Solid Energy has just announced that they will drop plans for digging up lignite in NZ. Whilst the Government’s mishandling of the state-owned business will have widespread implications for those communities who depend on Solid Energy for their economic lifeline, today’s decision sends a very clear signal about the future of burning coal. It is good news.
The collapse of the coal price and Don Elder’s preference for “Think Big” projects have seen the company’s finances go up in smoke. And the centrepiece of Elder’s vision for the company was to dig up vast amounts of the most polluting types of coal - lignite - and turn it into fertiliser or diesel. It was a climate bomb just waiting for Elder to light the fuse.
But this morning, Solid Energy Chairman Mark Ford announced that these plans were “non-core assets” and they would be “exiting from them”. This is good financial judgement as the cost of pollution is only set to increase and investing taxpayers money in such a project would have resulted in a very expensive, stranded asset.
The reality is that we must start moving away from investing in the high polluting industries that damage the air we breathe and threaten our global clean green reputation. The simple fact is that the sun is setting on the future of coal in New Zealand and we must start investing in cleaner, smarter ways of powering our country and creating jobs.
And the communities of the West Coast need support to move away from an industry so obviously vulnerable to unpredictable global coal prices and towards more secure and safer clean industries.
It is time for the Government to get behind our clean energy innovators and experts and capitalise on our embarrassment of clean energy riches. We know that we can power a multi-billion boost to the economy and create tens of thousands of jobs by doing what we do best - renewable energy. New Zealand is world class at harnessing the heat from beneath our feet; at turning the woody waste on our forest floors in to sustainable transport fuels; and we could become a global centre of excellence for clean ocean energy.
Because investing in renewables is good for the economy and for our nation’s prosperity. At the same time the state’s coal company is posting losses of nearly $400 million, our geothermal thoroughbred Mighty River Power is recording profits of $75 million. The numbers speak for themselves.
In New Zealand we are lucky that we have a choice about the future that we want and can achieve. We can choose clean energy and safeguard the future for our children or we can continue to chase a high cost, highly polluting fossil fuel based economy.
With the scrapping of Solid Energy’s dirty lignite plans, that choice has just become a little bit easier. It's time for an Energy Revolution.