Future of New Zealand's electricity supply

Recently Meridian made some comments relating to delaying the retirement of some non-renewable power stations. This led to questions as to why a renewable generator would have this perspective. Here’s our full explanation.

Meridian is a 100% renewable energy generator. We own and operate wind and hydro power stations only, in New Zealand and Australia.

We do not own or operate the Huntly power station.

With our help, New Zealand has gone from 65% to 80% renewables in the last ten years. From a global perspective, this means that NZ is in the top four countries in the OECD. This is something we should all be proud of. Meridian has also invested over $2 billion in building wind farms in NZ, Australia and Antarctica.

New Zealand's renewable story is dominated by hydro generation and Meridian is the country's largest hydro generator. While our country is blessed with renewable resources we do experience extreme drought conditions frequently. Droughts create issues for farmers, but they also cause issues for electricity supply.

Over the last few months other companies have announced the closure of a number of thermal power stations. This is an outcome of the success of renewables pushing thermal power out of our electricity market and it should be celebrated.

The question this leaves is will there will be enough thermal generation available to operate during dry years when rainfall across New  Zealand is low.

Meridian has had such dry year insurance in place for a number of years. This means we have the option to use electricity generated from a thermal power station when we need it most. The last time this was used in a significant way was in 2012 when we experienced New Zealand's driest hydro period on record. And part of the measure of success is that we managed through the driest conditions ever without experiencing power shortages or public requests for energy conservation.

So when the choices are between electricity shortages for our customers or supporting a competitor by purchasing electricity from them during dry years, then we have chosen the latter. We know our customers want to have electricity where and when they want it, even when our hydro lakes are running dry.

We remain fully committed to a better energy future, but like with all things a balance has to be struck to keep powering New Zealand.

We believe it is good to keep the current debate open so that we can keep pushing from 80% to 90% renewables while making sure that we do have some form of back up electricity supply.

Looking to the future there may be other options to help manage this risk as we push towards our 90% renewables target.

And for us it means staying the course with our renewables strategy, where we believe wind power will continue to have a bright future.

If you have any questions or enquires please contact us at service@meridianenergy.co.nz

 

GM External Relations,
Guy Waipara