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National electricity grid greatly worries NZers

National electricity grid greatly worries New Zealanders


Eight out of 10 New Zealanders believe the national electricity grid needs upgrading. Some 42% think an upgrade is urgent, according to the results of a major new national poll by ShapeNZ.

More than six out of 10 also believe the national interest are more important than local interests when considering grid upgrades and major new power generation projects. Support for putting the national interest first still holds strong at 56% even when it might involve putting a pylon or new power station on or near respondent's own home or land.

The poll will put major local discussions over grid upgrades, in areas like the Waikato, into context, according to the New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development, which commissioned the research.

The poll, covering 3377 respondents and was conducted between February 26 and March 3 2008 by ShapeNZ, using its national online research panel, weighted to reflect a representative population sample compared with the 2006 census. Results are weighted by age, gender, personal income, employment status and party vote 2005.

The maximum margin of error at a 95% confidence level is +/- 1.7%. When asked if a national or local interest should come first when a power project is proposed in one area – but the energy is vital to power uses in other areas with much bigger populations, more people agree (48%) than disagree (41%) that the larger economic interest should come ahead of the local one. 12% don't know. Business Council Chief Executive Peter Neilson says the results show New Zealanders are keenly aware of the need to improve energy and grid security and build more generating capacity.

"They want long-term energy security, want local and private interests well considered and people well treated, but don't like a handful of people blocking projects which are vital to bigger centres and the national economic interest," Mr Neilson says. The results are also important as the country heads into a major debate on a proposed 10-year Government ban on building new thermal base load power plants.

"It means some of the other major wind and hydro renewable projects need to get up quickly if the ban goes ahead, and it will be of major interest to generators and policy makers that Kiwis want local interests considered while the national interest comes first." Renewable energy resources, like solar, wind and wave, are inherently less reliable than gas and coal fired stations.

An upgraded transmissions grid is needed to handle the decreased reliability that will arise from any greater reliance on renewables. The poll also shows majority support for acquiring land for power projects and grid upgrades at 30% more than market value. And 73% think the purchase of land and then leasing it back to former owners to use, is a reasonable solution. It is understood this deal has or is being offered to some objecting to power projects. Poll results are at www.nzbcsd.org and www.shapenz.org.nz

ENDS

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