Lee Neal has an op-ed in today's Herald arguing that "coal could be the answer to our problems". But what problems? The fact we've got too much of it?
Those pushing coal argue that we need it in order to meet the ongoing growth in electricty demand. But looking at the numbers shows that this is simply false. Our gross demand grows by about 150 MW a year - meaning that we need to be installing that much generation every year (on the average) if we are to avoid blackouts at some stage in the future. But the point missed by coal-advocates is that we are meeting this target. In fact, we're more than meeting it - and we're not doing it with coal.
Over the past few years a silent revolution has taken place in New Zealand's electricity sector: wind power has come of age. Last year we commissioned 132 MW of turbines and consented another 106 MW. This year, we've seen resource consent applications lodged for almost 400 MW of turbines so far, and Meridian last month announced plans for another 210 MW at Makara near Wellington. This puts us well ahead of the game, and from wind power alone. So what's the need for coal?
Coal generation is unnecessary. And, as the overwhelming public opposition to Mighty River's proposed Marsden B plant shows, it is also unwanted. We're better off leaving it in the ground rather than polluting our air and the globe by burning it.