Electric Power R&D in New Zealand – ‘Power Up or Power Down
Based on the experience of the Electric Power Engineering Centre (www.epecentre.ac.nz), which launched NZ’s first industry-academia collaborative electric power R&D programme in 2005, there are currently a number of critical areas in electric power engineering in NZ requiring particular research attention. This paper discusses challenges and obstacles that must be overcome to facilitate this research, as well as opportunities for collaboration between the NZ electric power industry, government and academia. According to the Ministry of Research, Science & Technology (MoRST) Energy Roadmap, NZ has a unique mix of energy resources, energy infrastructure, needs and energy efficiency opportunities. The significance of this is that international research will not provide all the detailed answers for NZ to help meet future needs in electricity supply – “it must be done by us, for us, to find customized solutions”. Moreover, we are a nation that is more and more heavily dependent on electricity supply for all sectors of industry and community. The quality of electricity supply affects almost all markets without exception and electricity itself accounts for approximately 3% of total GDP p.a. or roughly NZ$4 billion p.a. (from 2007 GDP data). Currently, total government expenditure on energy R&D is estimated to be $18 million, which is 1% of total annual R&D spending in NZ ($1.8 billion p.a.). This paper examines if this is sufficient or should NZ be investing more public funding into energy R&D, or perhaps it is up to the electricity industry to pick up where the government has left off, especially given NZ’s bold new target of 90% renewable by 2025? Areas identified that require research include the network integration of variable energy sources (e.g. wind power) and affects of variable loads on power quality. A range of incentives including the new R&D tax credits and co-funding schemes, particularly for ‘industry based’ applied research are discussed and recommendations provided. This paper also indicates that the power industry is currently in a strong position to capitalise on these incentives, taking into consideration that solutions for overseas electricity industry (researched overseas) may not be relevant enough to support specific NZ electricity industry conditions and / or scenarios. The discussion concludes by considering the longer term impacts of doing and not doing enough electric power R&D in NZ.