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Put more energy into the Budget: Greens

25 May 2004

Put more energy into the Budget: Greens

Green Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons says energy security and sustainability is central to New Zealand's economic future and should be at the forefront of this week's Budget.

"This Budget is an important opportunity to protect New Zealanders from sharply rising energy costs - by investing in efficiency, solar and rail," said Ms Fitzsimons, the Green Party Energy Spokesperson.

"Dry winters, depletion of Maui gas, world oil supplies nearing their peak and climate change all threaten our access to affordable energy. Investing in sustainable energy now can insure us against a bleak future.

"The Greens are calling on the Government to spend not just for today, but to invest for tomorrow. Sustainable energy will give us a stronger economy, better health, greater comfort and will protect our environment from damaging projects," said Ms Fitzsimons.

The Green Party is proposing action in a number of key areas.

* Affordable solar hot water for everyone: The Government should be solarising its own buildings and supporting solar mortgages so householders can easily make the switch to free hot water.

* Warm dry houses: New houses must be required to meet higher energy efficiency standards and the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority needs to be properly funded so it can actively help make existing homes in every neighbourhood warm and dry.

* Railways and coastal shipping: The rail system needs investment to get freight and people off roads. Coastal shipping is the most energy efficient way to move freight and needs to be actively supported.

* Real support for renewable sources: Straightforward restructuring measures of the electricity market and carbon credit system will level the playing field in favour of renewable energy sources.

* Tax reform: Carbon taxes should be introduced for their own sake and to reduce income tax across the board.

Background Information

Energy solutions that should be in the Budget Jeanette Fitzsimons MP

Investing in energy security This Budget is an important opportunity to protect New Zealanders from sharply rising energy costs - by investing in efficiency, solar and rail.

Dry winters, depletion of Maui gas, world oil supplies nearing their peak and climate change all threaten our access to affordable energy. Investing in sustainable energy now can insure us against a bleak future.

The Greens are calling on the Government to spend not just for today, but to invest for tomorrow. Sustainable energy will give us a stronger economy, better health, greater comfort and will protect our environment from damaging projects.

Affordable solar hot water for everyone Solar water heaters are currently too expensive and the industry is too small scale to meet our needs. We need many more people trained in correct installation.

* The Greens propose a 'Government leadership' programme where the Government calls tenders over the next five years to install solar water heating on all government buildings where it is cost effective. All suitable state houses, hospitals, prisons, schools and office buildings could be solarised by 2010. The resulting economies of scale would boost our manufacturing industry, bring down the price for everyone and enable the training of the necessary work force.

* For private households, the Government should contract with leading mortgage companies to offer 'solar mortgages' where the total amount able to be borrowed is increased by the cost of the solar heater, in the knowledge that the savings on the power bill will be enough to meet the extra mortgage costs. Eventually, when the investment costs are paid off, the hot water will be free.

Warm dry houses Most of our houses were built when energy was cheap. Many homeowners aren't sure of the best things to do to improve their energy use and often don't have the capital. Most new houses are built by spec builders who do the minimum because they don't have to live in them. The average lifetime for houses is 80 years - what will energy prices be like then? We must not leave our grandchildren cold, damp houses they cannot afford to heat.

* Government should speed up the next review of the building code to ensure that all cost-effective insulation, draught proofing, damp proofing and double-glazing are required in new houses.

* For existing houses, the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority should be funded to set up 'one stop shops' that carry out household energy checks free-of-charge, provided the householder implements the practical and cost-effective measures they recommend. They would also provide information about products, services and tradespeople. The 'solar mortgage' suggested above could be extended to cover the capital cost of efficiency improvements.

Upgrading houses will reduce child asthma and winter colds and 'flu, paying for itself in lower health costs.

A rail system that works Privatisation of our railways led to rundown rolling stock and tracks. There has been little investment in maintenance or new infrastructure. Now is the time to put that right. We need a world-class rail service to get heavy freight off our roads and to contribute to passenger transport, especially in cities. Fixing the rail system needs capital and it needs it in this Budget.

For example: * Fixing buckled tracks could be proceeding faster than the Government is planning.

* Wellington's commuter rail should be electrified north of Paraparaumu and new units purchased.

* We need to see a commitment to Stage II and beyond of Auckland's commuter rail.

* Rail signalling systems need upgrading and more passing loops are needed on the main rail routes.

* The backlog of deferred maintenance needs to be tackled.

Transfund should be pushed to actually get round to funding the rail projects it has waiting on its books. Active support must be given to efforts to shift heavy goods off road and onto rail.

Coastal Shipping Measures are needed in this Budget to support coastal shipping, which is highly energy efficient. A modified form of cabotage coupled with one of the fiscal measures in the shipping review would be a good start.

Real support for renewable sources Renewable energy does not get the support the Government gives to oil and gas exploration. We need to level the playing field.

* All the data held by different government agencies on wind sites should be brought together on a free website to help those wanting to establish wind farms. The same should be done for the waste wood resource.

* Carbon credits currently available only for larger renewable energy projects should also be available to smaller projects. Renewable energy comes in many small parcels so should not be discriminated against.

* The electricity market rules should be changed to require all energy retailers buying from the market to purchase at least 2 per cent of their total from new renewables.

* Lines businesses investing in new renewable sources ought to be able to sell that power onto the wholesale market.

Tax reform Some of the tax on incomes should be moved on to fossil fuels as a carbon charge in this Budget. This will make energy efficiency and renewables more financially attractive than coal, oil and gas. The income tax reduction should be on the lowest band of income, so that all New Zealanders benefit.

ENDS

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