Gerry Brownlee is quoted in this week’s Listener saying that the government remains committed to an ‘aspirational goal’ of having 90% of New Zealand’s electricity generated from renewable sources by 2025. He states “What people don’t get is that this is a 15-year target and why would you be anything other than aspirational if you’re looking out 15 years?”
Unfortunately, this approach has become quite typical within the National government. Their approach seems to be: Identify a goal you think most people will agree with and then adopt an ‘aspirational’ target to be met at some very distant point in the future, by which time you’ll be long gone and nobody will be able to hold you to account for it. Then just continue on as you were before, or in Brownlee’s case, push policies that actually go in the other direction.
It’s hard to square Brownlee’s commitment to renewable energy with his passion for hydrocarbons. He seems to have made it his personal mission to find every ounce of coal, gas and oil in and around New Zealand and ensure that it’s extracted. In the case of gas at least, which is difficult to transport, that becomes economically more attractive to explorers when they know they have a growing domestic market – in other words, more gas-fired power plants.
I agree that we should be aiming for at least 90% of our electricity to come from renewable sources, but I think we need to do more than mumble ‘aspirational’ platitudes. My Electricity (Renewable Preference) Bill would prevent further non-renewable power plants unless they were essential for security of supply. That’s a firm step in the right direction. The next step is to look at how we promote the up-take of renewable, particularly on a more localised, smaller scale.