Renewable Energy Delivered Majority of Power in 2018
Even though 2018 resulted in the biggest annual coal burn within the last three years, renewable energy still delivered almost 84 percent of New Zealand’s electricity.
Recently released data from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) showed that the share of renewables increased to 83.9 percent in 2018, up from 81.9 percent the year prior. The highest year since 1981 was 2016, which resulted in 84.9 percent.
Extra Hydro Storage Contributed to Fossil Fuel Generation Decrease
Last year also saw a 19 percent decrease in gas-fired generation due to two extended outages at the Pohokura gas field. The above-average hydro storage for most of the year helped to offset this shortage.
Gas-fired plants operated by Contact Energy, Genesis Energy and Nova Energy contributed only 5, 374 gigawatt-hours of generation in 2018 – the lowest since 1995.
The MBIE stated that the 84.5 percent renewables achieved in the December quarter was despite wind generation being the lowest for that period for almost ten years.
Although coal-fired generation had the highest quarterly volume since March 2015, it only contributed to 6.3 percent of the generation mix. Both hydro and geothermal generation increased.
Renewable Energy Proves its Resilience in 2018
The recently released data proves that the sector is able to withstand drastic variances in hydrology. When there is difficulty with wind and hydro availability, the sector relies on gas to cover the variations.
Coal has approximately double the emissions of natural gas. However, the data doesn’t show the increased emissions that would have resulted from using coal to counterbalance reduced gas-fired generation.
On Track to Meet Government’s Power Generation Goals
New Zealand has been working hard to achieve the government’s goal of 100 percent power generation by 2035 in a year of average hydrology.
A recent presentation by the Interim Climate Change Committee described how the electricity system is predicted to be 93 percent renewable by 2035. To meet the government’s goal, new technologies are necessary to counter dry-year risks.
In 2018, hydro accounted for almost 61 percent, and geothermal production was one percent lower at 7,377 GWh. Solar contributed to almost 30 percent more at 97 GWh. Gas-fired plants accounted for 12 percent of 2018’s total generation.
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