NZ switches off coal in favour of renewable energy

coal lumps

No more coal fired power stations in NZ

News that our neighbour across the ditch is switching off fossil fuels in favour of renewables will have sent a shudder through the corridors of power this week. For New Zealand has announced that it will close its last two coal mines by 2018 and aim towards a 90 percent renewable energy target by 2025.

The New Zealand decision to support renewables has been forced on the Shaky Isles due to the increasing cost competitiveness of renewables such as solar, wind, hydro and geo-thermal and an growing lack of demand for fossil fuel-based energy.

By announcing that it will support renewable energy in such an emphatic fashion, New Zealand has assumed leadership on renewable energy amongst Pacific nations. This of course in contrast to the Australian policy of deliberately undermining clean energy whether by emasculating the Renewable Energy Target (RET) or gutting clean energy agencies that draw in millions of dollars in finance.

Across the Tasman it’s a different story as the country’s reliance on coal as an important “backstop” appears to have ended.

“Historically coal has played an important role in ensuring the security of New Zealand’s electricity supply, particularly in dry years where our hydro-lake levels are low,” Simon Bridges, New Zealand’s Energy and Resources Minister, said in a statement. “But significant market investment in other forms of renewable energy in recent years, particularly in geothermal, means that a coal backstop is becoming less of a requirement.”

Genesis Energy CEO Albert Brantley — whose company’s December 2018 closure of the last of their two coal-fired boilers at the Huntly Power Station will signal the last of coal investment in the country — has seen the writing on the wall.

“The development of lower cost renewable generation, principally wind and geothermal, investment in the HVDC link (the Cook Strait cable), and relatively flat growth in consumer and industrial demand for electricity have combined to reinforce the decision to retire the remaining Rankine units, which will deliver further operational efficiencies to Genesis Energy,” he said.

Australian fossil fuel advocates will point to the difference between New Zealand and Australia and reliance on fossil fuels. They would undoubtedly say that Australia has historically been reliant on fossil fuels, due to their abundance and low cost.

However this argument does not take into account the enormous renewable energy assets enjoyed by this country. The most obvious of this is a wealth of sun to power solar energy and the incredible potential this holds for the energy future of this country.

Australia has the highest average solar radiation per square metre of any continent in the world with the amount of radiation falling on the country per year equivalent to around 10,000 times the entire nation’s annual energy needs (Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences 2010). Even exploitation of a fraction of this gift would put us in pole position to not only lead the region in renewables but also place us as a world superpower in solar energy.

While New Zealand is a small part player in the world of carbon emissions, recent experience has shown that leading the way, or at least showing an example, is a key factor in reducing carbon emissions and moving towards a renewable clean energy future. The New Zealand decision to support renewables is very much in this category.


  1. Way to go!! Such strong leadership is unheard of in this country. And it will prove it can be done. So how will our politicians be able to say that they’re waiting for others before acting?
    Wonderful to see! I wonder how well this news will be buried by Australian media?

  2. South Australia announced closing down of its coal fired electricity generators, which will kill off the Leigh Creek South Coal mine and rail system. Apparently it is relying on solar, wind power and cheaper electricity from Victoria. Not cheap though. Heaps more expensive than Melbourne power bills.

  3. new Zealand a small country to power, mountains of the huge kind ,lots of hydro and
    geothermal activity for them, cheap tp produce power,
    solar is crap in aus cannot afford it, get Real.

  4. Yeah Well It Seems that Ned is indulging in “Masterbation of the Nation” Lend us a Hand Rather than facing reality, Solar is here to stay, Within 20years most if not all houses in Australia will have Rooftop solar………………

  5. “solar is crap in aus cannot afford it, get Real.”
    A well presented and researched argument Ned, thanks for raising the level of debate.

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