Why not burn coal?

  • Carbon dioxide is by far the largest contributor to global greenhouse gases.  It lasts in the atmosphere for many thousands of years, continuing to warm the temperature.
  • Coal is the most carbon intensive fossil fuel, so that means for the same amount of energy, coal will release more carbon dioxide.
  • Coal is the single biggest source of climate changing CO2 pollution and the biggest risk to the future.  Of the fossil fuels left in the ground and available to burn, 79% of the global warming potential is from coal.
  • Apart from climate change, coal also causes irreparable damage to surface waters, agricultural land and to people’s health.
  • Beside CO2, burning coal releases millions of tons of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides into the air, which create acid rain and smog.
  • To avoid the catastrophic impacts of climate change we need to keep global temperature rise below 2ºC  (compared to pre¬industrial levels). To do this, global greenhouse gas emissions must peak by 2020 and from there go down to zero.


Coal Production in New Zealand

  • New Zealand produces coking coal, a high quality coal from the West Coast which is mainly exported for steel making, and sub¬bituminous coal (thermal coal) burned in boilers for heat. This is found mainly in the Waikato, Canterbury and Southland and is used for electricity generation at Huntly, by Fonterra to dry milk powder, and by many small users such as industries, schools and hospitals.
  • There is one operating lignite mine in Southland.  Lignite is a low quality, dirty fuel with high water content used mainly by Fonterra’s milk drying plant at Edendale.
  • The biggest current producer of thermal coal is Bathurst Resources, owned by overseas shareholders.

Coal use in New Zealand

  • Coal produces less than 10% of New Zealand’s primary energy.
  • The largest user is Bluescope NZ Steel at Glenbrook. The second is Fonterra. In a dry year when hydro power is down the Huntly power station (owned by Genesis) can be second biggest, but it is being phased out.
  • Coal is a twilight industry employing fewer New Zealanders every year. Over a thousand coal workers have been made redundant since 2012.