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Smarter energy use is the first priority

30 March 2004

Smarter energy use is the first priority

Green Party Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons says the demise of Project Aqua will now lead to the serious debate on New Zealand's energy future that she has been campaigning for since the 1970s.

The tough choices that have previously only been debated in the South and amongst energy analysts and environmentalists are finally reaching front pages in the cities where the energy is being unsustainably consumed.

"Bring it on," said Ms Fitzsimons, the Green Party Spokesperson on Energy.

This afternoon in the House Ms Fitzsimons will ask Energy Minister Peter Hodgson: "What additional steps will the Minister be taking to promote energy efficiency, energy conservation and renewable energy following the cancellation of Project Aqua?" (Question 9). Under the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Act introduced in 1998 the Minister has a statutory duty to promote these priorities.

"New Zealand has to get a whole lot smarter when it comes to energy. We have to face up to the fact that we are among the most wasteful power users in the Western world," said Ms Fitzsimons.

"Before we can even consider matters of supply, we have to sort out the demand side of this essential equation. It is ridiculous, for instance, that the total annual budget of the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority is less than one per cent of what Meridian was contemplating spending on Aqua.

"The Government should be making it easier for New Zealanders to make the right choices. Energy auditors tell me they can go into virtually any business and immediately identify energy savings of 20 per cent that will provide better quality lighting, heating, cooling and industrial power at less cost.

"But the basic structure of power bills, where fixed-line charges dominate actual consumption, discourage consumers from making day-to-day savings and from investing in their own small-scale power production, such as solar water heating, or energy efficient home appliances. If power companies will not voluntarily change the way their bills are structured then legislation has to be considered.

"It is worth remembering that much of the extra, environmentally damaging capacity that is now being called for is simply to cover peak demand. The Dominion Post recently reported that California has in recent years realised a 'secret surplus' that has turned 'crisis savings' during power shortages into permanent reductions in consumption. The cornerstone of this effort has been an education campaign that encouraged simple measures such as households shifting the use of main appliances till after peak evening demand had passed.

"Surely if 34 million, lifestyle-orientated Californians can be encouraged to permanently slice 14 per cent off their energy consumption simply through changing their habits, then so can 4 million New Zealanders."


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