Genesis Energy has been granted consents to replace Huntly Power Station’s coal-fired Rankine units at any time it likes for the next 20 years.
According to subscription-only industry publication Energy News, the Waikato Regional Council has granted Genesis, Huntly’s owner, permission to install a range of gas turbines through until the end of 2037.
Greenpeace New Zealand senior campaign advisor, Steve Abel, says the majority public-owned power giant is “burning our future with gas”.
“This is a Government-owned power company that is spending millions to expand the use of the dirty fuels we must stop burning if we’re going to avoid climate catastrophe,” he says.
“Genesis and their buddies in the industry tell a lie that gas and coal are necessary for grid security and will mostly be used in emergencies. In reality, Genesis burns fossil fuels at Huntly almost every day to justify the huge investment in its infrastructure.
“The big power companies are in cahoots to lock us into dependency on expensive, dirty power, when there are other great options to totally clean up our electricity and also give the public cheaper power.”
The just-granted consents will allow Genesis to install open-cycle gas turbines at Huntly up to a total capacity of 400 MW.
The move is the latest in a line of controversial decisions made by the power company.
Two years ago, it promised to shut Huntly’s two remaining coal burners by 2018. However, following a series of closed-door meetings with fellow power companies, Meridian Energy and Contact Energy, Genesis reneged on that promise in April and announced the burners would actually be kept running until at least 2022.
And in August, new CEO Marc England stated that a third coal-burning unit, which had been previously mothballed, could be returned to service.
At the time, the company indicated that it would also look at buying more coal this year.
“This betrays England as a CEO intent on burning coal and gas for years to come,” Abel says.
“There is zero need for new gas and coal, but there is an urgent need to eliminate the dirty fuels that are driving the planet towards human and ecological extinction.
“There is a lack of industry and political leadership in this country on electricity – it’s basically climate denial. There should be a ban on any new thermal consents in New Zealand, as well as a phase out of existing coal and gas burning for electricity and dehydration of milk powder.”