Contact's plans: cut emissions equal to 220,000 cars off the road.
This opinion piece from Mike Fuge, CEO of Contact, is the last in a series of eight looking at improving outcomes for Aotearoa. Today: Decarbonising our energy needs.
There’s no serious debate about the need to reduce carbon emissions. The science is settled, we just need to get on with the job. We must play our part in the fight against climate change, decarbonise at pace and do it in a way that doesn’t make us worse off as a nation.
As an energy generator and retailer, Contact has a significant role and responsibility to play to make this happen – a challenge we are taking on with a passion. We are determined to help ensure Aotearoa New Zealand meets its target of becoming Net Zero by 2050, if not before.
There are two ways we can meet that target: produce more renewable electricity and become more efficient in how we use the energy we have available.
Building more renewable energy generation might seem like the easiest approach, but the scale of what we need to deliver is sobering. Even if we take the smart approach recommended by a 2022 Boston Consulting Group report, which includes the use of batteries, distributed energy, and demand response, we will still need to increase generation by 79 per cent by 2050.
The more efficient we become in our use of electricity, the less generation capacity we’ll need to build. Efficiency also has the benefit of keeping costs down for households while still ensuring New Zealanders and New Zealand businesses have reliable energy access.
On the generation front, we’re making good progress. We have more than $1.1 billion of renewable geothermal energy under construction. Later this year we’ll turn on the Tauhara geothermal power plant, our sixth geothermal power station in the Taupō area. When it’s up and running, Tauhara will generate almost 4 per cent of Aotearoa’s total power supply and displace just over 500,000 tonnes per year of carbon emissions. That’s like taking 220,000 petrol cars off the road.
With the completion of Tauhara, we will be able to retire the gas-fired Taranaki Combined Cycle power station in 2024. This, plus the planned closure of our Te Rapa gas-powered station in June 2023, will reduce Contact’s emissions by over 20 per cent.
Let the sun shine in
Another exciting area of opportunity across much of our country is the largely untapped power of the sun. We’re lucky in Aotearoa to have areas with long sunshine hours and huge potential to generate solar power. That’s why Contact has partnered with Lightsource bp to develop solar farms across New Zealand.
Earlier this year, we announced our first solar project, to deliver stage one of Christchurch Airport’s renewable energy precinct, Kōwhai Park. This stage will consist of a solar farm with around 300,000 solar panels on 300ha of land just behind the airport’s runways.
When complete, Kōwhai Park’s solar farm will be among the largest in New Zealand, generating around 290 Gigawatt hours per year. This is roughly as much power as 36,000 Kiwi homes use each year and will have the same carbon benefit as planting around 1.25 million native trees and shrubs.
As a partnership we are looking forward to working with Kōwhai Park Christchurch Airport to achieve our environmental aspirations and deliver on our commitment to lead New Zealand’s decarbonisation.
Smoothing out the peaks
Aotearoa generates around 80 per cent of its energy through renewable sources. When energy usage is at its peak – when most people are getting home from work, turning on the lights, heat pump and cooking dinner – additional energy is often needed to meet demand.
This is when New Zealand relies on energy generated from fossil fuels. By reducing our peak power use, we can reduce or even eliminate this use of fossil fuels. The best part? Small changes to how we use energy at home can even help cut your power bill, depending on your energy plan.
Contact is so committed to helping people reduce peak power use that we created the Good Nights plan which gives customers free power for three hours every day between 9pm and midnight. That’s the time for you to turn on your dishwasher, washing machine and dryer or run a relaxing bath after the chores are done.
Anything that can be shifted outside of the peak after-work hours helps, so we’ve also created the Dream Charge plan for EV owners to charge their car while they sleep, instead of plugging in when they get home. Reducing peak demand is good for the planet and good for your wallet; our customers are telling us they love this.
In the last year, we’ve made great progress towards increasing renewable generation and reducing the use of fossil fuels – but we’ve all got more to do if we are to meet Aotearoa’s 2050 net zero target.
It’s a big challenge for sure, but even making small changes at home can have a dramatic impact. Imagine if you could affect climate change just by pushing a button. Using the ‘delay start’ option on your energy-hungry appliances to run outside peak times is an easy way Kiwis can help reduce the need to use fossil fuels – something many of us can get behind right now.
Visit contact.co.nz to learn more about the Good Nights and Dream Charge energy plans.