Mining essential to renewable electricity

6 November 2023

Media release

The new Government needs to understand the role of mined minerals, including coal, as it picks up the renewable energy mantle, says Straterra chief executive, Josie Vidal.

“There will be no energy transition without minerals and we make that clear in our submission on Measures for transition to an expanded and highly renewable electricity system,” Vidal says.

“We fully support the move to more renewable electricity generation. However, that does not mean that New Zealand’s total electricity supply will, or should be, 100 percent renewable.

“We support cutting red tape to drive a surge of investment in renewable electricity generation, which we understand is likely to be a policy of the new Government.

“The Government also needs to recognise New Zealand has the potential to supply some of the minerals needed to build renewable electricity capability and to signal to global investors that New Zealand is open for business when it comes to mining.

“Wind turbines, solar panels, and batteries are all made from mined minerals. The global demand for minerals to reach decarbonisation goals far exceeds supply. That means New Zealand needs to develop an appropriate critical minerals strategy, as many other countries have done, sooner rather than later.

“It will be important that the Government does not disrupt production of New Zealand coal which is necessary to provide back up to renewable electricity. This is needed for the times when the rain does not fall, the sun doesn’t shine, the wind doesn’t blow, and for when there are gas outages.

“This is consistent with the transition to net zero emissions by 2050. In fact, it would make that commitment easier to achieve because it would enable competitively priced electricity to incentivise the electrification of industry and transport.

“If the supply of New Zealand coal is curtailed the alternative would be to import coal to fill the gap. That negates any environmental imperatives and makes no sense.

“It is essential there is security of supply during the years ahead as electricity usage increases to meet decarbonisation goals. Electricity needs to always remain affordable and accessible across the country.

“It is important that the country prepares for the very real possibility that the increase in renewable generation is not able to meet expected timeframes and that coal and other fossil fuels need to be retained as back up fuel for longer than envisaged. The lights need to stay on.

“The Government also needs to understand the role of coal in powering our export sector, including food production. Coal is in our top two exports by value to India and there are significant customers throughout Asia for our low ash coking coal. It could be argued that using New Zealand coal is better for the environment than coal from other sources, because of its low ash properties. India and other Asian countries have indicated they will be using coal for some time to come and India recently increased coal imports to help meet rising demand.”

Straterra is the industry association representing New Zealand’s minerals and mining sector.

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