10 December, 2019
A truly ambitious solution would keep jobs in Southland, delivering on the promise of the Zero Carbon Act to make NZ all but carbon neutral by 2050, writes Nicola Gaston in a post co-authored with Sally Brooker, Justin Hodgkiss and David Williams of The MacDiarmid Institute.
Tiwai Point is in the news, again. Jeanette Fitzsimons, former co-leader of the Green Party and energy analyst, recently suggested her modest proposal for the future of the smelter: keep some of the aluminium smelting going, but release some of the extra no-emissions Manapouri hydro power on to the electricity market.
The lack of transmission lines capable of hooking the hydro power from Manapouri into the national grid is a sticking point, but one that the government is now signaling it is prepared to address by bringing forward $100 million of line upgrades. That’s still about $500 million short of the total cost of the infrastructure that would be needed to get most of that power (transmission losses are substantial) north of Cook Strait, but it’s a start.
On the other hand, there is a real human consequence to any changes to the current scenario at Tiwai: the smelter is a major employer, and the prospective costs to families must be a major disincentive to any change to the status quo. So can NZ Inc perhaps come up with a slightly less modest proposal – a truly ambitious one, even – that would keep, or even grow jobs in Southland and deliver on the promise of the Zero Carbon Act to make NZ all but carbon neutral by 2050?