Why Tai Tokerau/ Aotearoa should become an renewable/ river/ marine energy global leader

The world is changing very fast around us. NZ moved from the Tyranny of Distance up into the nineties to the digital age. With companies like Vista Entertainment (about 35% global market share in cinema management industry), Xero (cloud accounting services) New Zealand has now fully embraced the potential to “beat above our weight”. From the sports world we know this very well too: the All Blacks and Team NZ being probably the most successful sports teams in history.
Why not take our Number 8 kiwi ingenuity, our natural advantages to become a leader in renewable energy solutions to the world …
Here is why I think the times are better now to achieve this than they ever were:

New Government addressing environmental challenges

International Community addressing a just energy transition

Last week I listened to a Webinar on “just energy transition” . Calpers and the biggest investment funds are supporting http://www.climateaction100.org/ and Fitch Rating has introduced environmental, societal, governance (ESG) assessments in their credit/ investment ratings. Last year over USD 330 billion (NZ’s GDP USD250 ) were invested in renewable energy, the bulk of it in AsiaPacific. The world is moving in the right direction.
So should New Zealanders. We could and should be part of this just transition. But this takes resources and time commitment. This in my opinion involves, identifying a team of dedicated, motivated multipliers and stakeholders across industry, government and education (schools and tertiary providers).
As we know at least since October’s IPCC warnings, time is running out and not to act is NOT an option anymore. At least not, if we do care about our children and their futures.
Fig: Marine Heat Waves are threatening our ocean’s biodiversity (Nature, 03/19)


Fig:  Brunt Ice Shelf – view the images from NASA here.

In Antarctica, the Brunt Ice Shelf which is bigger than New York City, is showing major cracks and is likely to break off soon. This follows a report which found that Antarctica is losing six times more ice mass annually now than 40 years ago. The study used updated drainage inventory, ice thickness and ice velocity data for 176 basins draining the Antarctic Ice Sheet from 1979 to 2017.


New Zealand Businesses caring about environment

Many NZ organisations are doing something about it:
  • Ports of Auckland is automating and decarbonising their container straddlers, introducing an electric tug boat (the first in the world), reducing their energy use/ increasing energy efficiencies and working on green shore power for the 100+ annual cruise ships, hydrogen for powering their moving assets.
  • The big power generators Meridian/ Mercury/ Vector/ Genesis are pushing ahead with their move toward sustainability.
  • The Wellington Brooklyn Wind Farm is the most productive and non-subsidized on-shore wind farm on the planet.
  • Our Hydro (5,000 MW) and Geothermal capability (854 MW) in BOP, Taupo, Ngwha (Northland) are world leading.
  • Yealand Winery and others putting commercial solar on their roof spaces
  • Hiringa Energy from Taranaki working on hydrogen production & distribution. And together with my organisation N3T and Zero Emission Vehicles on decarbonising heavy commercial fleets.
  • Wellington’s East-by-West Ferry will be the first electric ferry service in NZ.
  • NZ Universities offering renewable energy scholarships

New Zealand’s natural Advantages

With over 15,000 km, 4 mio square km, NZ has not only the ninth longest coastline and  Exclusive Economic Zone in the world, but with Foveaux Strait, French Pass, Cook Strait, Kaipara/ Hokianga/ Whangarei Harbour some of the biggest marine energy (and marine energy technology development and testing) potential. And that is without the wave energy potential identified by MetOcean et al on our west coast.
Fig: NZ tidal/ wave energy spots and map of world’s ninth biggest Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) – sources: MetOcean, NIWA
Our rivers are partially tidal influenced as well. The Clutha has an average discharge of 613 cubic metres per second. The Kaipara Harbour has flows of 4m/s, near French Island in the Whangarei Harbour we get up to 3.5m/s flows.

Fig: Tai Tokerau’s Marine/ River Energy potential – Kaipara Harbour (NRC, Argo, 2014)

Wairua River: The Wairua River drains the north-eastern corner of the Northern Wairoa catchment via the Hikurangi Swamp. The large swamp was drained and turned into farmland in the 1970s. Once a lake bed, the swamp is susceptible to heavy rain storms from the north-east and a restricted outlet, making flooding common. The catchment covers 750 square kilometres.


For a proper energy mix beyond geothermal, solar and wind, river and marine energy should play a bigger role. Water is about 700 times as dense as air. Therefore much smaller water flows are needed to achieve similar energy than a wind turbine. Further advantages are no intermittency like solar, wind, resulting in high predictability and energy potential. The ancient egyptians over 4,000 years ago were able to predict the tides precisely. In all that time humankind still hasn’t mastered to harness this daily occuring “free” energy, yet. Maybe Northland is the place to advance this further.

Benefits for Northlanders

Tapping into renewable, sustainable energy sources will make Northlanders independent of other NZ regions energy wise. If done well, we could develop leading edge river and marine energy solutions.


Fig: Hydrogen Vision and small hydro corkscrew energy production. It can power up to 50 households (source: EU hydro power, 2018)


Design, test and deploy river and marine energy devices in Northland. But, even more so export our leading edge hydro/ marine energy products and renewable energy expertise globally. This will result in high paying jobs and a general increase in health care, educational & social support and hopefully the general well being of people living in stunning Tai Tokerau.


Where to from here …

NZ is the world’s marine & hydro energy paradise. I think there is substantial potential to turn this into commercial and just energy transition opportunities, which can lead the world. NZ’s influence and presence in the Pacific can assist us to leverage our location and natural advantage globally. With the Chinese belt & road push in the Pacific, this is of very (energy & geopolitical) strategic importance.
Let me know what you think and what we should do about tapping into this huge energy, societal and environmental protection global leadership potential.
Please contact us.

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