Report recommends low-carbon delivery by 2030

Stewart Island’s power problems have come under renewed scrutiny.

Steven Canny, Great South’s general manager of strategic projects, said the need for renewable energy in iconic locations such as Stewart Island and Milford Sound has never been greater.

Great South and the Southland District Council have released a draft report of the Southland and Murihiku Regional Energy Strategy 2022-2050 which has been released for public consultation.

The strategy outlines plans to decarbonise Stewart Island’s diesel power supply by 2030, using a combination of wind, solar and combined hydrogen fuel cell battery storage.

A battery bank would discharge into supply during peak loads, but store energy during low demand.

There was still a lot of work to be done to replace the diesel generating plant, which pumped up to a million kilograms of carbon dioxide into the air every year.

“The current path was not practical or the right thing to do from an environmental point of view,” the report said.

There had been significant discussions, debates and workshops on Stewart Island over a long period of time and future plans would require detailed planning with the community.

The latest report joined dozens over the past four decades.

Former councilman and long-time islander Bruce Ford said it was about time the island’s energy problems were shaken up.

He thought a possible solution could lie with Denmark-based hybrid energy company Vestesen, which had shown interest in developing a solution for the island in the past.

The latest report recommended that early involvement of the community and iwi was critical.

Mr Canny said Southland was leading the nation in commercial decarbonisation.

The strategy suggested Stewart Island should be carbon-free by 2030, but it was “just the beginning of this journey”.

“I think there is a great opportunity for Stewart Island to be recognized as a green island, as an iconic destination for a low-carbon future.

“The actual strategy itself was put together by Beca… they are experts in the field and have made a very strong recommendation in that regard.”

He hoped that the new strategic framework had found a way out of the current impasse.

He accepted that some people would think wind turbines would be an eyesore in the landscape.

“But there’s a trade-off here, and the trade-off is whether to go without electricity or have an alternative. The reality is that any form of renewable energy, within reason, and as long as it’s in a modified landscape or otherwise, is a viable proposal.”

It was critical to balance supply and demand alongside investments in renewable energy, otherwise “prices would skyrocket”.

Written by Toni McDonald