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PM Address at Opening of Te Apiti Wind Farm

Thursday 9 December 2004

Rt Hon Helen Clark
Prime Minister

PM Address at Opening of Te Apiti Wind Farm

Woodville
6.15 pm

Thursday 9 December 2004

Thank you for inviting me to open Te Apiti, the largest wind farm in the Southern Hemisphere. The government, as the owner of Meridian on behalf of the people of New Zealand, is proud to be associated with this very significant renewable energy project.

Te Apiti will provide enough competitively priced power to meet the needs of 32,000 households. This is an exceptional site for a wind farm. It is expected to be able to supply power for over forty per cent of the time, compared to the twenty to thirty per cent which is the norm for wind farms internationally.

Wind farming is a relatively new development in New Zealand – the first significant wind turbine was installed in Brooklyn, Wellington only in 1993. Yet the technology to do this has existed since the late nineteenth century. One of the pioneers was Danish meteorologist Poul la Cour, who built his own wind tunnel for experiments in the 1890s.

La Cour was concerned with the storage of energy, and used the electricity from his wind turbines for electrolysis in order to produce hydrogen for the gas light in his school. One basic drawback of his scheme was the fact that hydrogen exploded due to small amounts of oxygen in the hydrogen, causing him to replace the windows of the school several times. The technology has come a long way since then.

Now wind power is coming of age in New Zealand and Meridian is at the forefront of its development. Generation from wind has grown fourfold this year - from 40 to 160 megawatts - by the end of the year to April, and there will be more coming.

Obviously New Zealand has a significant untapped wind resource. Wind is now proving to be more cost competitive in the energy marketplace, and it fits well with other generation methods like hydro. While wind currently provides less than two per cent of total electricity generated, it has the potential to provide over twenty per cent of our electricity needs.

The government is keen to nurture the technology’s growth in New Zealand, and we are doing so in innovative ways flowing from our commitment to develop more renewable energy, and also from our Projects to Reduce Emissions programme.

New Zealand is one of 129 countries to have ratified the Kyoto Protocol, which, with Russia’s accession, is coming into force. New Zealand companies can benefit financially from measures they take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Kyoto emissions units are the new currency, and the Projects to Reduce Emissions programme is the vehicle.

Put simply, electricity from wind farms and other new, clean energy projects reduces the need for generation from gas or coal. This in turn reduces the greenhouse gas emissions which have contributed to climate change. The government is able to help make clean energy projects viable by passing on carbon credits to those undertaking them.

An exploratory round and then two further successful tender rounds for allocating Kyoto emission units have now been run.

By the end of the first round, several proposed wind farms – including Te Apiti - had been awarded carbon credits. Moreover Meridian became the first New Zealand company to announce the on sale of carbon credits. The sale was to the Netherlands Government, and required agreement at governmental level.

An announcement was made yesterday of the twenty-four successful projects in the second tender round, including proposals for wind farms, hydro-electricity generation, geothermal-electricity generation, bio-energy and landfill gas projects.

If all these clean energy proposals proceed as envisaged, then by 2008, they will add just over 450 megawatts of electricity generation capacity. Over ninety-nine per cent of this additional generation will be from renewable energy sources like wind, hydro and geothermal.

There is good money to be made from the Kyoto processes, and I am confident that many New Zealand businesses will prosper as a result. The Kyoto Protocol recognises the key role business can and, in my mind, must play in tackling environmental issues.

New Zealand is seizing the opportunities presented by climate change and the Kyoto Protocol. As we do so, we are positioning our economy to best advantage for the future.

New Zealand faces two key challenges with regard to climate change. The first, the adaptation challenge is to prepare our infrastructure, eco-systems and productive sectors to be able to cope with its effects. The second, the mitigation challenge, is to limit both the magnitude and rate of climate change. That means working to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

This wind farm tackles both challenges. It represents an investment in infrastructure which is necessary for developing a sustainable future for New Zealand. It sets an example of how we can support economic growth at the same time as looking after our unique environment.

Te Apiti symbolises the transformation New Zealand is currently undergoing to become a sustainable, innovative, world class economy. It shows we're capable of completing outstanding technological and engineering projects. It shows we are forward thinking enough to conceive of such projects in the first place and it shows that our commitment to the Kyoto process can help us take visionary projects forward.

Many people here can take a great deal of pride in what has been achieved at Te Apiti.

But perhaps most encouraging of all has been the reaction of the people of the Manawatu and Tararua to this project. Their support for it reflects a community which, while wanting energy to power their homes and businesses, also wants to protect our environment.

A recent nationwide survey of attitudes towards electricity generation options found wind power to be the most popular mode of generation with 82 per cent of respondents approving or strongly approving. Even when people were asked if they would support a wind farm being built in their local area, 60 per cent were in support and only 18 per cent were opposed.

Such large public support for renewable energy developments is a credit to our country. It says that we care about our environment and that we want to do our bit to preserve it, while at the same time providing power for our growing economy.

I'd like to take this opportunity to say thank you to the local community for its support of this project.

Congratulations, Meridian and I take great pleasure in officially opening Te Apiti.

ENDS

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