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Minister urges energy trusts invest in efficieny

Media Statement

6 February 2000

Minister urges more energy trust investment in energy efficiency

More energy trusts should invest in their communities through energy efficiency projects to lower power bills rather than returning all their dividends to consumers in small cash rebates which provide little lasting good, the Minister of Energy, Pete Hodgson, said today.

The Minister is urging more trusts to follow the example of the Bay of Plenty Electricity Consumer Trust and the Hutt Mana Energy Trust. Together, these Trusts have invested well over $1 million in residential energy saving projects in recent years.

By July this year the Bay of Plenty Electricity Consumer Trust will have invested $770,000 in an energy efficiency housing upgrade that will provide long term financial and health benefits to 500 low income families.

The Trust’s project was developed by the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) following a pilot energy efficiency scheme in Opotiki.

“The Opotiki pilot showed quite clearly that families living in energy efficient houses enjoy cheaper power bills,” Mr Hodgson said. “They are also warmer and drier, and therefore healthier. Findings from Opotiki also show that families whose houses were upgraded experienced major health and comfort improvements.

“Many New Zealand homes are colder than World Health Organisation standards and lose as much heat through air leaks – poor draught-proofing around doors and windows - as they would through a one square metre gaping hole in the wall.”

The $770,000 Bay of Plenty energy efficiency project will generate energy savings of around $3,100 per household, or $1.6 million to the Eastern Bay of Plenty, over the lifetime of the measures.

It should reduce energy use by over 1 million kWh which will avoid the emission of over 9,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide, equivalent to the exhausts of 3,800 cars for a year. Other community benefits include employment creation, because local people are being trained to install the energy efficiency measures.

“The Opotiki and Bay of Plenty projects can very easily be duplicated by other trusts,” Mr Hodgson said.”

Energy trust deeds allow trustees more discretion than many realise, even where the deeds specify that dividends arising from ownership of electricity assets must be returned as small cash rebates to all consumers. Trustees often have the power to invest modest proportions of dividend income in energy efficiency projects to benefit their communities.

“Instead of just serving as a conduit for money from electricity companies to consumers trustees should scrutinize their trust deeds closely to ensure they are not overlooking opportunities to add value to their communities.

“By providing energy saving services to consumers rather than distributing all trust dividends through small cash rebates, trusts would provide on going community benefits that are locked in year after year,” Mr Hodgson said.

The Minister likened the difference between the two approaches as expressed by the old saying “give someone a fish and you feed them for a day, teach them to fish (sustainably), and you feed them for life”

Note for editors:

The Bay of Plenty project involves training a team of young unemployed to carry out energy efficiency and health improvement measures such as ceiling and under floor insulation, moisture barriers, draught stopping, and hot water system insulation. Up to 14 people have gained some employment and skills training so far. Householders also receive a home energy, health and safety information package. ‘At risk’ households with children under five will receive measures to reduce the risk of burns from hot water scalding.

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