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Power debate must tackle the root of the problem

Power debate must tackle the root of the problem

Green MP Jeanette Fitzsimons welcomes Meridian Energy’s call for a debate on New Zealand’s power planning, but says it must go beyond which power stations to build to meet our perceived ‘needs’.

“New Zealand’s rapidly growing power consumption is the root of the problem,” said Ms Fitzsimons, the Green Party Co-leader and Spokesperson on Energy.

“The Greens agree wholeheartedly that we need a debate on the future of energy, but it must start with a discussion on what our energy needs actually are and not simply take mindless growth for granted.

“Unless we tackle the reasons for our continuing increase in power demand we won’t have the luxury of debating which river we want to save - we’ll land up destroying all of them and burning coal and eventually going nuclear.

“At the current rate of energy efficiency funding, it would take a 100 years to spend what Meridian is planning to blow in one go on wrecking the lower Waitaki River with Project Aqua.”

The capital budget for Meridian’s Project Aqua is $1.2 billion; the total government annual spend on the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority and all its programs, including the national strategy, is just 1 per cent of this at $12 million a year.

“Obviously the national energy efficiency and conservation strategy needs a big boost in funding and a much bolder approach,’ said Ms Fitzsimons.

“Even Meridian CEO Keith Turner has said 20 per cent of New Zealand’s electricity consumption could be saved and that it would be more cost effective than new power stations. Capturing that 20 per cent can be achieved through smarter technology that uses less energy for the same end result. On top of that, every New Zealander sees countless examples everyday of energy wastage, such as buildings lit with no one in them or appliances and motors on all the time when not in use.

“Despite the passing of my Energy Efficiency and Conservation Act in 2000, New Zealand still has virtually no energy standards and makes virtually no use of direct solar heat for water and buildings. New buildings are still being constructed without any consideration of natural heating, cooling, lighting and ventilation. We have seen some encouraging developments in wind energy as a result of the carbon credits the government has been offering, including a big project by Meridian which started much later than Aqua but will be finished earlier because wind can be built much more quickly.”

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