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Surprise At New Zealand's Depleting Power Supply

Surprise At New Zealand's Depleting Power Supply

New Zealand¹s growing need for more power has come as a surprise to a visiting American professor. Professor James Kenney and 15 engineering and economics students from Union University, New York state, recently completed a three and a half week tour of New Zealand¹s electricity generation facilities.

³Our tour of power generation facilities took us more than 4800 kilometres from the Ngawha geothermal power station in Kaikohe (Northland) to the Manapouri power station in Fiordland,² says Professor Jim Kenney.

The tour was part of the students¹ course programme, which covers the role of the electric power market in resolving the conflict between economic development ­ including the need for more power generation ­ and preservation of the natural environment and cultural values.

³New Zealand is the ideal laboratory for such an investigation,² says Professor Kenney.

In addition New Zealand has a recently de-regulated electricity market and wide range of relatively accessible generation facilities.

Professor Kenney says the most significant change he has noticed since his last study tour of New Zealand in 2001 is the unexpected reduction in the life of the Maui gas reserves.

³The gas reserves have depleted at a much faster rate than was expected when I was here last. That¹s accelerated the need for New Zealand to develop alternative means of electricity generation,² says Professor Kenney.

He is also surprised about the growing pressure in New Zealand for more and more development, which in turn, creates more demand for power.

Professor Kenney says Meridian Energy¹s proposed Project Aqua hydro-electric scheme is at the heart of the debate surrounding the need for more power generation.

³Project Aqua offers New Zealand the major increase in generation that the country requires but it does have some major impacts. Choices are going to have to be made if New Zealand wants to develop and grow. You need to find new ways to develop electricity or more efficient ways of using it,² says Professor Kenney.

The American students have met with a number of people involved with Project Aqua including Waitaki Valley farmers, power plant managers, local Maori and regulatory authorities. Professor Kenney says his students have now headed home to write papers on their own assessments of the project.

³With New Zealand being unable to import electricity, you have to be a lot more self-sufficient. The Government¹s, and the public¹s, absolute resistance to nuclear power make the choices more limited and more difficult. These are all issues my students will have to take into account,² says Professor Kenney.

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