Ahead of the upcoming election in New Zealand, several major political parties have proposed significantly increased clean technology investments, and renewable energy targets.
The Green Party, which has been polling around 14% in the MMP proportional representation political system, has proposed a target of 100% renewable energy by 2030. Thanks to an unusually large amount of existing hydro and some geothermal power, New Zealand already boasts around 80% of electricity generated from renewable sources, so this new target would certainly not be a stretch to achieve by 2030.
The Green Party has also announced a policy aimed at accelerating the uptake of electric cars. It has proposed investing $10 million ((NZ only has a population of about 4.5 million) in a roll-out of electric car fast-charging stations up and down the narrow island country. In addition, the first 10,000 electric car buyers would receive a $1,000 cash-back payment. That’s likely to provide a decent incentive to car buyers, but let’s not forget that the maximum amount of federal tax credit allowed for a new plug-in electric vehicles in the United States stands at $7,500, with additional incentives in some states.
On the smart power grid front, the Greens are proposing real-time electricity pricing, limited fixed lines charges, and “a fair price” for surplus renewable electricity generated. At present the price paid to householders for excess power going back to the grid from their solar systems is set by power utilities. This situation could certainly be changed to help the uptake of residential solar systems in New Zealand. New Zealand has ample sunshine hours in most places, and certainly more than solar-leader Germany.
The New Zealand Labour Party (polling at just over 20%), which the Greens would most likely form an alliance with after the election in order to govern together (together with some other parties), has proposed a $100 million sovereign wealth fund. This would be paid for from privatised government assets, and royalty payments from New Zealand’s sizeable oil and gas industry. By making substantial sustainability sector investments with the fund, Labour asserts that the country could become a world leader in the clean technology sector. New Zealand can of course leverage its existing smart, clean, green credentials to aid this transition.
Labour Party leader David Cunliffe has stated that, “We’re looking to power up a smart high-value economy and we’re looking to transition to a more renewable energy and clean technology profile.”
Notably, likely Democratic US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton just last week also touted the virtues of a clean economy, stating that she thinks the United States could become the world’s clean energy superpower. It will have competition. In recent years China has been massively ramping-up its investments in renewable energy and clean technology, and has recently raised eyebrows by proposing the development of a “global energy internet” for renewable energy transmission.
In recent years, the current New Zealand National Party-led government has been fostering fossil fuel interests, including opening up vast areas for deep sea oil and gas drilling, and selling off state-owned interests in power utilities. Electricity prices have gone up nearly 30% since 2008, despite a nationwide drop in residential demand.
Steven Joyce, a finance spokesperson for the National Party said in response to the new Labour policy, “There’s been some rather sad examples of big clean-tech investments by government funds right around the world, in Australia, the United States and Spain… And sadly what generally happens is the government makes investments where other people won’t, and there’s generally a really good reason for that.”
It’ll be interesting to see which path New Zealand takes after the election, depending on the result.