Skyrocketing power prices linked to a shutdown at the offshore Pohokura gas field are just another reminder that we need to fast-track the rollout of solar energy, says Greenpeace.

A faulty valve discovered at New Zealand’s largest offshore gas platform last month has resulted in a gas shortage, affecting New Zealand’s power sector. Reduced production caused a 13-month price spike with wholesale power prices averaging a whopping $290 a megawatt-hour last Tuesday.

Operator Shell says that production won’t resume until late November, with New Zealand households likely to experience high power prices for at least another month.

Greenpeace climate and energy campaigner, Amanda Larsson, says this is a critical reminder that fossil fuels like oil, gas, and coal can’t deliver reliable energy for New Zealanders.

“The oil and gas industry is pushing hard to try and convince the Government that we need more gas to keep the lights on. What this latest shutdown shows is that gas can be incredibly unreliable and New Zealanders pay the price in higher energy bills,” she says.

“Rolling out more locally-produced energy from solar panels, wind turbines and battery storage is the key to creating a more resilient and reliable energy system. In New Zealand, we’ve met less than four percent of our solar potential. It’s time to get building.”

Greenpeace recently called on the Government to solarise half a million homes over the next 10 years with money currently being used to subsidise the oil and gas industry. Greenpeace’s 10-year solar plan would work through a Government interest-free loan on panels and a battery, delivering solar power with no upfront costs for the homeowner.

If implemented, Larsson says this would contribute 1.5 GW of new clean power – or one-and-a-half times the capacity of Huntly Power Station – and 3 GW of grid-stabilising battery storage to New Zealand’s electricity grid over the next decade.

“By installing 500,000 solar systems and batteries in homes, we can provide a much-needed injection of clean electricity into the New Zealand energy system, cutting our dependence on dirty fuels like oil, gas and coal,” she says.

“Not only would this help to reduce our climate pollution, but it would put power back in the hands of New Zealanders, increase the resilience of the national grid, and lower energy bills across the board.

“With the plummeting cost of new technology, solar and wind have become some of the cheapest forms of energy to run. Importantly, they don’t rely on a constant input of expensive and unreliable fuels.”
Larsson also notes the findings of a recent Auckland University study into competition in the power sector.

Economist Dr. Stephen Poletti found that New Zealand energy generators have walked away with $5.4 billion in excess profits in the last seven years, due to lack of competition among big players in the power sector.

“New Zealanders are shivering in their homes while power companies make billions. It’s time to give households the power back by rolling out clean, solar energy across the country,” she says.