As the price of aluminium breaks new records, closing in on $US3000 a tonne, global giant Rio Tinto must be having a quiet chuckle to itself.
Only a year ago it was threatening to close the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter, consigning it to the scrap heap with the loss of 700 jobs, directly, and another 1600 indirectly. For Southland’s economy it would have been a mortal blow.
At that time, aluminium was fetching only $1800 a tonne.
Rio Tinto said the smelter was uneconomic because the price of electricity was too high. In July last year it said it would close the operation because of high costs and a challenging market.
The decision to close the smelter had disappointed politicians and local power firms as it came when the COVID-19 pandemic began to cripple the economy.
Some economists argued NZ should let it go and divert the Manapouri electricity, the cheapest in the country, to other uses. Continue reading “Soaring aluminium prices look likely to encourage Rio Tinto to press for extending its Tiwai Point sweetheart deal”
The blame-game over the Monday night power blackout has deepened.
Ministers initially talked of “market failure” – National accused the government of being asleep at the wheel
Then ACT said the government’s energy policy was “flawed” because it puts carbon emissions ahead of affordable and secure electricity, through the ban on natural gas exploration.
The Green Party, for its part, contends the “gentailers” are more focused on chasing profits than providing more affordable, more renewable, and more secure electricity generation.
Meanwhile two small players in the electricity market have made a formal complaint to the Electricity Authority following Monday’s rolling blackouts. Continue reading “Two inquiries aim to throw light on power blackout – but a switched-on govt should see it’s more than market failure”
New Zealand has been facing some of the most challenging energy market conditions in over a decade, with simultaneous shortages in natural gas and hydro-electric generation. The consequence has been sustained high wholesale electricity prices, creating issues for electricity retailers without their own generating capacity, to the point where Electric Kiwi – for example – says it is turning to focus on the Australian market.
Some market-watchers contend the problems trace back to the decision of the Ardern government to ban any further offshore exploration for oil and gas. That drove away not only oil exploration companies but also the offshore rigs needed to complete planned drilling programmes.
Whether that is the case or not, some of the big generators like Contact Energy and Genesis are said by critics to be creaming it – but from their point of view, they are doing their utmost to meet the high demand for electricity. Their shareholders certainly should be happy with the healthy margins they are reporting while wholesale prices remain very high. Continue reading “How the govt’s ban on oil and gas exploration has tightened supplies – and resulted in NZ importing 2m tonnes of coal”
Latest from the Beehive
Ministers visited Hawke’s Bay and Northland at the weekend to announce distributions totalling $35 million (or “up to $35m”, to be more precise).
A great chunk of that total was a sum “up to $32 million” approved in principle for the Hawke’s Bay Aquatic Centre to be built (although the press statement didn’t say where) in Hastings. It will house a deep-water Olympic pool and a smaller ‘learn to swim’ and water safety education pool.
Finance Minister Grant Robertson made much of the provincial importance of the project, saying improved recreational water facilities were much-needed by residents of Hawke’s Bay.
“The health and wellbeing of the wider region, from Wairoa to Waipukurau, is … important. The new Aquatic Centre will be used by swimming clubs, a water polo club and the Royston Hospital Health & Fitness Gym at the EIT Institute. The Hawke’s Bay DHB will also use it for exercise and therapy such as aquarobics courses.”
Wearing his “Infrastructure” ministerial hat, Shane Jones announced the government’s investment of $3m into community infrastructure in Mangawhai and Kaiwaka. Continue reading “Ministers pour $35m into community projects while $30m goes into hydro electricity (but in that case it’s to see if there is a case to invest more)”