Lake Onslow Canned: What does it mean for you?

In a bold move, the government has recently scrapped the ambitious $16 billion Lake Onslow pumped-storage hydro-electric project as a part of significant cost cuts. This decision has far-reaching implications for New Zealand’s energy landscape.

Lake Onslow, located in Otago, was earmarked as a critical part of the NZ Battery Project. It was conceptualized as a hydro battery, designed to bolster the electricity grid during peak times, especially during dry years when water levels in dams are low, resulting in a deficit in energy supply.
Energy Minister Simeon Brown justified the project’s cancellation, stating it sent a discouraging signal to the electricity market about investing in necessary electricity production from other renewable sources like wind, solar, and geothermal.

The Implications:

The absence of the Lake Onslow project leaves a significant gap in New Zealand’s energy resilience. The government hopes that private power companies will step up, leveraging their rising profits to invest in renewable energy generation. For instance, top power companies like Mercury, Meridian, Genesis, and Contact have recorded a combined operating profit of $2.7 billion in the last financial year.

However, the pivot to renewable energy isn’t without its challenges. Earl Bardsley, who originally proposed Lake Onslow, points out that the intermittency of renewable sources like wind and solar makes a strong case for the need for a project like Onslow for energy storage and buffering.

What does it mean for Individuals:

The focus is not just on large corporations. The move away from a centralized project like Lake Onslow opens up opportunities for individuals to invest in private, sustainable energy solutions. Solar batteries, for instance, allow homeowners to store their own renewable energy, thus helping mitigate the impact of dry years and reducing reliance on the national grid.

Experts, including Jen Purdie from Otago University, acknowledge the potential of these individual solutions, though they caution that national-level energy deficits during dry years cannot be solely addressed through private battery systems.

The Bigger Picture:

The government’s decision to close the NZ Battery Project opens a window for individuals to take energy independence into their own hands. Investing in solar battery systems not only provides a buffer against energy shortages but also allows homeowners to benefit from solar buy-back schemes, especially during peak energy demand periods.

While the shelving of the Lake Onslow project marks the end of an era of ‘think big’ projects, it ushers in a new era of ‘thinking small’ and encourages individuals to take charge of their energy future. This pivotal moment in New Zealand’s energy policy could be the catalyst for a more decentralized, sustainable, and resilient energy future.

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