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Greens offer brighter thinking on energy

25 May 2005

Greens offer brighter thinking on energy

"Everything we do depends on energy, and if our energy supply is not sustainable, then neither is our economy or our way of life"

Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons is delivering that message with the launch of the Greens' 2005 Energy Policy, 'Growing a Brighter Future'.

"The Greens are the only party with a plan to keep the lights on without compromising our environment or heating up the atmosphere.

"New Zealand is facing the combined threats of climate change, Peak Oil and the depletion of the Maui gas reserves. In that situation, wasting energy is dumb and burning more fossil fuel is stupid. We have to have brighter ideas than that.

"We have to grow our renewable industries - solar, wind, biomass, and eventually wave and coastal power. It can't happen overnight, so we have to start now.

"We also have to grow our energy efficiency - a much brighter idea than giant pylons and houses that leak heat.

"The Greens' Energy Policy is the most comprehensive plan to make our energy system sustainable ever put to New Zealanders.

"We have real answers here for households who struggle to pay power bills and still shiver - a fairer pricing system, a network of 'one-stop shops' around the country for energy advice, more homes insulated and damp-proofed and a proposal to bring down the price of solar water heating by growing the industry," said Ms Fitzsimons.

The full 10-page policy is available here:

Growing a Brighter Future A summary of the Green Party's 2005 Energy Policy

Key initiatives at a glance

* Half a million solar water heating panels * Sustainable Energy Commission * Alternatives to pylons * One-stop energy advisory shop for households * No new coal * Pay for what you use - no fixed charges

Critical Energy Issues facing New Zealand

* Peak oil * Growing demand * Climate change * Fuel poverty * Maui depletion * Short-term thinking

Our Vision

1. Energy services reliably and affordably provided from renewable energy. 2. Smarter use of energy, with less waste and less adverse effects 3. All New Zealanders play a part in shaping our energy future

Getting there - The Greens' proposals to address the six key issues above

Peak Oil - facing up to the end of cheap oil 1. Acknowledge the issue, inform the public and plan the transition 2. Act now to prepare for the future: fuel efficiency standards for vehicles, develop biofuels, invest in public transport, cooperate internationally

Climate change - facing up to the risk of global catastrophe 1. Make it clear there will be no new use of coal for energy, cap CO2 emissions from electricity generation, and introduce a carbon charge 2. Plan a transition to renewables, continuing the use of carbon credits for renewables and create a minimum 'green energy' contribution for electricity sales 3. Significantly improve energy efficiency (see below)

Maui depletion - facing up to the end of cheap gas for electricity generation 1. Increase use of gas directly for heating and cooking rather than electricity 2. Install half-a-million solar water heating panels over five years and expand training in solar building design 3. Plan better for wind energy and encourage the use of waste wood as a fuel 4. Accelerate R&D into wave, current and tidal energy

Growing demand - facing up to the need to use energy smarter 1. Strengthen the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority and accelerate the National Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy 2. Encourage SOEs to develop business strategies based around energy efficiency and stable energy demand 3. Increase energy efficiency standards for buildings, upgrade the building code to encourage solar design in new buildings, and require home energy labelling at time of sale 4. Expand support for home energy efficiency retrofits 5. Increase energy efficiency standards for appliances and products 6. Initiate a Government leadership programme for energy efficiency in public buildings and vehicles 7. Require Land Transport New Zealand to ensure its decisions support the transition to a sustainable energy future

Fuel poverty - facing up to the fact that everyone needs a warm home 1. Remove fixed charges for household power 2. Insulate and damp-proof more homes and create a local home advisory service with a focus on energy efficiency 3. Install solar water heating on low-income homes 4. Investigate 'progressive pricing'

Planning and coordination - facing up to the need to think beyond tomorrow 1. Electricity Commission becomes Sustainable Energy Commission with a mandate to look at all fuels, and ensure consumers and small producers have input to decisions. 2. Require new large capital projects to be tested against sustainable alternatives 3. Independent review of Transpower's expansion plans and ensure Transpower focuses on alternatives to expanding transmission lines 4. New electricity market rules: - Facilitate distributed generation - Facilitate demand side participation in market - Net metering or billing - Dry winter conservation plan

The full 10-page policy is available here:

The opportunity Solar water heating is a huge sustainable energy opportunity that is largely being ignored in New Zealand. Heating water uses around 40 percent of a household's energy. Solar water heating can provide at least half of this, or three quarters where it is used intelligently. The National Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy has a target of installing solar water heating on 10,000 homes annually, but this target will not be reached for several years. Even then, that goal is less than half the number of new homes built each year, so it is not even keeping up with growth.

The obstacles The key problem in trying to move faster is that there is a serious shortage of trained installers and the industry is not geared for the scale of effort that is needed. The units are over priced compared with what could be achieved with a large-scale order. In this situation, just offering subsidies to householders to install a solar water heater will tend to drive the price up and lead to poor installations.

The Greens' proposal We propose using the Government's power of purchase to achieve significant economies of scale and build a stronger solar industry in New Zealand. We would call tenders to supply and install half-a-million panels over five years, enough to provide about 125,000 homes with solar water heating. Tenders could be for part of the contract, so all suitable tenderers could benefit. A competitive tender, plus a guaranteed sale for the successful tenderers over a planned five-year implementation period, would bring prices down. Industry would scale up production and take care of the training needs, because they would be required to install to specifications.

Where would the solar water heaters go? Some would be installed on state houses, where low-income families would benefit. Other government buildings with high hot water needs, such as prisons, schools and hospitals, would also be considered. The majority would be offered at cost to private households, with preference given to large low-income families and remote areas where the power lines need support.

How could low-income families afford solar water heaters, even if they cost less? We would set up a solar loans scheme at modest interest rates so that the cost could be paid back out of power savings. Banks would be encouraged to offer solar mortgages, where the cost of a solar water heater is added to the total allowable mortgage, knowing that there is ability to repay from power savings.

What about after the five years? It may be that after the five-year contract the scale of the industry is such that prices are affordable and no further government action is needed. If not, we would let another five-year contract to continue the programme.


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