Monday, April 15, 2019

99% renewable is probably good enough for now

Radio New Zealand reports that getting from 99% to 100% renewable electricity is likely to be very expensive:

A government body is poised to announce that a core of the country's energy policy will be prohibitively expensive to implement.


[The 100 percent renewable by 2035 target] was agreed in the confidence and supply agreement between the Labour Party and the Greens after the 2017 election.

But the chairperson of the ICCC, David Prentice, told the Palmerston North conference the cost of the final stages of that proposal would be exorbitant.

"(Prices would rise) 14 percent for residential electricity, 29 percent for commercial, and 39 percent for industrial electricity.

"The emissions abatement cost of getting the last one percent of renewable electricity is prohibitively expensive ... at a cost of over $1200 per tonne of Co2 or equivalent."

Which is prohibitively expensive now, when carbon prices are held artificially low by a government cap, a glut of laundered fraudulent "credits", and weak policy. That may change in the future. But on the flip side, it suggests that getting to 99% isn't going to be that hard, and given the caveats around the target anyway (its 100% renewable in an average hydrological year), that might be good enough anyway for the time being. In the longer run, the switch to electric cars is going to mean both massively increasing our electricity generation, and installing a bunch of networked storage (in the form of cars), which will change the dynamics again. Plus of course all the existing non-renewable generation will age out and have to be replaced anyway - and when that happens, we just need to make sure that its carbon free rather than a pollution source.