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NZ’s Energy Future – A Question Of Balance

New Zealand’s Energy Future – A Question Of Balance

Contact Energy is today launching a major public information campaign on the choices New Zealand faces in order to maintain a secure electricity supply.

The “Positive Energy” campaign debuts on television this evening and is accompanied by a programme of full page newspaper advertisements every Saturday for the next seven weeks, the despatch of an information brochure to all Contact customers and shareholders, and the launch of a new website:

“New Zealanders clearly want a secure electricity supply that meets their needs at home and at work to maintain the lifestyles, jobs and opportunities that we all expect,” said Contact’s chief executive, Mr Steve Barrett. “Equally important for most people is an electricity supply that does least possible damage to the environment and at a price that is as affordable as possible.

“Achieving all three of these aims to everyone’s complete satisfaction is almost certainly impossible. However, as a leading New Zealand energy company, it is Contact’s job to contribute to finding the best possible balance between these competing, legitimate expectations,” Mr Barrett said.

“The Positive Energy campaign is therefore one part of a wider range of activities that Contact is currently undertaking to help find solutions to New Zealand’s electricity needs.”

The campaign is not advocating preferred outcomes. Rather, it seeks to make clear the upside and downside of the many energy options that New Zealand has at its disposal.

“There has been too much scare-mongering about this issue at times,” said Mr Barrett. “The reality is that this country has numerous options to meet its energy needs. The challenge will be ensuring that we find the best possible mix from the range of available options, rather than assuming that there will be single solutions to this complex set of challenges.

“Likewise, we need to take care before ruling out options that could contribute to meeting our energy needs.”

The campaign seeks to inform people in an approachable and factual way, using two animated new entrants to the energy debate – Tui and Beatrice, a courting pair of native birds.

“The issues in the electricity sector are serious, but that doesn’t mean they have to be boring,” said Mr Barrett. “We have tried to find an engaging way to convey the information about this nationally important subject.”

The campaign covers the major electricity generation options currently up for debate, including coal, natural gas, hydro, wind, geothermal, solar, bio-mass and tidal/wave power.

The importance of energy efficiency is also addressed.

“As energy becomes more valuable over the next few years, it will make more and more sense to invest money in saving power.”

The campaign seeks to challenge some widely held assumptions about various widely debated energy options.

“Contact is constantly in the business of assessing new generation options. We are very familiar with the potential of all the major fuel and technology types available in New Zealand. It is clear that some of the most popularly cited solutions may have considerable impacts on security of supply, price and the environment that are not widely understood.”

The campaign would also seek to inform New Zealanders more accurately than in the past about the current sources of electricity generation, and their relative cost.

“For example, very few people know that natural gas is used to produce around 25 per cent of New Zealand’s electricity needs, and that it has underpinned electricity prices that are low by world standards over the last 25 years. With the depletion towards the end of this decade of the world-scale Maui gas field, we clearly have a big hole to fill, let alone meeting growth in electricity demand from a robust economy.

“Likewise, there is a strong desire for renewable energy technologies and energy efficiency to fill this gap. Contact believes that these technologies will become increasingly important over the next 20 years or so. However, the entry of renewables is likely to be gradual rather than an overnight change.

“We believe it is one of our roles as an energy company to put these issues in front of the public, and to foster debate about the fuel and technology choices that electricity industry players will need to make in the near future if a secure electricity supply is to be maintained.”

Other initiatives that Contact is pursuing at present include:

addition of a further 14MW capacity at its Wairakei geothermal plant preparing resource consent applications to add mini-hydro turbines to the control gate structures at Lake Hawea, its Clutha system storage lake seeding an $80 million onshore gas exploration fund with Mighty River Power being granted a gas exploration permit for an area offshore Taranaki examining the economics and siting implications of importing Liquefied Natural Gas in a joint study with Genesis Energy actively reviewing a range of hydro, wind, coal, geothermal and other development options.

“The Positive Energy campaign is a key part of Contact Energy’s wider efforts to ensure a secure, reliable electricity supply for New Zealand,” Mr Barrett said.

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