from the NIMBYism aspects of them.

    The first is that wind generation has a low power density; you need a lot of area to get a lot of power. In Sustainable Energy – without the hot air there is a (UK based) analysis of this, with a conclusion that the power generation density of wind is of the order of 2W/sq metre. This is both a “laws of physics” problem, and a wind profile problem.

    For a rough and ready comparison, the widely used Capstone gas micro-turbine occupies not much more than a square metre, and delivers 30KW.

    This is not as insurmountable problem for New Zealand as it is for many other countires; we have a low population density so have a low actual contry-wide power demand, and we have a lot of land, some of which is has good wind.

    The second problem is that the current bunch of wind turbines are just crap. They are falling apart after just a few years service. Utilities expect a bare minimum of a fifty year life from their kit, and seventy is the new fifty. Heck, Lake Coleridge hydro station will be celebrating its operating centenery very soon.

    So whereas I quite like the idea of wind generation, the reality isn’t working out as well as one might have hoped…

  52. ChrisM: yes, I follow NERC.

    The point about island differential power pricing is interesting, and there is a useful report, which annoyingly I cant find today, reflecting on what happend when the HVDC link failed for a few days when a couple of towers were blown over.

  53. Hi ChrisM

    I do note however, that your latter comment doesn’t match the one that preceded it.

    I suspect this alludes to “Its easy to build something that works most of the time; building something that works almost almost all of the time is many times harder.”

    The issues faced in running a “reliable” grid are oodles different to running a “reliable” data centre.

    In gridworld there are multiples sources, multiple paths, providing a network of routes that enable power to be delivered “reliably”, but as one gets further from the grid, the supply gets more fragile, and no utility would guarantee that an individual consumer’s feed wont be interrupted. At some point, the supply becomes a chain of signle points of failure. Not to mention that managing the balance of supply and demand is everything.

    In data centre ville, it is the final device that must be kept running, so having dual inlets on that device with dual distribution back to dual UPSs with no parallism in sight is the norm. The acceptabce is that there may be a fault with the incoming source, or in some part of the distribution, but not to both distribution chains to a device simultaneously.

    So different. There is no suggestion here that one is “easier” than the other, just that continuity of supply, and in particular, acceptable faults and partial-outages all mean different things in different scenario.

    Final example: big entertainment events in non-traditional settings, like the superbowl half-time show, are pretty much always run on generators, as most venues simply dont have the power available for such a show. Its the old capital investment required for peak load problem. So gensets are the norm, but a single genset isnt a terribly reliable thing, as my employer found out a few times a couple of weeks ago. So twinpack gensets are the norm.

    A twinpack is considered more reliable that the ultility supply.

  54. Right now, it is 50c in the North Island and $8 in the South. All the CCGTs and a unit at Huntly are must run as they are backed off on minimum load but they are ramping up to cope with today’s load. There was no wind generation in the country overnight and Taupo is about 30% full. All of that is public domain information, so like I said to bjchip, please stop arguing from a position of ignorance.

  55. Trevor
    If you actually looked at the data, you would know zero pricing and must run occur quite often. Last time I looked, the South Island was about 1c because the DC was out. It wasn’t that long ago we also had negative pricing on quite a few nodes either.
    Do you really know how much transmission upgrades cost, the technical difficulties of their operation & management and how much opposition there is to them at the consent process? And do the maths on how many GWh your suggestions will actually provide. They are pitifully small.

  56. ChrisM said “You don’t have to work long in this industry to hear some snakeoil salesman say but “we are different”. Inevitably, we aren’t.”

    He sounds just like the other Business As Usual proponents, and I am struggling to find one constructive comment in his various posts.

    New Zealand’s electricity market IS unusual, and not just for the reasons given above. Most markets are dominated by plant (capacity) limits – ours is dominated by “fuel” limits (including hydro flows). How many other markets have periods of zero pricing, when must-run supply exceeds demand?

    So tell me ChrisM, if new pumped storage has to be build north of Bunnythorpe, I presume you can show me the figures that prove upgrading the transmission lines south of Bunnythorpe would be uneconomical? Don’t forget to include the figures to show the impracticality of adding pumping capability to the existing Waitaki dams and enhancing the HVDC link, say with a second NI convertor station at Bunnythorpe or preferably closer to the main load centers.

    I am trying to find options. You appear to be trying to justify the continued burning of our limited supply of potential transport fuels for electricity generation, ignoring the effects this will have on the environment and without providing any strategy for when that gas supply gets harder to maintain.


    PS: I do suspect you are right about Genesis’ comments about using biomass. Now they have their resource consent, I doubt we will hear much more about it from them.

  57. dbuckley
    You may be interested in several of the reports on the NERC website. They have looked at a lot of the issues you have raised.

  58. bjchip
    I didn’t know what your argument was as there were so many errors of fact in it. I work in an environment where precision of terminology is necessary. That way you don’t get misunderstood and potentially kill someone from people doing the wrong thing.

    In most of your comments, you were arguing from a position of ignorance and digging yourself deeper. If you meant to say they breakdown, you should of said it. Plant has plenty of scheduled outages. that is when the statutory work and maintenance is done. Most of the boiler work is actually repairs of cracks and creep damage. The dispatch builds the outages into their profile. It is often done in the demand shoulders to lower the impact. What matters is plant generating when they are called on to. That is what wind can’t do and never will.
    Tey dose the boiler water with chemicals like hydrazine, it is a reducing environment. Not knowing even simple things like that confirms that the rest of your technical comments are suspect.

    Even though there may be many wind turbines in a farm, there overall reliability is not much different that if there was just one big one. In fact, as there are a lot of common systems, (transformers etc), the many turbines generally have worse availability. We are limited on the grid to no single unit being greater than about 5% of the load (The DC is a bit bigger) unless they pay for reserve. That way there, the effect of a trip is minimised.

    Most of Solid Energy’s coal is used for steel making, so Gareth can’t even get that right. We can decarbonise if we accept a massive cut in our standard of living to make us pious paupers. It isn’t going to make a bit of difference to the world’s carbon production. China, the world largest coal burner isn’t going to change its growth in the forseeable future and India is following them in industrialising. We will also be hypocrites going to renewables and preaching about it, as the equipment we install is all manufactured by burning carbon.

  59. Your lack of response to my actual argument is noted.

    I respond to your nitpicking as follows:

    Correct… I do NOT mean “dispatchability”. Different animal. As I embedded that comment on reliability in a discussion of how we can adapt to working within available energy constraints, the fact that it wasn’t about dispatchability was quite clear. It is NOT the necessity for the system as a whole, that you make it out to be.


    And how do you get oxidation inside the water side of a boiler tube?

    How do you get all the oxygen out of the water? I know that if you keep the water chemistry good you don’t have to clean the water side as often, but I’ve never heard of “never” in that context. Have the alloys and the water chemistry gotten to the point where the tubes can be kept free of scale and corrosion longer than the plant lifetime? Nukes have to have their tubes cleaned too… rust never sleeps and Murphy was an optimist.


    As far as plants in NZ that are set up as single point failure nodes, the region they are in has to rely on neighboring plants to handle the load as they go down for maintenance. People are NOT relying on one boiler.


    almost all of NZ’s thermal generation is from gas fired plant (currently it is 1500MW gas, 250MW coal and 109MW wind) so your comment is irrelevant.

    I was unaware that the Gas plants were 100% reliable and never have any downtime for maintenance… probably because that is also quite untrue… and so again you grab the wrong end of my argument. Which was simply about how the redundancy of turbines makes them different from large power plants yet performing the same function in terms of making power available despite downtime for repair.

    Your other statements just demonstrate how little you really know.

    Not really. However, yours demonstrate an attitude that could suck start a Harley Davidson.

    I don’t NEED to know every detail about the NZ power industry to know that any mechanical plant has to go down for maintenance periodically and that it has to be backed up by other plant.

    You’ve wasted a lot of words and attitude picking nits.

    We still have to stop burning Carbon.

    You haven’t agreed or disagreed with that or even come to terms with it as I can see.

    As this forms the bulk of the argument why this is what “Solid Energy” needs to focus on, the truth of that assertion remains unchallenged.

  60. dbuckley I agree with your 12:52 comment.
    A major reason for our problem is retrofitting to replace obsolete equipment and having to make upgrades for increased deliverability and remote supervision where you had incompatability between controllers. For long life assets, that is a fact of life that one has to deal with. And with the increasing demand for electronic devices to control and protect everything, it is becoming an industry wide significant issue. In our case, we actually used some of the biggest names in the business with proven experience. However, that isn’t a guarantee of success.

    I do note however, that your latter comment doesn’t match the one that preceded it.

  61. I have also spent the last two days dealing with the consequwences of a UPS failure. These are the type of events that gave me no confidence in the new technology.

    Many times in my IT career I have be burned by power professionals who have built systems that when required to deliver, simply didn’t. The reasons for these failures are always obvious, even to an electrical amateur, yet the experts seems to regard such events as coming home to roost as “unexpected”.

    I believe the problem is with the people all the time. The people either select unsuitable equipment, often by competitive tender, and once the equipment arrives, install, commission and test it incompetently.

    Its easy to build something that works most of the time; building something that works almost almost all of the time is many times harder.

  62. I thought what I was prattling on about was a newish idea, but a bit of research has put me to rights.

    Back in IEEE Transactions on Power Apparatus and Systems, Vol. PAS-99,No. 3 May/June 1980, there is an item by Fred C. Schweppe et al. Lead author Fred is a man who knows a thing or two about electricity pricing, having written the book on it. The article is entitled “Homeostatic Utility Control”, and it envisages a world where there is integration of demand management with supply capability. Fred died in 1988, aged just 54.

    The paper opens thus:

    Today’s [1980] regulated electric utility system was built and is operated under a “supply follows demand” philosophy. The customer has the right to demand any amount of energy, and pays a constant, prespecified, infrequently updated, price.

    The philosophy of “supply follows demand” may be criticized for a variety of reasons:
    * The need for rapid load following and large spinning reserve margins causes inefficient use of fuel;
    * The large ratio between peak and average load implies that extra utility system capacity and distribution systems must exist to supply peak demand;
    * The fixed nature of electricity prices discourages some forms of energy conservation and customer generation;
    * The isolation of customers from the problems of the supply system makes it vulnerable to both short-term (New York City-type blackouts) and long-term (coal strike or oil embargo) emergencies;
    * Finally, government regulation plays a mixed role; customers are isolated from changes in real cost while utilities are isolated from the effects of competition.

    This paper introduces a basic philosophy in which the supply (generation) and demand (load) respond to each other in a cooperative fashion and are in a state of continuous equilibrium.

    The paper later says:

    An alternative, lower-cost approach which causes demand to follow supply is based on a Frequency Adaptive Power Energy Rescheduler (FAPER).

    A FAPER is a frequency-responsive switching device which will control significant energy (as opposed to power) consuming loads. An example of such a load would be an electric melt pot in a processing plant or, at a residential scale, an electric heating or hot water system.

    The basic principle of the FAPER is rescheduling uses of electricity in which the demand is for an average rather than an instantaneous condition. The FAPER will turn the device off and back on as a function of the utility’s ability to provide energy.

    So there it is, in 1980.

    The concept gets picked up every now and again in a new guise, these days the buzzword being “smart grids”.

    The reason no-one has done this is, as I stated above, it is not in the utility industries interest to do this, as having a big peak-to-average load gap makes for good profitability. This is noted in “A Smart Uninterruptible Power Supply based on Frequency Linked Pricing Mechanism”; authors Amit K Gupta, Saurabh Chanana, Ashwani Kumar argue:

    Smart Grid, which is driven by need, has different priority for each country. In the west, it is driven by labor cost, renewable sources, and Electric Vehicles to reduce carbon footprint. For India, managing peak load will be key driver as energy cannot be stored for longer duration in large scale it has to be increased or demand needs to be reduced.

    At present, in the west, it is managed by increasing supply through peak power plants, which are managed at high cost and it is priced in the present cost to consumer, which is going to change with the implementation of Smart Grid. If India follows the west model, the price of electricity will rise to 35%, a very expensive proposition for developing country like India.

    35%. That’s the price we pay for having a dumb grid. At least India has started with Availability Based Tariffs, but that mechanism doesn’t go as far as the consumer, which is part of the argument in the paper.

    Another paper that directly relates is “Demand-Based Frequency Control For
    Distributed Generation”, author Jason W Black. Abstract:

    Extensive growth in Distributed Generation (DG) presents challenges for the ability to maintain frequency on the electric power system. There is little impact on frequency stability for small DG penetration. Once DG reaches critical mass, however, the current methodology for generation-based frequency compensation, Automated Generation Control (AGC), may be insufficient to maintain frequency within the bounds for service quality.

    Some DG units, such as microturbines, are capable of contributing to frequency control. Renewable energy based DG units, such as wind and solar, however, are not controllable and therefore cannot participate in frequency control. In the following cases: Stand Alone Minigrids, or a high penetration of DG in interconnected grids, augmenting the capability of DG to provide frequency compensation may be necessary to ensure power quality.

    This paper investigates demand based frequency control to provide such compensation. Both the technical and economic aspects of implementing demand based compensation are evaluated.

    The paper opens:

    Demand Based Frequency Control (DBFC) utilizes control devices at the appliance/machine level to shift load when necessary in order to maintain the frequency of the system within an acceptable range. It is based on the idea of Frequency Adaptive Power Energy Reschedulers (FAPER) introduced in [1st paper above].

    When an imbalance between real power supply and demand exists on the grid, the frequency will deviate from the nominal value. DBFC devices will turn off(on) the machine/appliance in response to such frequency deviations in order to restore the supply/demand balance, and will turn them back on(off) at a time when the frequency deviations are within the acceptable range.

    Heating and cooling systems, refrigeration units, and industrial melt pots are examp les of energy based loads that could easily accommodate a DBFC system without loss of benefits to the consumers. Any machine or appliance that relies upon energy rather than power consumption is a prime candidate for a DBFC device.

    Ooh, that sounds so familiar.

    Just to mention reliability; the consensus is that a responsive load will increase grid reliability. Large area outages occur when there are significant transmission or generation failures, failures outside the first contingent event that the state modeller comes up with. The ability for the load to respond to a high rate-of-change frequency excursion would improve the chances of the grid staying on-line, rather than reduce it.

    So, final rhetorical question, why aren’t we doing it? Because turkeys don’t vote for Christmas. With a bit of regulation (not entirely different to ABT in India) requiring flexible tariffs this could be made to happen, and critically, without requiring large investment.

  63. bjchip Your comment actually was:
    “The basic deal here is that the windfarm is a diffuse generation resource. A turbine breaks and is repaired and other turbines generate and the output is fractionally reduced, unlike a steam plant that must go down completely to clean the tubes.”
    Firstly, sootblowing and deslagging operations are often done online, especially the former. Secondly, almost all of NZ’s thermal generation is from gas fired plant (currently it is 1500MW gas, 250MW coal and 109MW wind) so your comment is irrelevant. Your other statements just demonstrate how little you really know. How many boilers are there at Otahuhu or Stratford? And how do you get oxidation inside the water side of a boiler tube?

    Reliability – do you mean availablity, forced outage factor or load factor. I gather you don’t mean dispatchability as for thermal plant it is in the high 90% and for wind it is around zero.

  64. ” I said clean the tubes.”

    No… that is what *I* said. You asked “what tubes”.

    You followed that up with…

    “Boilers nowadays at Huntly and the CCGTs are water wall with superheater and reheat tubes generally suspended within them.”

    I am familiar with the design. A “water wall” is still a design with tubes and the presence or absence of tubes isn’t even relevant.

    If you run a furnace that burns stuff on one side and boils water on the other you ALWAYS will have to occasionally shut it down to clean it, both of combustion products one one side and oxidation on the other.

    This is called maintenance and only in the imaginations of some salesmen, is there no such thing as maintenance of power stations. That is the reason why a steam generation station (or a ship) is never built with just one boiler.

    Which was the point. The argument I was making is, and was, simply that the “reliability” that you observed on individual turbines was a reflection of the diffuse nature of the generation system. That it is otherwise NOT different from the multiple boilers used at power stations.


    All the systems you propose are just pipedreams that involve massive expenditure for uncertain returns. If it is so good, where is it in operation and working? Or are you saying reliable electricity isn’t important for society.

    Not pipedreams, just new technologies that want another century of development before they are as well understood and engineered as a basic steam plant.

    Your promoted and defended solution IS in fact a mature and dependable technology which we know a lot about and have developed to be extremely reliable and adaptable to fast changing demand. Moreover, because you can dump the waste freely it is cheaper than any alternative. Why would any market based system develop alternatives if there is no price signal?

    There is no argument here that says that alternatives of solar and wind can easily match the current subsidized price and reliability of fossil power stations. We didn’t ever say they would or will.

    As a society we need ENOUGH power far more critically than we need it to be reliable. Where reliability is required specific solutions can be applied at much smaller scale, but for most of us working when the tide, sun and wind are available would be a very small adjustment.

    We ARE going to have to adapt to more variable energy availability if we use them, unless we come up with better storage technology.

    Your refined and reliable power source is destroying our climate.


    I would add to Trevor’s list, the Cook Strait and Auckland Isthmus, which could be used to our advantage. The potential energy there is massive, but like ANY tidal scheme, periodically unavailable.

    Your tariff and interruptable load appliances claims don’t match reality or consumer expectation.

    They match REALITY just fine, but consumer expectations??? Those are simply what we have been “conditioned” to expect. They aren’t in fact, realistic.

    You are clearly not accepting that WE have to adapt to nature. Yet for all of human history but the last 150 years or so, we sailed with the tide, powered our ships with wind, woke with the sun and went to bed when it got dark. We got arrogant in recent years, and you display that arrogance perfectly here.

    What would YOU call a “massive” carbon charge? I have to ask this because it speaks to the question of what you understand the damage to be. I am witholding what I think would be adequate for the moment. I want to see what you come up with.

    I am saying the current system is known to work. It may not be the cheapest option but is near bulletproof. Move away from that and you risk a lot

    … and if we don’t we risk much more.

    …which may be overly optimistic.

    Alternatives exist. It is time to put a price signal in the system that represents the actual risks. Such a price signal changes the job a bit, but you needn’t worry. Engineers won’t be unemployed… though they’ll still be underpaid and unappreciated. 🙂

  65. dbuckley

    You make statements about something you says will work – it is still only a theoretical model. Your tariff and interruptable load appliances claims don’t match reality or consumer expectation. You would also no about the grid problems with the new equipment where places have been islanded then resynced out of phase. I have also spent the last two days dealing with the consequwences of a UPS failure. These are the type of events that gave me no confidence in the new technology. I am saying the current system is known to work. It may not be the cheapest option but is near bulletproof. Move away from that and you risk a lot.
    With regard to expenditure, even the Greenppeace power plan could only be made to be neutral cost by claiming astounding technology advances, massive carbon charges and no items like pumped storage. There is no credibility in their figures and I doubt that you can do better.

  66. The reason why dispatchable power was developed in the 20s when grids first started, so Westighouse was actually a bit older, was that it works. The accompanying merit order actually guaranteed the lowest prices to the consumer.

    Actually, no. The world order we have today guarantees the best return for the industry. As I know you understand, the capital investment in an electricity network is determined by the peak capacity required, and the running costs by the average capacity.

    In the early days of NZ electricity, back when it was run by civil servants, they arranged to shave the peak, so reducing the investment required. Of course, as soon as the market came about, NZ moved to the “normal” model of building (and thus charging for) the largest peak demand possible.

    All the systems you propose are just pipedreams that involve massive expenditure for uncertain returns. If it is so good, where is it in operation and working?

    Nope; I just recognise that we have capability today that costs very little that was not available at any price fifty years ago. This enables us to do thing undrempt of.

    Today we use under frequency load shedding to protect the grid when the supply / demand balance breaks down and collapse is imminent. Why is it such a stretch to understand that the same signal can be used dynamically all the time rather than just in emergencies?

    Or are you saying reliable electricity isn’t important for society.

    Absolutely not. This isn’t my stating this, its you. You believe that a more respjonsive electricity system must be less reliable than that we have today, but logic suggests a responsive grid would be more reliable.

    …that involve massive expenditure for uncertain returns

    I’m not advocating any expenditure, let alone massive expenditure. I advocating The Man requiring the industry to have frequency sensitive tarrifs available. That will create a situation to which the market will respond, because it is in the market’s interest to do so.

    Customers will spend a few hundred dollars on a smart meter to take advantage of these tariffs with a payback of a few years.

    Who are the losers? Those who make money building power stations to benefit from the spot price of peak loads.

  67. Gregor W
    The contribution of small generators, say those totalling less than 2% of the grid load are lost in the noise of load changes. For most domestic consumers, putting the electric jug on would turn them from an exporter to importer of power. It is only when everything happens at the same time that they get worried. The classic story told is during one of the royal weddings, in the UK at the first hymn, the load jumped about 800MW and if they hadn’t had the pumped storage units at Dinorwic, they would have been in the poo. Everyone rushing out, putting the jug on, opening the fridge door, going to the loo soon adds up. NZ sees the same effect, but to a lesser extent during test matches.

    For future growth, the contribution of possible household sets doesn’t register. About 30% of our power goes to domestic consumption and 40% of that is used for hot water. From memory, the average household uses about 12MWh pa and about 80% is in the two regions 6am to 9am and 4pm to 11pm. If your generation is more than 10% of usage, you are doing well. Whether you generate or not is less a factor than kids boomeranging.

  68. This might be a nooby question (apologies in advance Chris, bj, trevor & dbuck) but does future generation needs analysis currently take into account any proportion of decentralised generation variable (i.e. turbine on my roof)?

  69. Trevor29 – Don’t you mean Ireland not Iceland? that power is almost oneway trafic westward and as far as I can twell, they always import from France They have also a thermal based grid, though the 6GW of wind is now causing all sorts of grief. If you want comparisons, try Java, Negros Oriental or Leyte.

    You don’t have to work long in this industry to hear some snakeoil salesman say but “we are different”. Inevitably, we aren’t.

    Anyway, you seem to be going around in circles. After Tauhara, where is the rest of the geothermal going to come from – Almost all the other fields have conservation status? Pumped storage needs to be north of Bunnythorpe (If you don’t understand why, you shouldn’t be commenting on any of generation issues)- Which National Parks would you build the big lakes in?(To give you an idea of sizes, fagpacket maths gives 5 pairs of 8km2 lakes with 10m working head and 200m elevation between them) Which NI rivers are you going to dam as there are protection orders on the Mohaka and Motu.

    Don’t give the waffly comments or talk of feasibility studies, conferences etc. You made statements, back it up with real answers are the hard answers that need to come ou for your energy ideas to have any credibility.

  70. The New Zealand electricity market is unusual. It is small and islanded. (The UK market is tied to Iceland and also to the European continent.) It is also divided by Cook Strait, with most of the hydro on one side and much of the demand and all the non-renewable generation on the other side. Increasing the share of renewable generation poses its own unique challenges but New Zealand has unique advantages as well. Experiences from other countries may not be directly applicable to New Zealand.

    There are two requirements to cutting back on our non-renewable generation – providing enough “fuel” (i.e keeping the lakes topped up) and meeting peak demand reliably in both islands. Wind power is great for the former but almost useless for the latter. We need to find around 3GW of despatchable power generation for the North Island to replace the fossil fueled generation to meet the North Island’s winter peak demand.

    Options include enhancing the HVDC link, adding new geothermal or boosting the peak power output of existing geothermal, adding new North Island hydro generation or pumped hydro storage or using renewable fuel in the fossil fueled plants. I expect most or all of these options to be used to some extent, possibly with a bit of new technology such as gravel batteries as well.

    We may also need to add some pumped storage capability to some of our existing South Island hydro systems to absorb excess generation from wind and other intermittent renewables when demand is low.

    It won’t be cheap, but it will reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, and the price for those fossil fuels is equally uncertain although the long term cost of fossil fuel usage will be high.


  71. bjchip & dbuckley
    I do wish you would learn to actually read what was written before you engage your typing fingers. I said clean the tubes. Boilers nowadays at Huntly and the CCGTs are water wall with superheater and reheat tubes generally suspended within them. They have been unitised for yonks with Meremere one of the last with a range. The water that circulates within them is very very pure – generally less than 50ppb and often an order of magnitude lower. And as I said originally.
    “What tubes do you clean in a steam plant?”
    The reason why dispatchable power was developed in the 20s when grids first started, so Westighouse was actually a bit older, was that it works. The accompanying merit order actually guaranteed the lowest prices to the consumer. All the systems you propose are just pipedreams that involve massive expenditure for uncertain returns. If it is so good, where is it in operation and working? Or are you saying reliable electricity isn’t important for society.

  72. The critical number for power planners is dispatchable power

    Yep, that was worked out when Westinghouse was a lad.

    Thing is, we can now bend dispatch, if we want to. But those who know that dispatch is everything tell us that dispatch is still everything.

    Once we knew the world was flat, too.

  73. Fire Tubes or Water Tubes mate. How do YOU make steam?

    I learned about boilers in the bowels of a ship in the US Navy most of 35 years ago, but I hadn’t heard that the tech had changed that much. You have to have more than one boiler.

  74. Very good imagination and creative solution re:transforming Solid Energy to Sustainable Energy.

    The real question is HOW? What do we do with the coal mines and the miners whose families are dependent on their jobs??? Is the Govt going to buy all the coal mines and shut them town? Is the Govt going to help the miners and their families looking for jobs? Should the Govt encourage them to move to Australia to continue coal mining? Or should the Govt give financial support to the miner families? For all these, where does the money come from?

    Solid Energy got into trouble because the clean energy products they’re developing and selling haven’t got a market in Europe and US where its target markets are. The economic environment over there is still challenging and people are looking for cheaper and more reliable fuel.

    The best thing for Solid Energy is to focus on what they do best – coal mining. And the coal prices are not plummeting. It’s just volatile. So a better hedging system should be in place.

  75. Bjchip
    You really have no idea about the power industry, do you. What tubes do you clean in a steam plant? And as for your attempted explanation of outage factors, I would expect better than that from an apprentice. You really ought to have gone to bed earlier as your thinking is definitely muddled. The critical number for power planners is dispatchable power. That is where wind is a big fail.

    In Britain they have got into the ridiculus situation where they pay a massive subsidy for wind farm generation, now they have to introduce another subsidy to get OCGTs for capacity factor, all paid for by the power consumer where there is a big increase in fuel poverty, so there is another subsidy for that. In the meantime, energy intensive industries have decamped to Asia where they can build coalburning power stations with impunity.

  76. @ChrisM – I really don’t see that it is subsidized to the same degree as the Coal and Gas industry, which is permitted to dump its waste free of charge into the atmosphere. No other industry I know of gets to dump its waste free of charge ANYWHERE.

    Regarding the economics of wind farms and down time…

    The basic deal here is that the windfarm is a diffuse generation resource. A turbine breaks and is repaired and other turbines generate and the output is fractionally reduced, unlike a steam plant that must go down completely to clean the tubes. There are single points of failure but the turbines aren’t them. So much as you actually have to have at least two power plants on the grid, so one can go down for maintenance…
    you need to have multiple turbines in a field and fields on the grid so that some can go down for having no wind or a failed component. Diffuse sort of thing, and the individual turbines aren’t as reliable as the centralized systems we’re used to.

    If that last paragraph makes any sense – good. It is 0200 and I should have been asleep an hour ago.


  77. Gerrit

    Wind generation in NZ is subsidised. The windfarms don’t have to meet many of the grid compliance rules so they sponge off the other generators. This increases the cost to the consumer from the elevated price of power. I also believe some of the farms were built using external carbon credits. However, you can’t build carbon neutral stations. They might have a very low footprint but if there are metals or concrete present, they need carbon combustion to make them.

    Your second paragraph is an exercise in semantics worthy of Winston. Effectively is a weasel word. Either it is or it isn’t. If it is, be specific and how this is different from other sectors like film-making or R&D spending.

    As for your last paragraph, that is what Spain said before their economy went belly up from all the subsidies. All those jobs just disappeared, like the ones in the US and UK are currently going.

  78. Gerrit

    Build bigger carbon neutral fueled power-stations and ditch tax payer subsidised wind power generation.

    I wasn’t aware that National was subsidizing wind power generation Gerrit? You can’t really call the public sometimes paying for wind farms to be connected to the grid a subsidy btw.

    In total contrast, the current right wing government in New Zealand is extensively subsidizing mining, oil and gas companies through millions of dollars in tax breaks and incentives.

    All that really needs to happen is for there to be an even playing field, because renewable energy projects are more cost effective, have better returns and create more than twice as many jobs as the same investment into polluting industries.

  79. That line only says they will investigate it if the subsidies make it worthwhile. Just puff piece words like saying things “can save up to” stuff where zero is the most likely option. It doesn’t say “that it would be straight forward to allow Huntly to burn wood” which was your statement.
    Anyway, it is only supplementary firing where about 5% of the fuel is pulverised wood and sprayed in with the pf. That isn’t hard to do. I remember helping get rid of old documents by tossing them by hand into the flames. I was referrring to true biomass boilers. These need some form of fluidised bed and have to be built from exotics like 347 because of the salt cracking the standard boiler steels. From the literature I’ve seen, I think the biggest dedicated biomass boiler is less than 100MW.

  80. I can’t find on line any more the 40MB pdf I downloaded, but in its description of Huntly units 1-4, it includes (twice):
    “With minor technological modifications to the boilers and mills, the units are also capable of firing biomass.”

    Genesis also state:
    “Genesis Energy recently commenced preliminary investigations into the use of biomass to supplement future coal and gas firing in Units 1-4. Biomass ‘co-firing’ presents a potential opportunity to diversify future fuel sources for HPS, including utilisation of renewable fuel sources. As outlined in Appendix 1, Genesis Energy seeks to include biomass as a supplementary future fuel source for Units 1-4, subject to demonstrating a similar or reduced emissions inventory relative to burning coal at the time.”


  81. Trevor 29.
    Are you certain the application for consents that were granted in May 2012 said that they could convert to wood burning for units 1-4? It isn’t obvious in the documentation I can find.

  82. Trevor29
    The wind turbines are currently nominally in the best sites. As they expanded, the quality would deteriorate so the capacity factor would decrease. Have you also included the forced outage factor? that is quite significant, going by the number of dead turbines I see every time I go past them. I have to look up the Genesis consent as I didn’t know they had put one in.

  83. Im all for doing better by the environment but where is the $$ going to come to fund Wind, Solar, Tidal or combination of ?

    More importantly where is them missing info ?

    – land cost
    – land size needed
    – cost to implement
    – ongoing cost to maintain and upgrade to meet demands

    Its all fine and dandy to say go wind, go solar, but where are the facts ? powerbill already cost more than people can afford.

    We are doomed.

  84. ChrisM – some of what you say contradicts Genesis’ resource consent applications for Huntly, which claimed that it would be straight forward to allow Huntly to burn wood. I do not recall if this required converting the wood to charcoal. I am not saying you are wrong…

    At a capacity factor of 40%, only about 3000MW of wind is needed to average 1250MW.


  85. Trevor 29.
    Yes you are right, it was my mistake. The generation was supposed to be 1.0GW However, the original question that I was answering was about providing short term relief for wind shortfalls. Most of the time geothermal machines run with their throttles fully open and floating on the wells. That is why they cannot provide support. To ramp for wind, one has to close the throttles in, lowering efficiencies and making them susceptible to grid fluctuations. It also lowers the value of the geothermal generation so they don’t want to run there. The correlation also included the windfarm in South Otago.

    The experience overseas is that fuel burn does not significantly change when you hold CCGTs in reserve to cover for wind. You just lower their efficiency. Almost all machines have a significant minimum load when synchronised. (The only exception to this is hydros with tail racedepression and the wicket gates closed) For a CCGT it is about 150MW, for Huntly, it is 80MW? and they have slow ramp rates up to full noise so they don’t damage the boilers which are the big ticket maintenance items. And you can’t burn wood at Huntly without a total rebuild of the station. They have PF burners. The age of the station and the hard life it has had means there is no value in trying to refit it. Overseas,to my knowledge, they have had any of the wood burners running well without significant supplementary firing. And they have a lot better quality feedstock than us because of the subsidies they get.

    Taupo is still only about 420GWh (I will stand corrected on my memory here)from full to near empty and even with no rain, and the gates fully open, takes about a month to drain. If wind is around 4500MW to give the equivalent of 1250MW thermal, you need 36GWh a day extra down the Waikato to cover when the wind is not blowing. There are minimum flow requirements from the consents out of Karapiro which has no significant storage (like the rest of the Waikato dams, they are pretty close to run of the river. And this could have to cover a five day period.

    Anyway, all your suggestions cost a lot of money. The wind alone, without the transmission lines, would be maybe $12B and the plant needs capital replacement every 12-15 years on current data, plus the big O&M. Who is going to pay for all this?

  86. Burning wood at Huntly would preserve the levels of Lake Taupo during sustained periods of higher demand i.e. Winter. It isn’t adirect solution to the outputs of wind farms dropping suddenly. However Huntly can idle with the boilers hot and the turbines spinning and synchronised but with little or no output if necessary ready to take over some demand.


  87. ChrisM -I assume the 10GW was supposed to be 1GW. So 1-2% is 10-20MW per day or up to 600MW per month. That would be a useful amount of extra winter power.

    The gain comes from not having to spill hydro water or feather wind turbines beause the lakes are fjll and the power can’t be used.


  88. ChrisM – a high correlation between wind farm outputs is not surprising when most of them are in the same area of lower North Island. Erecting wind farms in other areas will improve this.

    What is more important is the capacity factor. NZ wind farms can have capacity factors above 40% – overseas 30% is good. Some NZ wind farms generate 90% of the time but much of this is not at full output.

    Wind farms are not chosen to meet peak demand although under emergency conditions they can help. Rather they are chosen to reduce fuel usage and preserve hydro storage.

  89. Janine are you for real? Do you know how much pollution solar panel manufacture causes. All those goodies like cadmium sludge and silicon tetrachloride? There are plenty of articles on the pollution. Take the first one up in Google
    Just because it isn’t CO2 and in your face, it doesn’t mean it’s clean. Remenber all the mercury in CFCs?

  90. Dry resources have no problems wiith ramping, thats what Geysers does twice a day and Poihipi Road did for about 10 years. NZGA estimates that there is about 10GW of geothermal power generation – 1-2% is 20MW at most. It can go up and down more than that in a day from the thermal dump fluctuations and as a percentage, many wells cycle more than that. It is not even significant in grid operations, where it needs about 50MW to see the change.
    You can ramp the plant up and down on a short term basis if you design for it and run it inefficiently to cope with the swings. There is nothing that money won’t cure. To do it for longer periods you run up against RMA constraints and it generally doesn’t work – the old 68 trial at WRK being a case in point. And your original comment was about buffering wind. Just how much do you expect consumers to pay for the priviledge of load following?

  91. ChrisM – I am aware that there are issues with ramping up and down the output of geothermal resources with both liquid and steam. I doubt that these issues are insurmountable. Even if the output could only be ramped up or down at a few percent per day, it would allow the geothermal resource to be used to supply our high demand period – winter – and ramped down during our periods of higher supply and lower demand when the lakes are high.

    Balancing supply and demand is a complex problem with variations in both supply and demand over short periods, days, weeks and seasons. Any controllable variation can be useful in helping to maintain this balance. Blindly saying that geothermal plants can’t be varied to meet demand doesn’t help.


  92. bjchip if you read what I wrote, I was pointing out that a spread of windfarms across NZ does not guaratee reliable wind generation. the average wind strength might be higher in NZ than in the other two countries but 20 times zero is still zero. If you go back through the weather maps, you can find many days when there is no significant wind in NZ. I also have had access to generation data and know that there is significant correlation between the ouputs of the windfarms (around 0.7 from memory).I note Mr Leaver doesn’t seem to disagree with this.

    In Britain and Europe, it is acknowledged that carbon charges have caused the fuel poverty. With the windfarm incentive payments, they are taxing the poor to give to the rich. Industry doesn’t care, it is just moving all its energy intensive manufacturing (and the jobs that go with it) to India or China.

    The frequency and strength of the extreme events haven’t changed to be outside statistical limits – for example, when did the last hurricane landfall on the US? Or how does the current snowstorm in New York (noting that AR4 said that cold events would decrease in frequency) or the recent floods in Brisbane rate against the historical record? I was quoting AR4. You now put up a new paper that you say contradicts it – does that mean the science isn’t settled?

  93. Distributed solar energy with the new panels that work on dull days as well look likely to be part of the mix. We are installing solar as are others in the sunny North.

    No silver bullets, just more strategic approaches as we move away from polluting sources of energy

  94. No ChrisM, neither the UK or SE Australia are anywhere NEAR having our wind resource. Look again at our latitude, the South of the South Island extends halfway to the furious fifties. The North of the North Island is calmer. South Island ranges give ample opportunity to access a concentrated and quite reliable (relative to other nation’s availability) resource.

    The other side of this bit is your comment about “fuel poverty”, and taxpayer support. Both of which ARE part of the future, whether we wish or no.

    One does have to wonder about this-

    “has been no unprecedented weather events in the last 10 years, and even the tracked data on things like hurricane energy shows a decreasing trend.”

    The expected activity at PRESENT with the current levels of warming is a greater frequency of extreme events (droughts and floods) rather than getting windspeeds up to the theoretical maximum for the planet.

    For now, unprecedented isn’t the standard to be watching, frequency is.

    One has to understand that as CO2 continues to increase it alters the rainfall and temperature profile of the atmosphere differently from when you take steady state predictions.

    The process has a likely effect on the expected strength of a tropical cyclone as well.

  95. If one looks at the data for both SE Australia and UK, both comparable to NZ, then one can see there are often extended windless periods across the whole region. And windfarms can’t even predict two hours ahead, so your three days goes out the window. You might cover the gap with pumped storage (not existing hydro) but that costs billions to install. CCGTs are usually 24 hours from cold start to full load. The less efficient open cycle can come up a lot quicker, but surely you aren’t recommending installing low efficiency equipment are you?

    There are no significant carbon neutral fueled stations working. They all rely heavily on fossil fuels for transport, though that isn’t in the calcs. They almost all need suplementary gas firing because the fuel is so variable quality. And it is very expensive. Kinleith doesn’t even pick up woodwaste from the forests around it to run their boilers most of the year. If they can’t make it work, no-one can. You can make it “pay” by increasing the cost of energy but that leads to fueel poverty unless there is even more tax payer support.

    Where in AR4 does it say that violent changes in the cold weather have occurred. They say it isonly warm weather, and even then the data is dodgy. It is all post hoc reasoning. AR4 actually has the disclaimer “Some aspects of climate have not been observed to
    change.” Polar amplification decreases the energy available to drive Hadley cells. There has been no unprecedented weather events in the last 10 years, and even the tracked data on things like hurricane energy shows a decreasing trend.

  96. BJ,

    Sunny windless days in Auckland, absolutely stunners accept for us sailors that slopped off Takapuna Beach in 3 to 5 knot breeze trying to compete in a regatta.

    Seen that huge high over NZL on the weather maps? Sea breeze never developed unfortunately.

    Fabulous beach weather, not good for sailing or wind power generation but.

    If we are going to burn carbon neutral fuel why bother with windfarms?

    Build bigger carbon neutral fueled power-stations and ditch tax payer subsidised wind power generation.

  97. Yes Gerrit… usually at least 4 to 6 hours from a cold start. Which COULD be covered by stored energy elsewhere in the system.

    Yes, it IS more efficient not to stop and start continuously, but you’re burning a biofuel, carbon-neutral or at least low carbon, fuel.

    …and somehow the prospect of being without wind for 3 days and then instantly trying to turn on the boiler on the 4th windless day doesn’t speak well for either the predictors of weather or the planning of the people running the electrical systems.

    In other words, Trevor’s notion IS likely to be a workable part of a power mix that supports “sustainable” supply for Auckland. I still think the challenges are significant. Gray, Windless days in a row North of Auckland – in a row now. How many would you say you get? You were telling me just how nice the weather was up there a while ago 🙂

    Not that this is, in any way indicative, as they say in the Stock Brochures “past performance is not an indication of future earnings” or other such weasel words. We’ve altered the climate and we are still changing it violently (for climate)… so what to expect up there in the future is a bit less certain.


  98. Trevor29,

    All we need to do is keep a supply of wood or charcoal on hand to fire them rather than use coal.

    Problem is that it takes time to fire up a boiler, heat water to make enough steam to run the turbines.

    If the wind don’t blow (like for the last 3 days, in Auckland at least) you simply cant fire up Huntly and generate power instantly as required.

    Coal, gas or wood fired generators need to be on 24/7 to be efficient and effective as a back up for wind generation.

    Therein lies the conundrum for wind generation, the back up generation capacity required has to be on 24/7 anyway so why bother with wind?

    This makes interesting reading

    Wind turbines are bird killers

    No one noticed until far too late that the 5,000-turbine wind farm at Altamont Pass is on a major migratory path for birds. The National Audubon Society, America’s RSPB, has called it ‘probably the worst site ever chosen for a wind energy project’.

    An estimated 10,000 birds including up to 80 protected golden eagles, 380 burrowing owls, 300 red-tailed hawks and 330 falcons were being shredded each year in Altamont’s massed banks of turbine blades — to say nothing of thousands of bats — until outraged conservationists sued America’s ‘deadliest’ wind farm four years ago.

    and only viable through subsidies and as tax dodges for investors.

    Those investors disappeared when the subsidies no longer being paid on the now uneconomical windfarms.

    Why, they ask, should the debt-laden country be giving wind energy companies a 30 per cent tax credit, costing taxpayers nearly $3 billion a year, when wind accounts for only 2.3 per cent of America’s electricity and 8 per cent of its pollution-free electricity?

    Windfarms are not an viable energy producing answer nor a ecological one.

    Seen these eyesores of dead turbines?

    Any wind-farm owning company should have to pay a state held infrastructure removal security deposit to remove dead windturbines in the foregone eventuality that the operating company will go bust.

  99. Trevor 29
    That report wasn’t worth the paper it was written on. It just assumed the 25MW/km2 and looked at resistivity. The only big resource left to develop is Tauhara which might be 200MW and ther rats and mice stuff like Taheke which could be 100-150MW total. Geothermal has a long history of over-promices and under-delivery with stranded plant. You don’t need a link. Just talk to the operators and look at the performance data. And no, you can’t twoshift liquid dominated resources. You can’t even provide grid support for under-frequency without a lot of plant issues.

  100. ChrisM says to DBuckley

    …but no doubt you would just throw megabucks of power consumer’s money at it.

    Not in my vocabulary.

  101. To handle that hypothetical week of low wind and low isolation, we could retain the Huntly coal-fired generators. All we need to do is keep a supply of wood or charcoal on hand to fire them rather than use coal.


  102. Protection from a solar flare is an engineering task. You’d protect lines by stopping transmission and earthing them. We get a few minutes, not a lot of warning but enough for an automated system. Have to isolate vulnerable equipment at the substations… that’s the hardest equipment to replace. You’re correct that the problem is not managed by insulating or burying the lines. Also would be correct to say that we aren’t going to be able to do it with all the lines. Need to protect some but the whole thing I think is too many $$$. I’ve been talking about this for 15 years now… and the vulnerability of our civilization is huge.

    There are some impressive problems supplying electricity to areas North of Hamilton. I’ve no doubt that in the SHORT run, shuttering the coal mines and replacing them with gas, including from fracking, can be the only way to deal with it, but I WOULD be looking for some real hardcases to monitor and control the fugitive emissions 😉

    Getting it all powered completely sustainably is apt to be a lot longer in the doing.

    “That has to be replaced by wind in your grand scheme”

    Not entirely… mixing Solar AND Wind should work at that Latitude, and I doubt both would be fully absent for a full week. The arguments about dams within the Green party happen often enough. There may be a few more, but the bulk of decent hydro sites have already been dammed.

    We are apt to need something new in the way of storage as there really aren’t any wonderfully convenient high valleys to turn into pumped storage up there anyhow. Semi-solid flow batteries or some of this stuff or something else…

    Whatever we DO do, system does have to change. Auckland with 2 meters of additional water, is still Auckland… mostly… but that 2 goes to 5 and more in the second hundred years and then it isn’t quite so viable. So an ADDITIONAL problem is that as we build stuff we have to consider the changes in sea level and the changes in population distribution that result. Temperatures in NZ won’t be too weird, but rainfall might be significantly altered. It was easier to plan for the future before WE started doing something the planet hasn’t ever experienced before. Now there are a lot more unknowns.

  103. ChrisM – smart meters can do whatever they are built to do. If they can receive pricing information from the lines company or power companies, and pass it on to appliances in the house via wi-fi, bluetooth or whatever, then they can partake in demand management – without having to have the whole house rewired, and without relying on ripple control.

    Much of the need for demand management comes from the daily variations in both supply and demand being out of synchronisation, with peak demands typically being morning and evening with a midday trough and a bigger dip overnight. Any demand that can be timeshifted away from the peaks makes it easier to use renewables to meet the demand.


  104. ChrisM – you have (twice) said that there is very little geothermal left that can be harnessed. Since this appears to be in disagreement with a report commissioned by the government that identified around 2000MW of likely geothermal resource (less about 200MW harnessed since that report was created), could you provide a link to your source of this information?

    Whether or not there is additional geothermal resource that can be harnessed, geothermal power stations can buffer the output of wind farms. It does require investment in additional geothermal plant, which is used significantly less than 24/7 but allows wind generation to be used when available and geothermal to fill in the gaps when demand is high but wind generation is low.

    Ripple control as we currently know it is slow – taking probably several minutes to control a number of independent loads. However this is fast compared to the rate that water rises or falls in the Waikato lakes. Therefore fast variations in supply or demand can be taken up by the hydro generation and ripple control used to smooth out the slower variations.

    Most power companies have been offering day/night tariffs that switch on some loads at a cheaper metering rate using ripple control around 9pm and switch them off at 7am. In some cases, all load is charged at the lower rate at night, encouraging users to delay their use until night. Some load can be controlled using simple timers if the ripple controlled circuit(s) aren’t accessible.

    There are many options…


  105. dbuckley
    Most of what you say is correct but glosses over a lot of technical issues. There have been numerous outages caused by VSDs interferring with the grid supply. Germany has had more than a few documented large scale failures.
    As for your comments on the market, it hasn’t been made to work anywhere yet. At present, frequency control in NZ is shit and your system will make it worse. There are also issues around voltage control, but no doubt you would just throw megabucks of power consumer’s money at it.

  106. bjchip
    It wasn’t the DC I was looking at for the NIMBYs, though they did have problems. The new Whakamarulines were the examples I was thinking of, also the spurs from the proposed Contact windfarms to the existing lines.
    The problem with wind is the North island.There are consent flowrate change restrictions on Karapiro and the lakes upstream have very little storage. It also take 3 days for water to get from Taupo to Karapiro. If the windfarms can’t even predict with any accuracy what they will be generating in two hours, what chance is there of the 3 day prediction – and we aren’t even relying on wind yet.

    Currently thermal is about 30% of the generation load. That has to be replaced by wind in your grand scheme as there is little geothermal potential left and no rivers allowed to be dammed. You also need massive pumped storage schemes (maybe 5 Rotoaira sized lakes, but with five times the head working range) for the unreliability. You can’t use the existing hydro. Taupo has 500GWh storage and NZ uses about 110GWh per day. And then you need the transmission system bulked up to hang it all together. It can all be done. The price tag for doing it though, would be eyewatering and would take maybe 15 years. And the alternative is a baseloaded CCGT in Auckland running on shalegas. One doesn’t need focus groups to know what the voters would choose.

    More transmission lines are unlikely to protect us from another solar flare. I believe even screened and buried lines are susceptable.

  107. ChrisM: I understand exactly what demand management entails – today. I also see a future where we can use it better.

    It is true that today there is very little interruptible load, and ripple control got lost in a battlefield of who has control over it. But ripple control is just too damned slow: it takes several seconds to send out that decabit code, and if you tried to use it to try to manage demand in a wind heavy scenario the slowness would result in massive frequency excursions and subsequent AUFLS events and all sorts of problems. Ripple worked to constrain load when the network was under strain back in the day, and still works for streetlights. But it doesn’t have a part in real time demand management.

    So rather than look back at what we’ve done, look forward to what we could do. There isn’t going to be putting any lights out, or stopping factories.

    Lets get away from trying to match supply with expected demand, and accept that supply is the variable within a range, from a bit under 100% of expected demand, to well over expected demand, say 140% if everything blows.

    The magic is to make the market do the work.

    In addition to the standard tarrifs (eg 20c/KWh), lets say you can have interruptible electricity for 10c/KWh when the frequency is over 50.05, 6c/KWh over 50.1, 4c/KWh at 50.15 etc. Alternatively, a customer could choose to get a rebate if they drop load when the frequency is low. (I learned recently that the UK already do this bit)

    You will find that the electricity market will adapt. Heating will be the first as its easiest and thermal inertia can paper over gaps.

    Imagine you could have cheaper power if you use frequency sensitive VSDs. So the fans will slow down a bit when the frequency is down. So will lifts and escalators, aircon, swimming pool and well pumps, and industrial processes that can take a few percent variation, like ball mills.

    Yeah, I’m talking about revolutionary stuff here. Not thinking that hasn’t actually changed since the first part of the last century.

    Hell, with cheap “sometimes on” electricity folks will start to heat their back yard swimming pools with excess power so providing a dump when the wind is strong.

    We know it works. Many micro-hydro schemes use dummy loads to maintain frequency, they just toss the excess away in light bulbs controlled by triacs in real time. You have to build the generation for maximum load, the fuel is free, so who cares that you’re generating power to waste on light bulbs?

    The trick here is to make the market work in favour of managing demand. Give it the right incentives, namely the chance to save a buck, and the market will respond. Thus the problem changes from ensuring a balanbce of supply and demand to setting the tariffs to acheive the desired result.

  108. Some folks are quick to work out the negatives of JUST wind. However. it is, at least on the South Island, backed up by the hydro dams and can be very very effective at keeping the water levels in those dams higher. Which takes care of inertia and dispatchable load issues.

    We need to rebuild transmission capacity in any case, as the first casualty of any major solar “event” is going to be those lines unless we protect them. Not protected now to be sure.

    I don’t think nimby protests have anything to do with the Cook Strait. Are you just generalizing?

    The sin is that we might well be generating more on coal than on wind. There is a price advantage to burning carbon because the cost of the waste disposal is absorbed by future generations, not paid the way every other industry pays to dispose of waste.


  109. And to pre-empt the replies, we can’t reinstate ripple control in many houses becase they would need significant rewiring. Not an easy job to put in a whole new metering system, especially as most meters are now outside. Of course, they may be able to have smart sensors directly on the tanks, but they aren’t commercially available yet at an acceptable reliability and price. To add to the woes, VSDs and windfarms inject all sorts of harmonics back into the lines to falsely trigger ripple control and the like as well. “Smart” meters aren’t to control appliances, they are just to do away with the meter readers.
    As well as the metering issues, mains pressure hot water cylinders are significantly smaller than the old LP ones so there would be little storage to tide one through the times when power is off. From memory, the power companies were limited to using the ripple control less than 5 hours a day without the Minister’s approval. I haven’t the data in front of me but I think that the load that could have been saved before the regs changed by using all the ripple in the country was only about 250MW. Now, I think it is down to about 100MW.

  110. dbuckley

    Do you know what demand management really means? It is switching off lights when the wind stops. If you read the documentation put out by the UK grid, you will see they admitted this. There is very little interruptable load on the system especially since they got rid of ripple control. And as the wind is on about a weekly cycle and you going to stay without power for five days. That’s the reality. I note that right now, we are generating more power on coal than we are on wind.

    The DC link was put in during the days before RMA. It was also point to point. With all the NIMBYs around, they can’t even uprate lines to double circuit now without a new consent. Even if you get the consents, you are still talking about $3M per kilometre and most of the proposed windfarm sites are a long way from any load.

    And even if you have the grid, where are you going to get your dispatchable load, voltage control or inertia from? It ain’t from wind. They just freeload as sponges on the system.

  111. ChrisM:

    The problem they are finding overseas with wind is that its unreliability

    Wind is intermittent, it is true, and so in order to make effective use of wind, it really helps to think about demand management, something New Zealand pioneered decades ago, but subsequently once we started to have “market reforms”, we effectively lost interest in it. These guys haven’t though, and they have the answer.

    …plus the long transmission lines needed are tripling the apparent cost.

    Yeah, but again, we’ve done this before, and it isn’t something we need to be frighted of.

  112. I dont think we would ever had had nuclear power stations irrespective of the decisions of history.

    Traditional nuke stations come in convenient sizes of 1GW, and with the New Zealand electricity market being the size it is, they would not be a comfortable fit in a generation mix.

    Not to mention by ther sixties there was alread the installed base of hydro plant, which meant that nuke derived energy would be relatively expensive.

  113. I still don’t see any way that Key in the position(s) he held would have been ignorant of the situation as it occurred. Nor any reason to give him the benefit of any doubt.

    The LIBOR rates and foreign exchange are seriously tied together as the rates are calculated in 10 different currencies. I don’t care where his desk physically was, though given that the scandal centered on the LONDON Interbank rates it makes it worse, not better. I saw the thieves on the New York side and while I DID think he’d shifted it really does not matter. His role was as stated and his involvement at that level makes it hard to imagine him being innocent.

    His own peers in the bank called him “The smiling assassin” . I do imagine that sharks know their own. The only sop I am willing to throw you here is that there is no PROOF that he took part in any scam. OTOH, I would not trust this man with anything of mine, and even less with the future of New Zealand.

    Particularly given some of the policies he has overseen and promoted since attaining office.

  114. There is, a while ago in this discussion mention of using nuclear power for electricity generation in New Zealand.
    Does anyone else besides myself find it deeply ironic that it was mainly the fact that we did NOT have anti-oil activists in New Zealand in the 1960s that stopped us having a nuclear power atation in New Zealand?
    If we had people like the original poster of the Blog item, who totally oppose oil exploration and production, in any position to influence policy we would never have developed the Maui gas field.
    In the 1960s the Government was investigating, and carrying out engineering design for a nuclear power station on the Kaipara harbour. It was only abandoned because the Maui gas field was discovered and there were enormous amounts of cheap gas available.
    If we hadn’t had that we would have had a nuclear power plant instead. Oh, like the food shortages caused by bio-fuels development aren’t the unplanned consequences of actions interesting.

  115. I forgot to add one fact to illustrate how limited would have been his time at the Fed.
    The FX committee holds eight meetings a year. six of them are for an afternoon and then dinner. The other two are apparently lunch meetings,
    Key would have therefore spent about four days per year at the Fed in New York. He certainly didn’t spend all his time there working on a foreign exchange desk as you seem to think.

  116. @bjchip comment at 6.23pm.

    You appear to be a bit confused regarding Key’s relationship with the NY Federal Reserve. You state at one point “Key spent the last couple of years … NY Federal Reserve on the foreign exchange desk”.
    He DIDN’T. He remained working for Merrill Lynch in London. Key was a member of the Foreign Exchange Committee of the the NY Federal Reserve. That committee is not made up of employees of the bank and they certainly don’t work at desks there. It is an advisory group that includes representatives of major financial institutions that deal foreign exchange in the Unitd States. Key was invited on to that committee because of his position at Merrill Lynch.
    Key also did NOT live in New York. He lived in London. He was involved in Foreign Exchange dealing, not in banking.

  117. Again… I have some limited power over politicians, and both they and I have some ability to exercise foresight and social conscience that the market UNLESS regulated and adjusted, totally lacks.

    That lack means that it is necessary for the society, through government, to exercise controls over the market. Which means that despite ANY faith in the free market, one STILL has to deal with politicians and government, or suffer societal and environmental degradation. The religion bit and the failure of the extreme forms as practiced here are all about societal and environmental degradation… as is obvious over the past 30 some odd years.

    There IS no choice. You do the work to handle the necessary self-governance or you lose things you value, including your freedom, to the mindless invisible hand.

    Now there IS scope for the market to work. It is exquisitely good at fine tuning the allocation of scarce resources to do things that people need doing IF it is able to have a reasonably complete set of associated costs. At that level it is quite excellent. The problem is that it is not able to cope with uncosted liabilities that may result from certain sorts of consumption.

    So… you HAVE to have some government and you HAVE to control it (unless you want Monarchy or Dictatorship). There HAS to be some control over the invisible hand, lest it kill people for the resulting “efficiencies”. Which brings us to the bit where you called the market “the decisions of people” as opposed to the politician’s (who are actually elected by the people) decisions.

    Yet they decide two very DIFFERENT things (at least when both are working well, which has not been the case since the advent of fractional reserve banking), and have very different frameworks for their decisions.

    Incomplete knowledge is the death of “free market” accuracy and also the death of the Libertarian ideal. It is the death of democracy itself as a rule. However, “the market” thrives on incomplete information, embraces it, encourages it.

    Which is basic to the problem we have now. “The” market has decided that the threat to our civilization and our children is more profitably hidden than dealt with. A well informed (as in knowing the costs to the future) “free market” would not, and the introduction of a CO2 tax would help to “inform” the market… but is opposed by the people who profit from business as usual.

    So in the end, reducing things as you attempted to do, to a bumper sticker slogan, is way way too simplistic. We all DO that on occasion, but we have to be mindful, always, of the complexity of the society and its self governance underneath.

  118. Spoken like a true Kiwi Free Market Fundamentalist. This religion is marked by a wholly unjustified faith in the invisible hand.

    Which reacts to things that are immediate, but cannot cope with things that are going to happen in the future, uncosted “externalities” or the good of the people as a whole. It has no conscience, no eyes, and no brain. It kills impersonally. It fails rather more often than not.

    Not that the politicians are a LOT better but we DO have some say in who they are…

    …and at this point the market is so distorted by the bankers and their fake money that the only people who really do well ARE bankers, and they pwn several major governments.

    There is a high degree of pomposity needed to dismiss the ideals of others whilst being an ideologue oneself. If you want to characterise it in religious terms, then you are a member of another church convinced of his own-self righteousness.

    I do not claim the market is perfect, far from it. I’m saying I tend to place greater trust in markets than politicians. Free markets tell us a lot about what people actually do. Politicians tell us a lot about what they’d like people to do.

  119. Dunno if there is anything much to say about “Solid Energy” at present.

    They needed to concentrate on the renewables and did not. There needs to be a CO2 tax/charge that isn’t a joke, and that would put their mining ops out of business almost entirely. Could mine Uranium and Thorium if we had some… but not coal. Private-not-private isn’t much an issue with them. I don’t give a rat’s. Not even as much as Air New Zealand which is not so much a valued asset as a public service. If we don’t have our own airline we can’t actually be sure anyone else will be attracted to such a small and inconveniently distant market 😉

  120. Denmark isn’t a good example taken alone though.

    They export power and import power to neighboring countries and have a split grid so there isn’t that much balance… so what is being done with the wind they are getting isn’t exactly obvious. I certainly would be loathe to draw any conclusions from them. However, the issues of reliability, including energy storage and transmission lines for wind power are very real. Only where it frees an existing dispatchable renewable like hydro, does it truly come into its own. Southland is where our industrial base SHOULD be… how did we manage to screw THAT up… climate?

    I don’t want to “de-industrialize”. Something other than farming would be a good thing, but it is also important to recognize that even with all the beneficial aspects of a Thorium plant it is still not “sustainable”. It is fueled by stuff dug out of the ground and so it has a finite useful life as a power source for human civilization.

    It IS convenient as a bridge while we grow the renewables base and (I fervently hope) do what Stephen Hawking has told us to do. Moreover, it would be good to have some power sources near Auckland that aren’t real vulnerable to rising seas, changes in rainfall or cloud or even solar storms. Which longer electric transmission lines most certainly are.

  121. I agree with bjchip. To add to his comments, there is very little geothermal left to develop. Most of the fields that don’t have power stations on have protected status.
    The problem they are finding overseas with wind is that its unreliability, plus the long transmission lines needed are tripling the apparent cost.
    In one of those hidden pieces of information, Denmark, the darling of the windfarmers haven’t shut down a thermal power station yet and their fuel burn hasn’t significantly changed either. They also have the most expensive power in Europe so there has been significant de-industrialisation over the last 10 years, especially of energy intensive industries.

  122. Given the understandable antipathy towards coal, I’m surprised the Greens wont support privatising Solid Energy, so that people are not forced to own or subsidise an industry they don’t believe is efficient or even morally justified.

    The truth is, it couldn’t be sold for much, but it could have shares distributed amongst citizens – then people can offload them if they like and feel morally cleansed.

    Indeed, the business may go bankrupt or at least be a shadow of its former self, which if I believe the Green renewable energy mantra, must be a good thing because the money poured into it would then be available for other purposes.

    Then, as Arana rightfully pointed out, those of you who believe renewables are the future can put their own money where their mouths are without a state owned competitor crowding it out. Though I’ve long called for the believers in Peak Oil to do the same with oil futures, and none do – which is wise of course, because the “Peak Oil thesis” is fading due to fracking unlocking vast new reserves in North America and Australia.

  123. We could do with one of the new generation reactors built floating foundation style. I would be game to do something here with Thorium, which does a very nice job with point waste.

    Or push it into a hole in a subduction zone. Won’t be seeing it for a long enough time that way too. I don’t like the Uranium reactions though… they ARE associated with the weaponized technology.

    Earthquake isn’t impossible to design for but it IS an additional cost factor, point 1 is a biggie. Some new gen plants can run “air” cooled and do NOT need to be next to the ocean.

    For point 2: New Zealand demand AFTER shutting down Huntly and with any sort of additional demand as we start moving to electric trains as opposed to the heavy trucks?

    The most important point is that for NZ it isn’t NECESSARY. We can almost certainly manage with purely renewable and benign tech, even to shut down Huntly, so there isn’t a really good reason to pursue it at that cost, but the power supply to Auckland and North? That IS Huntly and gas and it isn’t a good look. Our Hydro and a lot of our Wind is South Island. Nearest to Auckland is Geothermal. Which we are slowly developing.

    There are two considerations here. The expense vs other ways of getting power… which I think is apt to be more competitive in the long run than most Greens recognize due to the reliability of the power available vs the effort required to make the fully sustainable power sources reliable.

    The other important one is the linkage with the weapons industry, more historic than real at this point.

    On the other hand, if we had a Thorium RESEARCH reactor and worked out commercial Thorium products, that’s an actual industry in NZ that would employ some people other than farmers and would aid in preventing nuclear proliferation (harder to weaponize those reactions). I wouldn’t turn my nose up at that sort of development.

    Just saying its a mixed bag at the practical level. The principle, which I perceive to be much more about nuclear weapons than nuclear power, is a different thing entirely.


  124. @Bill 6:15 PM

    1. It is very expensive. The capital cost to build a nuclear power plant would result in nuclear power being far more costly than other methods of electricity generation.

    2. We would have to have at least 2 reactors, because nuclear reactors require maintenence downtime for fuel replenishment and used fuel disposal. But New Zealand doesn’t have, and is not likely to have in the foreseeable future, the electricity demand to justify both being online at the same time. Hence, more wasted capital cost.

    3. New Zealand is on the junction of tectonic plates. Significant earthquake & tsunami risk – witness Fukushima which will take decades to clean up.

    4. Short of putting it on a rocket and shooting it into the sun (and rocket technology is not yet sufficiently sophisticated to avoid frequent accidents), there is no environmentally sound way to deal with spent nuclear fuel which is a significant radioactive hazard.

    I have to say that for countries with huge populations, like China, nuclear is probably a better environmental option than coal. But New Zealand does not need either of those options.

  125. I’ll trust the market (the decisions of people) over the decisions of politicians anyday.

    Spoken like a true Kiwi Free Market Fundamentalist. This religion is marked by a wholly unjustified faith in the invisible hand.

    Which reacts to things that are immediate, but cannot cope with things that are going to happen in the future, uncosted “externalities” or the good of the people as a whole. It has no conscience, no eyes, and no brain. It kills impersonally. It fails rather more often than not.

    Not that the politicians are a LOT better but we DO have some say in who they are…

    …and at this point the market is so distorted by the bankers and their fake money that the only people who really do well ARE bankers, and they pwn several major governments.

  126. Alwyn.

    First: If you think Libor problems only start in 2007 when a BANK finally blew the whistle on the practice I am sure there are some bridges and bottomland you’d be interested in. I am from New York and I even looked for work as a quant at a couple of those investment houses, but I realized (and they realized) that I would not fit in. Too much boy scout, too little Orc. They’ve been running Libor with essentially zero oversight since 1986! Whistle blown on a really massive massaging of data in 2007 but when did the manipulations start? You don’t know but I certainly don’t believe for an instant that they just suddenly started in 2007.

    Second: The financial community in NYC is very “tight” if not particularly friendly. Cozy and cut-throat at the same time… The smiling assassin WOULD fit right in. Key spent the last couple of years at a place called the NY Federal Reserve on the foreign exchange desk.

    It is inconcievable that he’d not have known about any scam that was going. His participation? A matter of conjecture to be sure. But I have absolutely no doubt that he knew what was happening. I give him credit for being smart.

    Third: The difference between wealth – management companies and other financial trading entities, and banks, was altered in 1999 when the banksters got the law separating the investment houses from the banks repealed.

    Fourth: Given what he has done to and is trying to do to this country, the question of who John Key actually is working for TODAY, is still open. If it weren’t for his actions I might be willing to give him the benefit of doubt, but I just don’t see a reason to do that.

    The real deal though is point number 1. There is no way in hell that this just “started” in 2007. The NY financial community has never been particularly honest but I saw how it changed over many years there and in the mid 90’s it was already very seriously bent. When they got their license to steal in 1999 it was all over bar the shouting. They pwned everyone and everything that mattered within 2 years, one could guage their “success” here…

    Southampton and Easthampton weren’t cheap places to live to start with… but when the financiers got out there the change was dramatic. I know, I lived there before they started in on the place. I know who was pumping money into that market and buying up property. I learned even better their “attitude” to the rest of the world.

    So go ahead… I can’t PROVE he did anything wrong. I just know where he was and what was happening there and that he’s smart enough to know too, and cut-throat as they come. You can presume innocence if you like, but I look at his actions here and wonder still… who the hell he is actually working for.

  127. Can someone explain to me the ‘green’ oposition to nuclear power? Assuming power generation from nuclear fuel can be done safely, I think it’s a great idea.

    Is it the association with nuclear weapons? The risk of accident? or is it more of principle thing?

  128. Maybe the time has come… the people with the money are putting it where our mouths are…

    That’s fine. So long as it makes sense, I’ll buy it.

    I looked at solar/wind microgen over gas a while back. I chose gas. Solar and wind were uneconomic.

    When that changes, I’ll switch.

  129. “The market” is short-sighted and slow. It is not necessarily informed by science or research – and politicians ought to be.

    I’ll trust the market (the decisions of people) over the decisions of politicians anyday.

    I’m not saying politicians are unnecessary, but I have little faith in any of them to make good decisions. My one hope is they don’t do anything to make matters worse. That’s usually the sign of a “good” government.

  130. An important comment got overlooked in the static.


    Whilst investment may be pouring in [to sustainable generation], this is in part due to government subsidy. Subsidy that is starting to withdrawn.

    Why is subsidy starting to be withdrawn?

    It drives up power prices. People complain.

    Green energy sounds good, but it will only be good when the economics makes sense. The technology isn’t there yet. You’ll know it when it is – because the private sector will start pouring into it.

    And then Rimu posted a link to Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s site, noting that:

    Wind is now cheaper than fossil fuels in producing electricity in Australia, the world’s biggest coal exporter, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

    Electricity can be supplied from a new wind farm in Australia at a cost of A$80 ($84) per megawatt hour, compared with A$143 a megawatt hour from a new coal-fired power plant or A$116 from a new station powered by natural gas when the cost of carbon emissions is included, according to a Bloomberg New Energy Finance report.

    Coal-fired power stations built in the 1970s and 1980s can still produce power at a lower cost than that of wind, the research shows.

    Further: “The low and falling costs of renewable energy and high and rising costs of coal- and gas-fired plants suggest that much of Australia’s new generating capacity is likely to be renewable”

    Maybe the time has come… the people with the money are putting it where our mouths are…

  131. With respect Arana, that is a very disingenuous statement. While of course the market is made up of individuals making individual decisions, the collective response of “the market” is not necessarily reflective or cognisant of the longer-term consequences such as climate change or social distress.

    That is why we elect governments – to take those wider, longer-term consequences into consideration. “The market” is short-sighted and slow. It is not necessarily informed by science or research – and politicians ought to be.

  132. The market is you and I, Janine.

    I value my trees, and the birds that live in them, which is why I don’t subdivide my property. I’ve placed higher value on birds than revenue.

    A rational actor, in the market, acting in what he perceives to be his best interests.

  133. @bjchip at 7.26pm

    Re your last statement. The Libor scandal took place primarily in 2007-2009. It concerned banks, not Brokerage and wealth management companies.
    John Key worked for Merrill Lynch and left in late 2001 or early 2002 to return to New Zealand to run for Parliament. He had therefore left The Thundering Herd before the Libor shenanigans. At the time he was there M-L was independent. Although it is now owned by BOA that only took place in 2009, long after Key had left.
    To state therefore that Key had to be involved sounds rather like a wild attempt at a smear.

  134. Are you The Market? Excellent – in that case you will immediately put environment and community costs into your spreadsheet so that there will be less pollution and less harm to communities.

    I have to say I am surprised to find The Market responding in here – I’d always thought of it as being an abstract idea rather than a person. Perhaps akin to a god, since so many seem to worship you.

    Thanks Market.

  135. “The market also does not care about environment or community, only profit”

    What an ignorant statement. We came here in 1839. We have owned lots of businesses and care a great deal about our country.

  136. Leap of faith? That would be ignoring the science and trusting to WUWT, Fox News, the Wall Street Journal (or any Murdoch publication), or some other paid for jerk to tell you that all the science is bogus, or a conspiracy. That’s where the belief without evidence comes in.

  137. For your health’s sake, Arana, throw open the windows (of your mind)

    I’m not sure making a leap of faith is opening ones mind.

  138. Yawning – the first sign of becoming overcome by carbon dioxide.
    For your health’s sake, Arana, throw open the windows (of your mind).

  139. Arana

    WHEN the CO2 emissions are costed into the price of the fuels dug out of the ground, the sustainables already beat the crap out of them. Those emissions are not costed, the waste is free to dump into the environment.

    That is a market failure. You want the market to respect the environment then the market has to see a price signal on its destruction. It doesn’t, and due to a lot of nonsense on the part of the National Party it won’t, not until we kick the jackasses out.

    Which is what we have to do. What New Zealanders were thinking when they elected a banker (who HAD to given his history, know about, and almost certainly profited from, the LIBOR mess) to be PM. Twice.


  140. To add further to Arana’s first comment, most of the wood pellet sales were going to the PIGS, where there was big government subsidies to use them. Now those have gone belly up, there is a big pile of sawdust on Taupo’s skyline. The local market can’t use the mill’s output and no other country wants to buy them. Great export potential there no doubt.
    And if you want to look who to blame for the Solid Energy losses, check out the board members appointed in the 2003-2007 era when all the big decisions were made. Solid energy’s website gives a lot of the news releases. A lot of the decisions that have now cost them just happened to help the government of the day.

  141. Yes, carbon tax – pollution is not an externality, but a real cost to us all if the polluter is not made to pay.

  142. I agree that adjustments might be made – but my first comment is that it is too slow to be left to its own devices if environment and community are not factored in as part of the rationale. As you point out there are a number of ‘ifs’ in there – IF they see economic advantage, IF they choose to follow through, IF it in fact makes them more money …

    When it comes to moving to sustainable, renewable etc power, the market is just too slow and too uncertain. Leadership is required.

    They bail out banks and finance companies – this is so much more important for the health of the planet.

  143. The market also does not care about environment or community, only profit.

    That a little one dimensional, Janine.

    ‘The market’ is made up of sellers + buyers.
    If the company sees economic advantage (i.e. consumers buy more of their products) by caring about the environment or the community then that will become part of their brand proposition – which can be a net gain for all concerned.

  144. If it’s such a good idea that the public sector owns business, then why not own every restaurant, every dairy, every farm, and every tyre sales yard?

    Because none of these examples are of natural monopoly.
    The simple way to look at it is that the market is excellent at providing wants, but not needs.

    Roads, schools and hospitals should all be PPP.

    So pursuant to our other conversation, when it all goes tits up, who bears the cost of replacement? Joe and Jane public.

  145. I’m happy to fund administration and law and order.

    I’m less happy to fund areas that are better left to the private sector. If it’s such a good idea that the public sector owns business, then why not own every restaurant, every dairy, every farm, and every tyre sales yard?

    Roads, schools and hospitals should all be PPP. I see no reason the state needs to own buildings – a complete waste of money.

  146. Fair enough, Arana.

    You’d better stop using roads and hospitals then – not to mention the police force and the courts system too – because you’d be pretty hard pressed to support a business case for any of it unless we’re all paying for it incrementally via taxation.

  147. And given their performance, a good reason not to give such companies a cent more!

    If people think green energy is a good move, great! They can put their money in it, just don’t force me to put mine into it.

    Everyone’s happy.

  148. It’s why we elect governments – to do the right thing on our behalf for the community and the environment. This government is interested in neither.

  149. Nothing to stop you and your more entrepreneurial green buddies doing so today. You can seed finance it with your green pension plan and put your houses up as security.

    Yeah, because there are no barriers to entry into either the power generation or distribution market…or something.

    Last time I checked SoEs like Solid Energy et. al. used plenty of other peoples money (i.e. taxes) to get going.

  150. let’s call it Sustainable Energy

    Nothing to stop you and your more entrepreneurial green buddies doing so today. You can seed finance it with your green pension plan and put your houses up as security.

    If it’s such a sure thing, then why not?

    Because you don’t think it’s a sure thing, hence the need to use other people’s money.

  151. The trouble with waiting for the market to get involved is that it may be too slow for the planet. Clean, sustainable energy is not just a commodity but a necessity if we want to head off the worst effects of climate change. That is why political leadership is necessary.

  152. Hard to know where to start.

    I hope you understand why the market has dropped for coal. It’s due to substitution. The substitution has been from coal to natural gas. Why is natural gas now plentiful and cheap?


    There is nothing to say shifting to pellet fuels is anything but a loss-making move for solid energy.

    Whilst investment may be pouring in, this is in part due to government subsidy. Subsidy that is starting to withdrawn.

    Why is subsidy starting to be withdrawn?

    It drives up power prices. People complain.

    Green energy sounds good, but it will only be good when the economics makes sense. The technology isn’t there yet. You’ll know it when it is – because the private sector will start pouring into it.

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