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The Benefits of Project Aqua

The Benefits of Project Aqua

Huge benefits are in store for the Canterbury and North Otago regions, as well as New Zealand as a whole, if Project Aqua proceeds.

“New Zealand has benefited enormously from hydro development in the past and we are carrying on that tradition but we are doing it with great innovation and great flair,” says Meridian Energy Chief Executive Dr Keith Turner.

During the eight-year construction period it is estimated that some 2600 local jobs and 3100 national jobs would be created. Most Project Aqua employees would live in the Waitaki Valley and would spend their money locally, along with a significant portion of the construction expenditure.

Project Aqua may also provide the impetus for local businesses to expand or start up both during and after the construction period. In addition, the provision of more reliable electricity, as a result of the reinforcement of the local network, would benefit local industry.

Irrigation is also expected to provide a major boost to the productive capacity of the district.

Stages 1 and 2 of a proposed scheme to irrigate up to 20,000 hectares of North Otago land are going ahead independently of Project Aqua. If Project Aqua goes ahead, there is also the potential for two additional stages involving another 19,000 hectares of land.

“The development of any irrigation scheme has the potential to provide major financial benefits for farming communities, and make a contribution to the sustainable economic wealth of the region,” says Dr Turner.

If all stages were fully developed, total farm production would increase by an estimated $80 million each year, total regional value would increase by $145 million a year, and around 1800 jobs would be created.

The South Island needs Project Aqua to help provide security of supply. The South Island is currently experiencing a higher rate of demand growth than the North Island as a result of economic growth and the increasing intensification of agriculture.

The security of supply in the South Island is forecast to fall below an acceptable level by the end of the decade, as a result of this demand growth.

What this means is that in a one-in-20 dry year for the hydro lakes, the South Island could not cope without significant cuts or electricity rationing.

Project Aqua would effectively restore the South Island to the one-in-20 year security level.

Project Aqua is a local solution for a local problem – ensuring security of supply for the South Island.

There are no other publicised large-scale generation proposals in the South Island that would be able to deliver the necessary capacity by the end of the decade. The proposed Wairau hydro-irrigation scheme, in Marlborough, would produce an estimated 580 GWh of electricity each year (only around 20 percent of the 3000 GWh that Project Aqua would provide), which would not be sufficient to resolve the South Island’s security of supply issues.

Project Aqua would also help maintain New Zealand’s international reputation for having a secure and reliable electricity supply.

“It is very difficult to bring new investments to a country which is short of electricity,” says Dr Turner.

Project Aqua would provide a net economic benefit of around $600 million – that is around half a percent of GDP, or around $500 per household.

New Zealand householders and businesses would benefit from wholesale electricity prices being between 5 and 10 percent lower than they might be if Project Aqua does not proceed.

But economic benefits are not the only benefits that Project Aqua would provide.

“Aqua is a very important part of the total picture for New Zealand. It would be renewable energy. The generation from Project Aqua would not create more CO2,” says Dr Turner. Closer to home, there would also be environmental benefits. Meridian Energy has proposed a range of in-river environmental and ecological mitigation and monitoring, if Project Aqua goes ahead. A draft River Management Strategy was included in the resource consent applications for Project Aqua.

Project Aqua would also provide community recreational benefits, such as the proposed recreational lakes at Kurow and Duntroon.

“Electricity is a foundation stone to modern society. Project Aqua fits New Zealand because it is a renewable energy source, it has a very long life,” says Dr Turner.

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