The newly appointed CEO at Genesis Energy has said a third coal-burning unit could now be returned to service, in a move that has stunned Greenpeace New Zealand.

Speaking to subscription-only industry publication Energy News yesterday, Genesis CEO Marc England said the unit, which is currently in storage, “could be recommissioned if the market made it desirable”. 

Greenpeace NZ senior campaign advisor, Steve Abel, said the move is unfathomable and shows the new CEO is taking the company backwards. 

“This is the company who were proposing to shut the Huntly Power Station a couple of years ago and now under England they are proposing to expand their use of the dirtiest fuel on the planet,” he said.

“We’re facing a planetary climate crisis, and we live in a country where the transition to 100% clean electricity would be relatively easy with genuine industry and political will. Investing in more coal burning is regressive climate denialism. ”

The industry article also indicated that Genesis would look at buying more coal this year from within New Zealand or abroad. 

More often than not, coal bought abroad comes from Indonesia, where the impacts of coal mining can cause widespread health issues, displace communities and contribute to deforestation. 

England’s admissions follow hot on the heels of Genesis Energy’s April announcement that it would keep the remaining two coal-fired burners on at Huntly Power Station for at least another four years, despite a previous promise to shut them by 2018. 

It’s understood this was agreed upon in closed-door meetings with power companies including Meridian Energy.

At the time, former Genesis CEO Albert Brantley said the extension was a “transition period” only.

“It can be expected that during this period Genesis Energy and other generators will explore the development of a range of lower cost and lower emitting generation options,” he stated.

But Greenpeace’s Abel said now the full picture has become clear. 

“What we’re seeing is the thin end of the wedge – it’s an emissions creep,” he said.

“The Government made it sound like coal would only ever be burnt at Huntly in the case of emergencies, which is blatantly untrue. Anyone can look up live graphs of the power station’s activities and see coal is being burnt constantly.” 

Abel said New Zealand urgently needs a revamp of the electricity industry.

More recently, Greenpeace has been campaigning against Hawke’s Bay lines company Unison, which is charging its solar users an extra fee.

“It seems that many within our electricity industry are taking on a climate-denialist strategy, that discourages clean energy in order to protect profits,” Abel said.

“It’s disgraceful. These companies have a duty to us and future generations to switch from gas and coal to clean energy but instead they’re rorting us all on price and the environment.”