Burning more gas shows system is broken

How is it that New Zealand is supposed to be playing our part in the global mission to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change, yet Nova Energy is proposing to build more fossil fuel-burning power plants that emit greenhouse gases?

Nova is proposing to build a big new gas power plant in South Waikato that would burn fracked gas. With over 3000 MW of new clean, renewable power generation already consented and waiting to be built, we don’t actually need to build more dirty gas plants.

If this proposed new gas power plant runs at about the same level as similar gas plants that already exist like the one in Stratford, we’ll need to plant up to 17,000 extra hectares of trees to mop up all that new pollution.

The fact that Nova thinks it’s a good idea to build a new gas plant shows that the electricity market and the rules around pollution in New Zealand are fundamentally broken. The Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) is supposed to incentivise clean energy and make investing in new dirty energy less attractive. Clearly it’s not working in this case.

blog_solarOur electricity generation is already about 80 percent renewable, which is great, but let’s not stop there. The electricity market rules are broken if the incentives in the current structure are telling Nova that it’s a good time to invest in more gas.

Some people might say that we need gas plants as a back-up for when the wind’s not blowing or the hydro lakes are low. Studies show we can get to 100 percent renewable electricity generation and even if we do need a little bit of fossil fuel generation as a back-up, we already have plenty. We shouldn’t be building any more and locking in pollution for potentially another 20 years.

The ETS and the electricity market rules should be encouraging investment in clean electricity generation. Clearly they’re not. The National Government’s weakened ETS and low carbon price are sending New Zealand in the wrong direction.

Globally, investment in clean electricity has outpaced fossil fuel investment for several years and that’s predicted to continue. In the next twenty five years, $8 trillion of the $11 trillion expected global investment in electricity will be clean. Even in the developing world, more money is being invested in clean energy like solar and wind than it is in burning fossil fuels like coal and gas.

New Zealand is going to be on the wrong side of history if we keep investing in new fossil fuel plants.

It’s easy to blame the energy companies. But they’re working within a structure set by the Government. If the Government set proper rules about clean energy and climate change, the energy companies would move their investment from fossil fuels to clean energy, because it would make better business sense.

Solar Roof

Just last year our Government went to Paris and signed up to the global agreement to reduce climate change. They seem to have forgotten about that. But we’re here to remind them.

The Green Party is running a campaign asking the Minister for the Environment to “call in” Nova’s resource consent application to build a new gas-burning power plant. We think making multi-million dollar investments in fossil fuels is an issue of national significance that would affect New Zealand’s Paris Agreement commitment to reduce climate change.

Under current rules only directly-affected neighbours get a say and climate change can’t be considered. ‘Calling it in’ elevates it to the national level and allows all Kiwis to get a say.

The Minister could then consider whether building a new power plant that burns fossil-fuels and emits greenhouse gas emissions is the right thing to do.

It’s time for the Government to step up and take responsibility for setting the right rules around energy generation and climate change.

Sign our open letter

Please support the Green Party’s call to the Environment Minister to “call it in” so that the climate change impacts can be considered, by signing our open letter.

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