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Coal-powered Marsden B not the answer

18 August 2004

Coal-powered Marsden B not the answer

Green Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons says Mighty River Power's proposal to convert the Marsden B power station to coal is a quick and dirty fix that will make clean and sustainable energy solutions harder to develop.

Mighty River today announced the beginning of consultation to gain resource consent to convert the mothballed power plant south of Whangarei from oil to coal.

"Cheap and dirty power can always out-compete clean power like wind," said Ms Fitzsimons, the Green Party's Spokesperson on Energy, the Environment and Climate Change.

"The bean-counters will certainly think that firing up Marsden B on coal is a low-cost option because its construction costs have long since passed through the books. But such a move will drive out new renewables such as wind and cost the country dearly in lost greenhouse credits.

"And Marsden is not an efficient plant, having been built before modern combined cycle technology.

"There is a huge amount of waste wood coming on stream via new forestry harvesting in Northland and the Marsden Point Refinery is already planning to use some of it. This is a fuel for industry and power that does not add net carbon to the atmosphere and should be the first option considered, before another new fossil-fuelled plant.

"Mighty River's proposal also shows a lack of faith in the National Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy's ability to deliver significantly greater useful energy from each unit of fuel. That's not surprising given how little the Government has invested in implementing the Strategy - just $12m a year all up. This demand-side solution needs to be backed by serious sums of money."

The Greens are calling for full-cost accounting of Mighty River's proposal, for the nation rather than just the company, including the loss of carbon credits that New Zealand would be able to sell internationally if they are not needed to offset emissions here.

"A new coal plant, the conversion of the Huntly Power Station to 100 per cent coal and the planned building of a new gas plant, also at Huntly, adds up to a significant increase in New Zealand's greenhouse emissions. Quite apart from this being an inherently bad idea in an era of global climate change, such a surge will make it harder to meet our Kyoto commitments and will use up valuable carbon credits gained from our forests.

"This is a further sign that New Zealand urgently needs a carbon tax, regardless of whether Kyoto is activated internationally or not. The Government has said it will consider such a measure but only if President Putin ratifies Kyoto.

"So under this Labour Government, infrastructure investment in New Zealand is effectively being dictated by a decision in Moscow, under National it would be driven by decisions in Washington. The Greens say investment priorities should be set here, for the long-term benefit of this country and the planet," said Ms Fitzsimons.


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