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Renewables reach 37-year high

Strong hydro and wind generation saw 85 percent of the country’s electricity produced from renewables in the June quarter, according to government data.

That is the highest share for that period – when winter demand usually increases demand for coal- and gas-fired generation – in 37 years, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment says.

Total generation increased to 11,046 gigawatt-hours – 1.6 percent more than a year earlier. Hydro generation increased to 6,843 GWh, the most since the September quarter of 2016. It was almost 13 percent more than the June quarter last year when South Island lake levels were low.

Wind generation rose to 560 GWh, the most since the first quarter of 2017 and almost 12 percent more than a year earlier.

New Zealand has a target to achieve 90 percent renewable power generation by 2025. The Labour-led coalition has suggested going to 100 percent renewable – in a year of normal hydrology – by 2035.

The interim climate change committee is testing the feasibility of that as a goal, given the variability of the hydro generation the country depends on and an expected increase in equally variable wind production.

Generation in 2016 was almost 85 percent renewable – the biggest share since 1981. Renewables fell below 73 percent in the dry year of 2012 and below 66 percent in the dry year of 2008.

Other data published by the ministry today shows that net gas production fell to a seven-year low of 36 petajoules. Output fell 17 percent from the June quarter last year due to reduced production from the offshore Pohokura field, the country’s biggest gas producer.

The field - owned by Shell, OMV and Todd Energy - last year accounted for almost 40 percent of the country’s gas production.

Pohokura produces from an offshore production platform and three extended reach wells drilled from the shore. Production from the platform was cut in late March while the partners inspected the line delivering gas and condensate to shore for possible leaks. Output from the offshore wells resumed in July.

In a separate announcement on June quarter GDP today, Stats NZ noted that the shutdown at Pohokura contributed to an almost 20 percent fall in mining activity during the period, the largest quarterly decline in almost 30 years.

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