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Role of geothermal in delivering a Zero Carbon future for New Zealand by 2050

Wairakei geothermal facilities, Taupo/ New Zealand (source: Contact Energy)
Alexander Richter 25 Apr 2020

Geothermal energy can be a key element in a zero carbon future for New Zealand by 2050 as highlighted in a submission by the New Zealand Geothermal Association (NZGA) to the NZ government from earlier this year.

In February 2020, the New Zealand Geothermal Association (NZGA) made a submission on a key New Zealand policy document associated with the role of geothermal resources in delivering a Zero Carbon future in New Zealand by 2050.  In the context of the current situation with covid-19, economic challenges around the globe, there are opportunities in utilising efforts to stimulate the economies around the globe for a push for future-proof, green and renewable energy sources such as geothermal energy. So we thought it would be timely to share the notes by NZGA.

This submission can be found here (pdf)

The four messages delivered to MBIE, EECA and the Climate Change Commission are:

Business Case Writing

To transition existing business to geothermal is complex, usually requiring the business to not only adopt geothermal as their energy source but also to relocate to where geothermal energy can be easily supplied.  Well-structured business cases are required to assist a business to see and seize the opportunity.  Government support is being sought to resource the writing of 10 business cases over the 2020 – 2021 period to transition existing businesses to geothermal.

Wood and Geothermal Energy Symbiosis Opportunities

There is more required to further foster geothermally powered wood processing leading to exporting higher value wood products and / or biofuels, and the associated jobs these enterprises bring to Regional New Zealand.  The Industrial Symbiosis work completed by SCION a few years ago has fallen silent. That work identified a range of forestry-based activity which might benefit from a geothermal energy supply releasing additional value.

The wood–geothermal synergy is currently only a partially leveraged advantage for New Zealand. Much more can be done to increase that advantage with the requested support from government initiatives.

Geothermal Sector Climate Change Emissions Initiatives

NZGA is advocating for the establishment of an industry – government consortium to develop, select and test Green House Gas reduction technologies that are appropriate for the geothermal sector at the pilot plant level.

This is focussed on working towards achieving “zero” carbon 2050 by moving geothermal to an even lower carbon emissions profile than the sector currently has.  We have asked the government to work in conjunction with the willing large geothermal users and interested parties to establish this consortium. It is proposed that once established the consortium will work to develop, jointly resource and implement geothermal carbon emissions reduction initiatives.

10 Year Geothermal Direct Use Resource “Supply”

Geothermal energy is readily available over the next decade to supply significant growth in direct geothermal use.  We have proposed a study to provide government agencies (MBIE, EECA, CCC, etc) with independent advice documenting the availability of the geothermal resource for direct use.  New funding is sought from MBIE and EECA to resource this study.

The NZGA Board encourages open dialogue and continued conversations amongst all of our membership around these four proposals and messages.  These four themes are being discussed as the centrepiece of our on-going dialogue with New Zealand Government agencies including MBIE, EECA, CCC and NNEDC.

Full NZGA submission (pdf) to the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment

Source: NZ Geothermal Association (NZGA)