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'Ambitious' renewable targets will require infrastructure - Woods

Wednesday 3rd April 2019

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The government is “ambitious” to develop the country’s renewable energy systems and will spend much of this year developing its strategy out to 2050, Energy and Resources Minister Megan Woods says.

Replacing fossil fuel use in transport and industrial process heat with renewables will be a big part of that strategy, and much of that fuel shift will be to electricity, Woods told officials and electricity distribution executives last night.

“We have to ensure that the electricity supply infrastructure has the capacity to meet this demand.”

Woods was speaking at an Electricity Networks Association function, marking the launch of a network transformation roadmap aimed at helping power distributors navigate the rapid technological and customer changes already affecting the industry.

Central to the model is the concept of an open-access network, in which consumers can connect and operate any device – including solar, batteries, and electric vehicles – subject to proper safety and operating standards and an appropriation cost for access.

ENA chief executive Graeme Peters said the roadmap – developed over almost two years – aims to ensure network companies are “future-ready” in an environment that is has never been less certain for them.

It was announced the same day the Commerce Commission and the Electricity Authority said they are starting a joint study to assess the benefits from distributors using new technologies to provide contestable services, against the potential for that to hinder the development of competitive markets for those services longer term.

The electricity sector is increasingly confident in its ability to evolve and adapt, as falling costs bring more solar, batteries and electric vehicles onto distribution networks. New tools and pricing models are already being developed to enable their uptake while also managing the change in consumption patterns that will result.

But the Interim Climate Change Committee, due to report later this month, has signalled its unease at the cost of meeting the government’s 2035 100 percent renewable generation target.

Participants in recent ICCC workshops have also flagged the challenge of electrifying some processing industries, given many sites are a long way from high-voltage transmission. Planning and consenting new lines could also prove challenging if firms want to convert from coal or gas quickly.

Last month, the Major Electricity Users’ Group cited the “significant potential” of electrification to reduce emissions, but warned that won’t happen unless the cost of power can be kept low.

Synlait Milk completed the commissioning of a 6 megawatt electrode boiler – the largest in the country – in March. The new boiler, which is expected to avoid 13,700 tonnes of CO2 emissions annually, was enabled by Canterbury network company Orion doubling the transformer capacity at Dunsandel and installing two new 11-kilovolt lines to the plant.

Orion is now planning to spend close to $29 million within the next five years building a new link to Transpower’s 220-kV line at Norwood. That will provide additional power to meet demand at Dunsandel, Brookside, Rolleston and Highfield from rural township development, commercial growth and “signalled decarbonisation measures by cornerstone industrial customers”, Orion says in its latest asset management plan.

Woods didn’t specifically mention the ICCC’s pending report, but said the government’s 2019 programme aims to provide a detailed strategic plan to “chart out that pathway to 2035 and to 2050.

“We’re looking into the areas where government action can make the biggest difference, identify the incentives that are needed, the roadblocks that need to be removed, and how we can help new technologies come on stream.”


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