Environmentalists angry with Huntly power station’s delayed closure


Environmentalists are angry the closure of Huntly's coal-fired power station has been pushed out another four years.

Industry bosses realised we could be facing a power shortage in three years' time, so its coal unit will now stay in operation until 2022.

The Huntly power station is keeping the lights on a little longer, and keeping the local economy going.

Locals think it's a good idea.

"I think it's good because a small community like Huntly we can't really lose anything else," one resident says.

"Anything like that that keeps their jobs open is really, really great," said another.

Genesis Energy will keep the power station's coal and gas units running until the end of 2022, after entering into a four-year agreement with other power suppliers to help with costs.

Last year, Genisis Energy announced it would close the two remaining coal units by the end of 2018. But the risk of a power shortage without the units running was just too high.

Transpower, whose role is to make sure there's enough electricity supply for the whole country, say if the power station was to close, Kiwis would most likely be left in the dark.

"In certain situations particularly in the winter when people want a lot of power in the evenings there may not be enough electricity in the system and that could have led to rationing," Transpower chief executive Alison Andrew says.

Greenpeace's Jeff Harrison says the decision to keep the last remaining coal plant running four years longer is disturbing. 

"Although a small amount of our electricity is from coal it contributes 28 percent of our total emissions from the electricity sector. That small amount of power is incredibly polluting."

But Energy and Resources minister Simon Bridges says it's a short-term fix from Genesis, and the coal units will only be used as a backup power supply.

"When it isn't being used because there isn't a security of supply danger, there's no emissions from it. I think it's going to be used very, very infrequently."

And Mr Bridges admits the coal eventually needs to go.

"We are doing well, but we can do better and we do need to transition out of coal."

A transition Mr Bridges now has another six years to make happen.