Thursday, September 30, 2010

Scotland goes greener

Back in July, the government released its Draft New Zealand Energy Strategy. A key part of the strategy - though one without any actual policies to make it happen - was retaining the goal of 90% renewable electricity generation by 2025. Despite the fact that we already generate over 70% of our electricity by renewable means, this is considered to be a difficult task by the present government.

Meanwhile, Scotland, with a similar total generating capacity to New Zealand, has just announced it is increasing its 2020 renewables target from 50% to 80%. They're expecting to be at 31% next year, and their total installed capacity is over 10GW, so this means they will need to build around 5 - 6 GW of new renewable generation in the next decade. The scary thing is that they can do it - Scotland has an estimated 62GW renewable resource, mostly in wind and wave power, and there has been an explosion of investment. Scotland has built a hundred windfarms totalling 2.1GW in the last decade, and that is only just scratching the surface of their total resource.

So, why is decarbonising the electricity supply so easy in Scotland and so hard in New Zealand? It's not lack of resources - we have a slightly larger wind resource than them (40GW all up [PDF], compared with 36.5GW). Unlike Scotland, though, our electricity companies are constrained by domestic demand, whereas Scottish generators can export to the UK. But the real answer is policy - where our government has left it to the market to decide what sort of generation gets built, the Scottish government [PDF] has targets, a renewables obligation, and feed-in tariffs, as well as an infrastructure plan [PDF] to promote a domestic wind and wind-servicing industry. In other words, they do something to make it happen. We OTOH do nothing.

Scotland shows what can be done if a government sets their mind to it. We could do the same here. All it requires is political will. Unfortunately, that's what we seem to be short of.