Government plan to replace coal use welcomed, but concerns remain

26 July 2020– Coal Action Network Aotearoa today gave a cautious welcome to the Government’s announcement of a $70 million investment to increase electrification of industrial and process heat in the lower South Island.

“Continued mining and burning of coal and other fossil fuels in the midst of a climate crisis is criminal,” said Tim Jones of Coal Action Network Aotearoa. “So we welcome the news that the Government is making a commitment to replace coal-burning heat plant in the South Island with renewable sources of energy.”

“However, major concerns remain. Firstly, we have too many cows, polluting too much water and using way too much synthetic fertiliser – all of which is a major contributor to the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. Along with replacing coal, we need to be moving agriculture away from the present industrial dairying model which has done so much harm.

Secondly, using biomass sourced from wood waste is another source of renewable energy provided forests are replanted – and it frees up electricity for other uses. We hope the Government will not neglect the role of sustainably sourced biomass in replacing fossil fuels.”

Turning to the Government’s announcement of a $30 million investigation into a pumped hydro storage scheme at Lake Onslow, Tim Jones said “We do need more storage so we can shut down Huntly’s coal plant, and we shouldn’t even be thinking about new gas as backup, but we are being cautious right now because we are unclear about the impacts, including the effect on the Teviot flathead, a highly endangered native galaxiid fish. Also, the water from this scheme must not be used for irrigation to create yet more dairy farms in country that is not suitable for dairying.”

“Is it time we stopped mining and burning coal in Aotearoa? Absolutely. But in replacing coal, we need to make sure that we’re not creating other environmental problems,” said Tim Jones.