If you (like us) watched a little nervously as the Climate Change Commission (CCC) announced its draft report earlier this month, then hopefully you, too, (like us) are also feeling some positive vibes that, as a country, it’s within our grasp to make a big cut to Aotearoa’s emissions.
There’s lots to be done, and it’ll require us to all pitch in and do the mahi over the next few years to protect Māmā Earth, but ultimately we’re hopeful the Climate Change Report (CCR) will deliver us a roadmap that means affordable, clean energy for everyone. Flick yes!
So, with momentum building for electrification, what are our views on this for us as a power company, and you as part of our awesome Flick whānau? Here’s a short and sweet breakdown.
Working as one
First up is a National Energy Strategy that’ll review our transition and require changes across ALL industries (not just focussing on one or two industries), to make the move from fossil fuels to clean energy a smooth one. The goal is to reach at least 60% renewable energy across all industries by 2035, and this gets a big tick from us!
95% renewable… or 100%?
This one’s a fairly contentious issue at the moment. The Government is sticking to its guns on their goal of 100% renewable energy by 2030, while the CCR recommends a goal of 95% renewable energy by 2035 (they reckon we can have a bigger impact by targeting that 5% at other areas, like vehicle emissions).
100% renewable means we’ll need to ramp up our generation from hydro, wind and solar, all of which are intermittent sources of power (they come and they go, depending on the weather). That means some form of stored energy will need to be available when there’s no wind, rain or sun, and it will need to be available before the current form of storage – thermal generation, which is set to be phased out (see below) – disappears.
There’s also the risk of building too much renewable generation simply to cover times of high demand or low supply. Doing this would cost a lot and potentially increase the price of electricity beyond the affordability of many Kiwis and their businesses.
Right now, we rely on fossil fuels (gas and coal) as backup generation when our renewables are in short supply. But they’re pretty dirty forms of generation in comparison. The CCR suggests that coal generation be phased out completely by 2025, and that we cut back our gas use significantly and no longer keep it running 24/7 as baseload generation.
Our thoughts? We agree that coal has done its dash, but we’ll need to be super cautious about ensuring everything lines up when it’s phased out so that we have enough generation to meet demand. We also agree that gas has a role to play providing security of supply, especially while other forms of stored energy are being developed.
The big issue at the moment? Current gas supply levels are declining, and we’re seeing this play out in sustained high spot prices on the wholesale market (an indication that gas is scarce), so it’s crucial that the cost of gas doesn’t push the transition out of reach.
Changing when we use our power
We reckon this one’s a goodie! The CCC has recommended we make better use of demand response - moving our electricity use (or demand for power) from peak times, to off-peak times when there’s less demand and more generation available. How will we do it? It’s all about helping Kiwis change the times and ways we use our power, through things like real-time data and pricing, smart appliances and devices, and Time of Use/Peak and Off-Peak plans.
We’re 100% on board with this recommendation, and we reckon there’s a tonne of untapped potential for consumers to make better choices about when they use their electricity. It’s an easy win, and a way that all New Zealanders can make a difference through small changes at home or at work.
For a few years now, some network companies (the folks in charge of the power lines) have given their customers time-based pricing plans that encourage users to change the times they use their electricity. Lots of retailers don’t pass these prices on to customers, but we do - not only because we’re awesome (true story), but because we know it’s a great incentive for our customers to shift their usage to low-demand times. And we make it easier to do so with tools for customers to track their usage and better understand their consumption.
Plus, we’re currently trialling a brand new pricing plan, called Off Peak, in Wellington, which works on the same principle - the more you shift, the more you save! We’ll be extending Off Peak throughout Aotearoa soon, so watch this space.
Fair for all
As the CCC points out, reducing our emissions will naturally mean that demand for electricity shoots upwards. That’s all well and good, but for that to happen we need to make sure electricity - and the shift to an electrified economy - is affordable, accessible and reliable for all Kiwis. That means support for vulnerable and low income families to ensure we don’t increase energy poverty (because, by today’s standards, EVs and efficient home heating don’t come cheap).
But it also means we need the political powers that be to fix the currently-broken electricity market. If we want a low-emissions future based around renewable and affordable electricity, we need an electricity market where competition thrives, rather than being dominated by big corporates who’re incentivised to drive prices up.
All of this (and more - we won’t bore you with all of the details!) will be in our submission on the CCC’s draft report, due by 28 March. Keen to make a submission, too? Anyone can (and the more, the better, we reckon) - just head over here and fill in the form. Or drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll add your thoughts to our submission.