SHORT CIRCUIT

Keeping You Updated On The Latest Ruralco Energy Information

Are the potential savings real?

There are several electricity retailers looking at the agriculture market now with varying offers. 

This is great to see as it adds to the competition in the market. However, we urge members to look at these offers very carefully before committing to changing.

Some members have advised that while the offer is very inviting and looks to be giving them savings, in reality it is actually more expensive than what they are currently paying. 

 

We strongly recommend:

1. Always get the offers in writing before committing and take the time to compare the offer to what you are currently paying. 

2. Always use an account for comparison that has your higher load on it.

3. Check to see if there has been a price increase due to network changes especially on irrigation accounts, as simply comparing a winter agriculture account is going to give you a false indication of savings.

If you are unsure and need an independent opinion on what is being offered, please call our Energy Account Manager, Tracey Gordon, she can review this for you to ensure you are getting a better offer.


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Electricity generation landscape shifts under low carbon demands.

Words by Richard Rennie

Over the coming months New Zealanders are going to start getting a clearer picture of what life will be like heading to 2050 as the country attempts to move towards the goal of being a zero-carbon economy. 

The rural sector in particular has become familiar with how some of this will look, with methane now having been separated from other gas emissions and cannot be offset by planting trees.

This requires the sector to make real and measurable steps to curb the gas released by its ruminant animals, namely cattle and sheep, while other sectors like transport and energy can offset emissions through tree planting.

This is part of the aim behind the government’s “billion trees a year” policy, one that will require about 100,000ha a year to go into trees over the next 10 years.

Of that about half comprises established forestry country, but the remainder must come from new country being committed to forestry.  

However, the Productivity Commission’s report into achieving a low carbon economy called for this planting rate to continue to 2050 to achieve a zero-carbon economy.

Debate is presently swirling around how realistic the goal is, and whether the pastoral sector can afford to lose about 50,000ha a year from its area to trees for the next 30 years. 

Forest Owners Association president Peter Weir has challenged the numbers on the sheer scale of plantings required to achieve the commission’s mid-point goal of 2 million extra hectares in trees.

But an equally important challenge to the zero carbon goals has also been raised by the electricity sector. As part of the zero carbon goals the government plans to move to a 100% renewable electricity sector by 2035.

This would only be required in a “normal hydrological year”, allowing for some gas fired back up generation in particularly dry years.

At present New Zealand has an already enviable global record of having 85% of its energy coming from renewable sources, largely hydro and geothermal, and itself a significant increase from 66% in 1987.

But making the move to 100% renewable, as small as that step may appear, could prove to bring more than its share of political and economic headaches.

David Prentice, the chair of the interim climate change committee revealed earlier this year it could prove extremely expensive to require a 100% renewable energy supply.

Typically, about 20% of New Zealand’s electricity is supplied through burning carbon-based fuel, whether it is coal or gas, and along with road transport has helped push up the country’s total gross emissions.

Agriculture now accounts for 45% of the country’s emissions, while energy generation is 25%, and transport 20%.

Somewhat ironically in this age of global warming, lower water levels in our renewable hydro sourced sites have required more carbon-based generation, in turn pushing up electricity generation’s contribution to warming by 18%.

At its simplest, the 100% renewable policy would require more power stations on hand to produce renewable energy in power crisis years.

Prentice told the New Zealand Agriculture and Climate Change conference in Palmerston North earlier this year prices could be pushed north by 39%, with little environmental gain.

This would include a rise of between 30-40% for industrial and commercial electricity prices.

His figures highlighted the marginal costs New Zealand faces getting its already relatively high renewables use even higher, with estimates of $1200 a tonne of CO2 for the last one percent.

The interim climate change committee has already advised the government getting to 100% would by an “extravagant” move. 

This is because of the need to have multiple power stations capable of maintaining a base load supply from renewable sources like wind, solar or geothermal.  Gas fired “peaker” stations would be required to meet peak demand in winter when extra wind and solar generation simply cannot meet the high demand on calm, cold winter nights.

Wind and to a lesser extent solar generation are not as predictable in terms of output and the electricity they generate cannot be stored cost effectively.

Large scale battery technology for doing so is advancing but remains expensive for some time yet.

Capturing the last percentage points of renewable generation would require multiple wind stations all over the country, and possibly major investment in solar power on household and commercial properties.

The requirement to make electricity sources more renewable also comes as electricity demand is anticipated to double by 2050.

Similarly, industrial site power sources, such as coal fired boilers and gas plants contribute to 15% of the country’s power generation emissions and advice from the Productivity Commission is to “decarbonise” by switching to bio-mass fuel, or electricity.

Later this year MBIE will be releasing its initial draft for consultation outlining how to improve the energy efficiency of the industrial sector, including sourcing more renewable energy to supply it.

Meantime the government has acknowledged the concerns raised by Prentice and the climate change committee.

Greens leader James Shaw has said the government is not fixed on its views around 100% renewables for electricity and would consider any advice the committee delivers.

Many in the electricity sector have argued the government should pursue a more realistic target, possibly 90% renewables.

This would enable the provision for a back-up resource in gas and coal fired stations that can be fired up for surges in winter demand and dry year generation reserve.

James Shaw has said the government would also consider “green” hydrogen as an energy source where renewable generation sources like solar or wind produce hydrogen through electrolysis. This can then be stored and transported to be used directly as a fuel, injected into gas supply networks or converted to electricity use in a fuel cell.

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Reminder to check your invoices

 It is always advisable to check your invoices regularly to ensure your sites are being read regularly.

With Smart Meters being installed in nearly all sites you should have reads monthly, but even these meters can have issues so do not assume you have been read. If you have one it is always a good idea to check.

The electricity account states whether it is based on an actual read or an estimate.

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