Labour's 'stingy' energy plan fails to impress Greenpeace, 'more action needed' say Greens

Labour's energy policy, which includes bringing forward the 100 percent renewable electricity target by five years to 2030, has been described by Greenpeace as "stingy" while the Greens says "more action" is needed.

Labour also announced on Thursday plans to investigate pumped hydro storage and green hydrogen, re-introduce the ban on new thermal electricity plants, introduce fuel efficiency standards for cars and support private sector decarbonisation.

It's not enough for Greenpeace energy campaigner Amanda Larsson, who described the policy as "stingy" because it doesn't include commitments to introduce an electric vehicle "feebate" scheme or to phase out coal and gas used in industrial heating. 

"Banning new thermal electricity plants is only solving a small part of the problem. We need to see a quick phase out of fossil fuels used in industrial heating plants and a ban on the import of fossil fuel vehicles by 2030," Larsson said. 

"It's really disappointing to see that Labour is offering nothing to discourage the uptake of big gas guzzlers and nothing to support regular people to purchase low emissions and electric cars."

The Government looked set to adopt the Green Party's Clean Car Discount and Standard, a two-pronged scheme to encourage people to purchase more electric vehicles and fewer fossil-fuel cars, but it was blocked by NZ First.  

Green Party co-leader James Shaw said Labour's energy policy is a step in the right direction, but the Greens would go further and faster to meaningfully tackle climate change. 

But Shaw welcomed Labour's commitment to bringing forward the target of 100 percent renewable energy to 2030, which the Greens pushed for in 2017. He said that "demonstrates the strong partnership" between Labour and the Greens. 

The Greens want to equip all new and existing state-owned homes with solar and batteries, triple the existing Government support for businesses to switch to clean energy, and ban new onshore fossil fuel extraction.

Green Party co-leader James Shaw.
Green Party co-leader James Shaw. Photo credit: Newshub

The Government already banned offshore oil and gas exploration in 2018, which National Party leader Judith Collins says was a mistake because coal use has shot up in the absence of gas. 

The Government's latest Energy in New Zealand report, which included information up to the end of 2019, showed 62 percent more coal was burned to generate electricity in 2019 compared to the year before.  

Newshub revealed in June 2019 that the Government granted a coal exploration permit to BT Mining Ltd in September 2018, and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern admitted "how fragile sometimes our natural gas reserves" can be.  

"Unfortunately with the Labour leader's plan to cancel offshore exploration for oil and gas it took out gas at a time when we actually need gas," Collins said on Thursday. 

She also criticised Labour's intention of bringing forward the 100 percent renewable electricity goal to 2030 because the Interim Climate Change Committee (ICCC) said in 2019 it could end up forcing Kiwis to pay higher electricity costs. 

Former ICCC chairperson David Prentice said in 2019 prices would rise "14 percent for residential electricity, 29 percent for commercial, and 39 percent for industrial electricity". 

Labour's energy spokesperson Megan Woods said what the IPCC meant was that "it would be an error for New Zealand and its future to only pursue a 100 percent renewable target". 

"It's a lovely sentiment but I think the Government really needs to front up and tell Kiwis just how much it's going to cost them in increased electricity prices," Collins said. 

National Party leader Judith Collins.
National Party leader Judith Collins. Photo credit: Newshub

"It's a very nice, warm feeling around it. The problem is that it does cost a lot of money and I can tell you, with people losing their jobs, I think they're only going to be worrying about the cost to them."

ACT leader David Seymour said Labour is "virtue signalling". 

"The economy is in recession, 70,000 New Zealanders have lost jobs, we're drowning in debt, and Labour plans to jack power prices up. This is the worst possible time to chase an ideological goal," Seymour said. 

"It's yet more emotional environmentalism from Labour and follows on from the nutty oil and gas and plastic bag bans."

New Zealand currently produces 84 percent of its electricity from renewable sources but Labour thinks it can be improved by banning new thermal power generation and promoting clean energy development.

Ardern said the COVID-19 economic recovery represents "a once in a generation opportunity to reshape New Zealand's energy system to be more renewable, faster, affordable and secure".