According to the New Zealand Climate Change Commission, the projected increase in demand for electricity to run the country’s expected boom in electric cars will be a challenge — but not impossible.
Last week, the Labour Government confirmed its Clean Car Standard strategy, designed to hobble inefficient internal combustion vehicles by introducing an aggressive new CO2 emissions average for the industry to abide by in 2025. In the wake of the news, the Climate Change Commission published its findings and recommendations, in part acting as advice to the government’s push for vehicle electrification.
The commission’s advice included the plan to implement a ban on the sale of new ICE vehicles by 2032, as detailed by NZ Autocar earlier this week. The commission has also confirmed that New Zealand’s electricity sector will need “considerable expansion” in order to meet increased demand — not only for houses supporting EVs, but also for other industries shifting away from ‘traditional’ power sources.
According to the commission, its report shows “increasing electricity demand due to the electrification of transport, off-road vehicles, industrial and building heating. These electrification measures are all necessary to meet the 2050 targets. Annual demand for electricity [is predicted to] increase from 40 GWh [gigawatt hours] in 2018, to 43–47 GWh by 2035 and to around 63 GWh by 2050.”
The report’s projections state that “the maximum rate at which electricity demand increases is 1.6 TWh [terawatt hours] per year. The generation capacity required to supply this increment is equivalent to an additional three wind farms of the scale of the West Wind project on Wellington’s West Coast.”
The West Wind farm the commission references is made of 62 wind turbines capable of generating 142.6 megawatts of electricity. The farm’s construction took two years and $440million to complete, and according to Meridian it produces enough electricity annually to power 73,000 average New Zealand homes.
The commission says that additional demand can be met by new wind, geothermal, and solar power sources. All of these are elements it expects to become more prolific well before 2050, with the technologies driving each method improving beyond their current thresholds.
“Electrification also requires considerable expansion and increases in capacity of electricity transmission and distribution infrastructure, connections to new generation sites and remote areas,” the report states.
“Coal and gas [will] play a reducing share as fuels for electricity generation. […] Our scenarios suggest that fossil fuels could stop being used as a fuel for baseload electricity generation and instead be used exclusively for flexible generation [i.e: peaking capacity during cool winter nights and during dry year periods when the hydro lakes are low].”
The commission notes the incoming challenge the country faces in phasing out gas, which remains an integral method of energy source — and electricity generator — in New Zealand, both in the private sector and in businesses.
“Gas generation remains a critical part of the electricity system for meeting peak requirements and dry year needs. Most importantly, in these scenarios, gas provides cover for dry year conditions which reduce the energy resource for hydro generation,” the report says.