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Genesis Congratulated For Cancelling Coal Stations

3 March 2005

Greens congratulate Genesis on cancelling coal stations

Genesis' sensible and sane decision today to cancel its plans for two coal-fired power stations in the Waikato is a breath of fresh air in the energy debate, says Green Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons.

"This cancellation of two coal-fired stations at Huntly is an opportunity for the electricity companies to start applying some common sense to the issue of generation and demand management," said Ms Fitzsimons, the Greens' Energy Spokesperson.

"It is significant that Genesis has also admitted today that the technology to capture and store CO2 is not at a stage where it can be applied to large-scale commercial plants. Clearly 'clean coal', which Economic Development Minister Jim Anderton recently claimed in Parliament was the way ahead, is a marketing myth.

"The choice facing New Zealand is between dirty power stations and big transmission lines or smarter use of clean renewables. I hope Genesis' move today means the industry is now seriously considering the latter option. Frankly, it should be a no-brainer for an innovation economy and a clean, green country to choose the path of renewables and greater energy efficiency.

"With Solid Energy saying coal reserves in Waikato are less than previously thought, it is clear that the only option for coal power now is stations at the bottom of the South Island or on the West Coast. However, the coal found there is mostly brown coal, which produces the most local air pollution when burnt because of its high sulphur content. Sulphur can be scrubbed out of the gas emissions, but that makes the resulting electricity more expensive.

"This newly revealed shortfall in the Waikato reserves also raises the question of where the coal for the controversial Marsden B station near Whangarei is supposed to come from.

"But a major concern with a strategy based on South Island brown coal is that massive transmission lines, such as those that currently threaten the Waikato, would have to be strung out along the length of the whole country. Quite apart from the environmental issues of such an effort, it all adds to the cost and puts the lie to the claims that coal is the cheapest option.

"This is all before we even consider climate change. Coal produces more climate-changing CO2 per unit of energy than any other fossil fuel, which is crazy in a climate-constrained world. Removing CO2 is difficult and prohibitively expensive, even more so than for sulphur. Recent estimates are that scrubbing CO2 makes coal much more expensive than wind and solar.

"New Zealand needs to focus on using energy more smartly, not just producing more at any cost. The millions of dollars for proposed new coal plants need to be spent on helping improve energy efficiency. Specifically I call on Genesis and the other 'powercos' to now start investing in energy efficiency in Auckland," said Ms Fitzsimons.


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