NZ Election 2020: Labour to bring forward 100 percent renewable energy target by five years to 2030

Labour plans to bring forward the target of 100 percent renewable electricity by five years to 2030, and will accelerate a potential dry year water storage solution, if re-elected in October. 

The 100 percent renewable energy target would be brought forward to 2030 with a review in 2025, a target Labour hopes to achieve by investing in emerging technologies such as green hydrogen and electrifying transport and industrial sectors. 

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern said on Thursday COVID-19 "represents a once in a generation opportunity to reshape New Zealand's energy system" to be more renewable, more affordable and secure.

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

Labour is committing $70 million to accelerate progress on a pumped hydro scheme at Lake Onslow which has been identified by experts as the renewable project most likely to address New Zealand's dry year needs. 

It is predicted Lake Onslow, a man-made lake in Otago, would be capable of storing the same amount of all of New Zealand's existing hydro schemes combined, which could help to create power grid stability in dry seasons. 

The Government has already committed $30 million into a business case for pumped hydro at Lake Onslow and other smaller schemes in the North Island. Labour would invest a further $70 million in design and engineering work based on the findings. 

Investing in green hydrogen

Labour says it has a "particular focus" on green hydrogen, an element described as "odourless, tasteless and colourless", which has been hailed as a promising solution to the world's reliance on fossil fuels.

Dr Woods released the Government's national vision for hydrogen in September 2019, laying out how it could benefit New Zealand's economy, including for transport, because of its ability to act as an eco-friendly alternative fuel for vehicles. 

Hydrogen is not a primary energy source and has to be created. Green hydrogen can be created by using renewable electricity to split the chemical formula of water: hydrogen and oxygen. 

Hydrogen is an energy carrier that can transfer and store energy, and when the electrical input comes from a renewable source, hydrogen has no carbon footprint, which is what green hydrogen is. 

Labour plans to set aside $10 million to develop a roadmap to invest in green hydrogen opportunities, particularly strategic partnerships like the one we have with Japan. 

Supporting low emissions vehicles

Labour wants to accelerate the uptake of low emission vehicles in New Zealand by progressively increasing funding for the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority's Low Emission Vehicles Contestable Fund. 

The fund offers $6 million a year to co-fund projects in areas where commercial returns aren't yet strong enough to justify full private investment and to date 163 projects have been approved by $27 million in Government funding. 

The fund has supported trials of electric trucks and buses, vehicle-to-home charging systems, and had enabled more than 100 electric vehicle chargers to be rolled out across New Zealand. 

Labour also wants to introduce a vehicle fuel efficiency standard, which would only apply to the new and used vehicles entering New Zealand and not the re-sale of existing ones, which account for 74 percent of annual vehicle sales. 

The Ministry of Transport estimates that the clean car standard would result in average fuel savings for families of $6810 per vehicle over its lifetime. Labour estimates it would cost about $30 million over four years to establish the regulations. 

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.  

The Government disbanded the industry group created in 2016 to persuade more people to buy electric vehicles in July, saying electric vehicles were becoming mainstream and that the group was no longer needed.  

Electric vehicles only make about 0.3 percent of New Zealand's vehicle fleet.