No Minister


with 27 comments

New Zealand is spending borrowed dosh exploring a scheme to pump water from The Clutha Valley waters up into an enlarged Lake Onslow, WHEN THERE IS SURPLUS ELECTRICITY.

When New Zealand abandons its self imposed moronic constraint that precludes even experimenting with Nuclear Energy, there will be precious little opportunity for such pie in the sky surplus.

To March this year, 44 percent of Genesis’ total electricity generation came from coal. Of 1959 GWh total power generated, 868 GWh was generated by coal. More coal was burned in the March quarter than each of the years 2016, 2017, and 2018. Was that cleaner burning coal, hell no it was considerably dirtier Indonesian coal???

So for now the FOUR Billion dollar projected cost of installing a pumped hydro on the Clutha is another monumental theory over reality exercise in insanity.
One wonders just how such idiocy will be unquestioningly considered as electoral elixir and not more aptly titled stupidity.
Just how will the growing fleet of EVs be topped up before brown outs move to black outs and economic reality becomes the thought for the day.

ps there is no fricken surplus now or anywhere within view. Even a failing student politician should be able to see such clear and actual truth with simple research.

Written by Gravedodger

April 23, 2022 at 3:12 pm

Posted in New Zealand

27 Responses

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  1. Normally pumped storage schemes work as a battery for when there is peak load. For example generating electricity in the morning peak usage and then reversing the generators overnight to use ‘spare’ base load to pump the water back up the hill ready for the next morning.

    Of course as the student politicians increase EVs the ‘spare’ overnight base load is going to disappear.

    They really are numpties thinking dry year generation is going to be resolved with pumped storage. The time scale is a complete mismatch for a start. It would have to be an enormous lake to hold a dry summers worth of additional generation.


    April 23, 2022 at 3:42 pm

  2. When the supporters of the white elephant are challenged on the power to fill it, they point to the spill 11 years ago. Nothing since then. Back in 2011, both Othahuhu and Southdown were generating and it was harder to transfer power between the two islands. The rationale has gone away, but the idiot Minister is pushing it because she wants to be seen as doing something.

    Chris Morris

    April 23, 2022 at 4:18 pm

  3. We are persistently informed that the unreliability of renewables (wind and solar) can be overcome by efficient storage which will pick up the slack when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow (or blows too much). It’s a catch 22 if renewables could reliabily produce enough energy to recharge the storage then we wouldn’t need to store it in the first place, the whole scam appears to defy the laws of thermadynamics.

    If you have reliable generation, coal or nuclear then you can use off peak generation to store energy for peak, this presupposes your generation ii’s sufficient overall and you merely need to timeshift to meet peak. Renewables will never have generate suffient power to meet demand they will just drag us into energy poverty.


    April 23, 2022 at 5:58 pm

  4. Well what do you expect from an exceptionally silly woman with an absolutely useless Liberal Arts Phd awarded for producing a thesis consisting of politically correct platitudes and who thinks higher mathematics is being able to do long division.

    The whole point od the exercise is to make electricity as expensive as possible while reducing the reliability of the grid(s).

    The leadership of the modern West, who are driving it to ruin, are mediocre people of very limited intellect who have an over inflated sense of their abilities



    April 23, 2022 at 6:42 pm

    • Well put Andrei.
      This bunch of fools would be hard pressed to organize a bun fight in a bakery.
      God save us from the establishment and the elites.
      For a bunch of fools the hubris is astounding.

      Old Curmudgeon

      April 23, 2022 at 8:38 pm

  5. I’ve yet to meet a single person in the energy industry who thinks it’s a good idea. Oops – sorry: I’ve met one. And he thinks it’s good because he gets paid a lot to be on the project.


    April 23, 2022 at 10:05 pm

  6. Readers might also be interested in a post I did in August 2021, NZ Power Blows. We currently use 392 Petajoules from oil, gas and coal – compared to our current electrical output of 160 Petajoules.

    I just can’t see how we could more than double our electrical output using renewable sources. Perhaps I should re-publish the post so people can comment on it?

    Tom Hunter

    April 23, 2022 at 10:36 pm

    • Be wary of directly comparing thermal PJ to electrical PJ. You need to take into account conversion efficiency. Only about 25% for coal on load following operation.

      Chris Morris

      April 24, 2022 at 11:53 am

      • Thanks for that Chris. I had wondered about my original figures but got no feedback then. If you’d like to comment specifically on that post (which I’ve bumped to today so that comments are open on it) and run some alternative numbers that would be great.

        Tom Hunter

        April 24, 2022 at 12:11 pm

      • I am wary of what I write in my comments – I still work in the industry and try to only post public domain info but with my personal interpretation on the data.
        When looking at electricity by sources, best to use just GWh. Then note gas, coal and diesel only used when there is a shortfall in renewables (like all the time). Electric cars in NZ are coal powered.
        I did a calc on another blogsite on the impact of electrification. If quarter of the car fleet went electric, and driver mileage stayed the same, the electricity demand would go up 3000GWh so that is one and a half Huntly units running baseload just for the cars.

        Chris Morris

        April 24, 2022 at 12:44 pm

  7. Onslow is all about dry years in the South Island, specifically for the Upper Waitaki scheme. Which do regularly happen.

    The proposed expansion of Lake Onslow will provide several weeks of power, not just a few hours.

    Obviously the power is not for consumption in the South Island, it will be transmitted north.

    So no, Onslow is not a stupid scheme, it is to provide more resilience.

    There was a proposal about 10 to 15 years ago to substantially increase the output of the Lower Waitaki by having a canal system on the north of the river, producing a further 500 MW. But no more talk of that. Does anyone know why?


    April 24, 2022 at 11:00 am

  8. Wayne – you are very similar to a lot of others who don’t understand the Onslow proposal. It does not generate power, It stores previously generated power and brings it back at about 20% loss.
    Now where is that surplus power going to come from? There isn’t any. And No spill either. Other than massive floods on the Clutha, when you can’t generate because the water is so silt laden and Clyde/ Roxburgh are going flat out.
    The NZ system runs on a ranking with thermal, effectively coal, being the top up. Normally always about 10-25% shortfall between renewables and load. New generation is a lot more expensive than existing. Make the wholesale price of power cheaper and stations won’t be built as they are would not cover their costs with income. In the UK, they have had near 80 billion quid of subsidies to build and operate over the last ten years so they will never be cheap..
    So to fill Onslow, you would need to run Huntly. Now tell me that is a good idea.

    Chris Morris

    April 24, 2022 at 11:51 am

    • You are correct that Onslow does rely on power already generated to operate. And in a dry Waitaki year that power won’t be available at that time.

      However, I suggest you don’t fully understand Onslow. It is not for a few hours reserve, it is for weeks of reserve.

      In short Onslow lake, which will take two years to fill, will be filled in the years when there is a surplus of hydro power. Just as there is at the present, which GD notes, but seemingly doesn’t understand. Then in the dry years Onslow will be drawn down. That is why it is a resilience reserve, effectively smoothing out the highs and lows.

      Of course, what it does not do is increase total power supply. As some have pointed out, when electric cars really ramp up, there will be a lot more demand. Electric car technology is rapidly maturing. Range and cost of vehicles is quickly approaching that of ICE vehicle. Like many new car buyers, I am seriously thinking my next vehicle will be either a BEV or a PHEV. Either way a significant demand on grid power.

      Whoever is the government over the next decade, there will be a bigger push for renewables (wind and solar). There is no conceivable government that is climate change skeptical. I think some of the dormant prospective hydro schemes will be reevaluated.

      I see Tom has raised the issue of nuclear, which is being reconsidered across the western world. NZ will never be an early adopter of nuclear, but it would not surprise me if nuclear in reconsidered in the 2030’s when the new modular nuclear stations should have been well proven.


      April 24, 2022 at 2:38 pm

      • I covered this elsewhere Wayne. but how will it be filled if there is no surplus power now? I know this because I get daily reports on energy demand. hydro storage and river flows. Beside my desk in the office is a large screen giving demand and generation refreshed on a minute by minute basis. As I write this on a quiet shoulder Sunday,, over 600MW is being generated on coal and gas plus the some at the cogens..
        There hasn’t been a surplus of hydro since 2011 when we were burning gas at Otahuhu/ Southdown and the DC hadn’t been uprated.
        The most telling thing about Onslow is none of the existing power companies want anything to do with it, even with government subsidy. The scheme will be a gold plated white elephant.

        Chris Morris

        April 24, 2022 at 2:59 pm

      • There is no conceivable government that is climate change skeptical.

        I get a little tired of the conflation of this with the proposed “Green” solutions of wind/solar/EV’s etc.

        One can set aside the ongoing debates about the extent of AGW – and those debates are ongoing whether you like it or not, especially in light of so many failed predictions even on temperature rise, let alone the resulting negative or even catastrophic predictions for the 2020’s that have not occurred – without automatically jumping to the conclusion that wind/solar/EV’s and the rest are the way to go.

        Even the head of BMW has bluntly said that that they have “no plans to stop developing internal combustion engines.” – which came just a day after the widely trumpeted news about Audi going all-electric

        If the response is that arguing about those specific methods of combatting AGW is simply a part of “Climate Change Denialism”, then the pro-folk like you are going to find themselves increasingly in trouble with your beloved Mainstream Centrist Moderate Public when they find themselves paying vastly higher power prices for less capability, including brownouts and blackouts, as is the case in Germany and California.

        … but it would not surprise me if nuclear in reconsidered in the 2030’s

        I basically threw that comment out knowing it might be bait but not wanting to get into that discussion re New Zealand where “nuclear” is such a toxic talisman that I’d bet it won’t be discussed until the 2050’s!

        Tom Hunter

        April 24, 2022 at 3:03 pm

      • Tom,

        Is it very likely that a New Zealand government which takes climate seriously will indefinitely use coal as a principal fuel for electrical generation?

        Yes, they will for five years or so, but I don’t think that will be the case beyond that. There will be a big step up int renewables over the next 5 years. New Zealand is sufficiently windy that there will be almost no days where wind is not producing power somewhere in the country. Almost all the time there is wind everywhere in the country.

        I think nuclear will come back on the agenda earlier than 2050. Realistically, probably not in the early 2030’s but certainly be the end of that decade, which after all is 18 years away.


        April 25, 2022 at 10:56 am

      • It will have to be a hell of a step up for the Unreliables.

        I’ll leave to industry engineer, Chris Morris, to discuss (if he wishes to) the limits of wind power when it comes to feeding the national grid, let alone their other problems.

        Tom Hunter

        April 25, 2022 at 11:40 am

      • Wayne
        You made the comment:

        “New Zealand is sufficiently windy that there will be almost no days where wind is not producing power somewhere in the country. Almost all the time there is wind everywhere in the country.”

        The data shows that is not the case. Windfarms are on the grid from Raglan to Southland. There is a lot of synchronictity in their generation and it is not unusual to see total wind generation down to less than 25MW. It happens when there is a big high over the country like on frosty nights, just when the most power is needed. And it isn’t unusual for these low generation periods to last 3-4 days. Go here and click on wind for the top central GWAP graph, then select wind, which is must-run generation. And remember these are daily averages so there has been a lot of smoothing for a product needed on a minute by minute basis.

        Similar effects happen for windfarms in Texas, Europe and Australia, all of which cover more east-west territory than NZ.

        Chris Morris

        April 25, 2022 at 1:50 pm

      • Wayne I just looked at current generation figures Wind is 49MW for the whole country. Looks like it is below generation wind speed near everywhere.

        Chris Morris

        April 25, 2022 at 2:20 pm

  9. Good analysis Chris much appreciated, Does any one with a functioning brain think for one moment that the Four Billion estimate to establish the madness will eventuate, I have a lazy hundy says no.

    @ Wayne low inflows are accounted for in the management plans for the Waitaki and Clutha systems, any correlation for the Onslow madness will be outside that planning as my initial synopsis stands, WHERE IS THE MASSIVE SURPLUS POWER TO PUMP THE WATER UP HILL?
    It will be somewhat at odds with the other madness sending a billion a year to unnamed entities in Paris while we as a nation burn dirty Indonesian coal to keep the grid alive at night when the wind does not Blow within the parameters needed to produce electricity currently?


    April 24, 2022 at 1:13 pm

    • I did the numbers on the cost price of Onslow as well. Even if they build it for what they say they can, and there are no grid upgrades (both very heroic assumptions) they need to make a profit every year of $400M just to pay back the capital cost. And building dams in schist rock is a lot more expensive than budget. Think Clyde plus more.
      If they fill the dam over a ten year period with surplus power pumping in up and then drain it all in a winter, it will never pay for itself. Total wholesale income on all of NZ’s power is about $5B/year. You could build a 1000 MW coal plant and have a million tonne stockpile for cheaper. If they do energy trading say generating 2000GWh a year, buying cheap and selling dear, then to get the power. at $100/MWh will cost the $240M. That means they need to sell it at $320/MWh to pay for its keep. Current cost of power is around $200/MWh up from $100/MWh of a few years ago. Huntly carbon charges have near doubled the spot price.
      So even fag packet maths show Onslow isn’t a goer either as dry reserve or energy trading.

      Chris Morris

      April 24, 2022 at 2:08 pm

      • Agreed.

        Who will “own” it, and will they expect a return? If it is run as a commercial entity, then it will need to be some sort of model where it fills during the night / summer / weekend when power demand is low, and then gets used as a peaker. But as noted, this will effectively be using water that would otherwise flow for hydro and store it for later, powered by the incremental generation at the time which is probably thermal.

        If it isn’t run as a commercial entity, then it’s a very very expensive backup. You could argue (and they probably will) that the backup underwrites the rest of the grid. And on that basis, they’ll charge a levy for it to recover cost, whether it’s used or not. But this will, in effect, just be a higher energy cost and “hidden” that it is the most uneconomic generation that we have. But hey, gotta look good on the world stage! Never admit a mistake.


        April 24, 2022 at 4:28 pm

      • If the lake is planned to be filled over up to 10 years it will be perpetually emptied during the days by evaporation and wind – hot dry Nor-westerlies frequent the region. Chris Morris is right – there is NO excess power in NZ. The South Island hydro lakes levels have been below the historical average for the last six weeks, and power has been regularly sent South from Haywards over that time. While we burn Indonesian coal to make up the North Island shortfall.

        Marc Williams

        April 24, 2022 at 6:07 pm

  10. Wayne & others. This is what I wrote on Kiwiblog about 10 months ago about the power cuts and Lake Onslow. On rereading, I think most is still relevant and can stand as prescient. The Naesby Livingstone line has been finished now.

    “With all the discussion about the reason for the power cuts (It was because of both the MW drop from wind after 3pm (that’s what wind is good at doing) and Tokaanu screens blocking at 6:10pm meant there was no reserves), not much consideration has been given to why new stations haven’t been built or existing stations like TCC couldn’t run.

    There are two causes. The first one is no gas as the gas flow from Pohakura declined unexpectedly a year ago. There was no offshore rig available to fix the wells or drill replacement ones. There was a rig here in early 2020, but the government didn’t consider well drilling essential work, so the rig left. There is no economic imperative for the gas field operators to bring it back as the government has said there is no future for gas.

    The second is that the uncertainty about the future of Manapouri electricity after Tiwai closed. This cannot be used in the North Island or even north of Roxburgh without a massive investment in new transmission lines and another DC cable. The work being done on the Clutha Twizel link would only allow 20% of Manapouri’s power through when finished. New generation is more expensive than that from existing plant. If it was cheaper, they would have already built it. This simple fact means if Manapouri power comes north, any new generators will run at a loss, with the income from then not paying for the capital and operating costs. So that uncertainty is why even consented stations aren’t being built.

    To this has to be added the government hating existing thermal stations and wanting them to be replaced by wind and/or solar. Until recently, they were complainingly bitterly about the coal consumption – no doubt, that has gone down the memory hole. The problem with the unreliables touted as replacements is they are very good at generating when the power wasn’t needed. That means the price paid for the electricity is low, and the generators have to buy expensive power when it’s not available. Thermal generation is about 10,000GWh this year, more than usual as it is dry and cold. So that’s 25 windfarms the size of Waipipi just to replace it, not even accounting for new growth. 50% electric cars will be 3000GWh.

    The government’s “solution” is Onslow. As usual, it only appeals to those who don’t know what they are talking about. The principle is it can buy power when its cheap to pump water up into the dam. Then they could release it to generate when prices are expensive. Simple – even those with School Cert Economics can understand that. And it is a lot cheaper than Tesla batteries in GWh terms.

    However, there are two killer problems they ignore. First, it needs massive overbuild of the unreliables to provide surplus power on sunny or windy days and charge/ discharge losses. So the electricity generated by them will have to be sold cheap and they will run at a loss. Therefore, why would any generator build them? There are very few floods on rivers that could give surplus power. Only one really is the Clutha, where they actually use the silt laden water to flush the dams, not generate. There is Manapouri, but if it is too expensive for Tiwai, will they really want to sell it to Onslow? The way things are, the grid power can go from very cheap to very expensive with just 100MW load increase forcing them to run thermals.

    The other problem is Onslow is too big and in the wrong place. Power needs to be generated in the North Island, preferably north of Whakamaru if it’s to replace Huntly. They need to spend a massive amount of money to get the power to Whakamaru. If most of the Manapouri power can’t come north, why would a station twice the size not cause problems? Transpower will need a lot of equipment built in NI switchyards to correct the voltage from long transmission distances and to add inertia to stabilise the grid. There is also the insecurity of more line outages risk.

    All these extra stations and powerlines will have to be paid for by the consumer. Even if they do a quick and dirty job costing only $20B (windfarms alone will be over $10B), it will add at least 5c a unit onto your power bill. Energy poverty, here we come.

    The only reason the idea got traction was a pushy hydrology academic. His proposal was earlier rubbished by both of the generators in the South Island. He then got the ear of a Government desperate to have good news after the implications of the Captain’s Call on stopping gas sunk in. Word is none of the generating companies are interested in building and/or running the plant. They have done the economics and know it will be a lemon. So it will have to be built and run by a government department. Think KiwiPower. Would you buy shares in a company run by Megan Woods, who is supposedly one of the more competent ones?

    The problems aren’t insurmountable. They will just cost eye watering sums of money and take decades to do. You can double the quoted costs and then add. some Imagine how many resource consents they will need, the cost (think megakoha), & how long they will take to get? That is even before the first sod is turned.

    So that is why the government has been the indirect cause of the cuts. The EA “investigation” will never tell you that. And the situation will get worse before it improves”

    Chris Morris

    April 24, 2022 at 10:18 pm

  11. Wayne the most windy thing in New Zealand are political gasbags

    Wind power is an expensive boondoggle – do you know why?

    Let me enlighten you – electricity is a commodity that has to be used as it is produced, the demand has to match the supply exactly and if it doesn’t the grid becomes unstable and can collapse

    And wind is capricious, it blows when it wants to without regard to any current demands for electricity

    In fact as I look it up at time of writing out of New Zealand’s supposed 1040 MW wind power capacity the windfarms are only producing a paltry 104 MW while the Thermal power stations are producing 840 MW.

    Typically windfarms over the course of their (short) lifespan produce about 30% of their rated capacity

    The way it works is NZ has two grids the NI and the SI, linked by a HVDC cable

    The South Island has major Hydro Electric power generation far more capacity the the SI consumes so it is sent North to help meet the NI’s demands, however when NI demand drops to balance the NI’s grid the surplus from the Thermal Stations and Wind Farms, which are slow to respond to changes in demand, the surplus power is sent South thus loading the cost of more expensive NI power onto South Island consumers while keeping the NI’s grid stable


    April 25, 2022 at 12:42 pm

  12. Come in Wayne, give cogent rebuttal of Mr Morris’s arguments demolishing the dreams of the elites with industry based easily understood comments.
    Go on take the risk of contemporaneously demolishing your elitist put down of the simple opinions of the poster of the original that was to provide thoughts of a common man who with a very basic understanding of economics and energy who found erudite backing from someone within the Industry in possession of some facts he was not aware of. For instance the minor matter that no one in the industry has any urge to enter the mess even with the mighty government printing money available.
    Come on don’t be bashful it is great entertainment opportunity, bet Mr Mapp wishes he could still stand up in the Parliament unchallenged as he delivers absolute tosh, sorry that should be a capital T.


    April 25, 2022 at 3:22 pm

  13. GD
    Wayne doesn’t need to do a rebuttal. It might well be that there is a lot of information that I provided which he was unaware of. That has revised his opinions. And silence is generally concurrence.
    Very few people understand how the electricity system works (from water in a dam to the plug in your wall). Without understanding that, it is hard to comprehend why it is so expensive, though carbon charges have put the price up maybe 10c a unit on the spot market. There is very little good technical info out there which interested parties can read. And there is a lot of factoids put about by even undeclared vested interests .
    The best general purpose stuff I have is the old NZE Operator training modules, so they are 40 years old. Everything since then has been dumbed down and morsellised I am certain the old Ladybird books go into it in more depth that what is taught in Universities. My goto book on Steam Turbines was first edition 1928 with the 7th 1958. If it wasn’t for the Indian publishers who value good engineering texts and reprint them, the knowledge would be lost.

    Chris Morris

    April 25, 2022 at 4:49 pm

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