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Clark: Opening of Meridian’s Project West Wind

Embargoed until 9.25am
Thursday 27 September 2007

Rt Hon Helen Clark
Prime Minister

Address at
Opening of Meridian Energy’s
Project West Wind
(Makara Wind Farm)

Quartz Hill


Thursday 27 September 2007

It's great to be here to turn the first sod of this project and see for myself the site chosen. Indeed when visiting a wind farm site, it generally is very apparent why it was chosen.

Makara will have the first wind farm in the Wellington area. At between 140 and 150 megawatts, it will make a substantial contribution to our energy supply, producing enough power to supply Wellington City when the wind is blowing.

I opened another of Meridian’s wind farms, White Hill in Southland, in June. At the time, New Zealand was generating 170 megawatts of electricity from wind farms. A few months later, our generation capacity is almost double, at 320 megawatts. With West Wind, our wind generation capacity will significantly increase again.

I am told that Meridian expects West Wind to be one of the most productive wind farms in the world.

The strong and consistent winds mean Project West Wind will be generating electricity over 90 per cent of the time, and generating at full capacity almost half of the time.

That’s impressive, as I understand that the average wind farm only operates at full capacity 23 per cent of the time. Overseas wind farm operators will look at West Wind with envy.

Good renewable energy resources are often located far away from where the demand for them is. West Wind is different. It is on the doorstep of a major city. There will be few cities in the world, let alone capital cities, which can generate renewable electricity from within their boundaries.

During the RMA consenting stage, West Wind attracted a great deal of attention. Well over 4000 submissions were received, of which over 3000 supported the project.

The Wellington City Council and Greater Wellington did a commendable job in processing the application and making a timely decision. I am sure they were relieved that the Environment Court confirmed the councils’ original decisions.

Wind farms are assuming greater importance in our energy mix as New Zealand and the rest of the world look for ways to meet the challenges posed by climate change.

Last week, I announced a significant part of the Labour-led Government’s plan to fight climate change.

We believe that an emissions trading scheme, which puts a price on emissions, creates the right incentives across the economy to use fuel and energy more efficiently, and to think about how we use resources and manage our land.

Stationary energy, which includes electricity generation, will join the scheme in 2010.

The government’s emission trading scheme has been very well received. I believe New Zealanders are ready to take responsibility for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Meridian’s recent carbon credit auctions demonstrate the public’s interest and willingness to take action.

The Government has also agreed on specific medium and long-term objectives and targets to move New Zealand towards greater sustainability.

- By 2025 our target is to have ninety per cent of electricity generated from renewable sources.

- By 2040 our target is to reduce by half per capita emissions from transport.

- We aim to be one of the first countries to introduce electric vehicles widely, and;

- By 2020 we aim to achieve a net increase in forest area of 250,000 hectares.

Achieving those targets will move us significantly towards our vision of New Zealand becoming carbon neutral.

With this programme our electricity sector could reasonably be seen as carbon neutral by 2025, the rest of our stationary energy sector by 2030, and our transport sector by 2040.

I want to talk more about two of these targets.

The renewable energy target is affordable and achievable. With our plentiful renewable energy resources, it is easier for New Zealand to commit to a low emissions electricity system than almost any country.

We do need a high rate of investment in new renewable generation from our abundant renewable resources.

Projects such as West Wind and investment in renewable generation from companies like Meridian Energy will be critical in meeting our target.

The emissions trading scheme will encourage more renewable electricity by favouring low emissions generation over fossil fuelled generation.

Further initiatives will be announced in the coming weeks.

The second target I want to talk about is that objective to be the first country to widely deploy electric vehicles.

With our high renewable energy use, electric vehicles make good environmental and economic sense. We could become world leaders in producing sustainable transport energy.

It is very encouraging that Meridian shares our vision. Last month, Meridian announced that it will run a trial of electric vehicles next year.

I commend Meridian on its leadership in this area. It makes sense for the company, as a renewable generator with a commitment to becoming carbon neutral, to trial electric vehicles.

The government will be watching this trial with great interest.

As I remarked in my Prime Minister’s statement to Parliament early this year, New Zealand’s future is dependent on long-term sustainable strategies for our economy, society, environment, and culture.

These strategies have to be driven by strong leadership and sound policies.

Two more important sustainability strategies will be released next month : the New Zealand Energy Strategy and the New Zealand Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy. They set out the government’s vision for a sustainable energy system and the initiatives we will be undertaking to achieve it.

These initiatives will complement the emissions trading scheme.

The Minister of Energy, David Parker has already welcomed the input from thousands of businesses, groups, and individuals on New Zealand's energy and climate change future.

We’re very grateful to all those who took the time to make submissions, and give us the benefit of their considered views on the wide range of issues covered by the draft strategies and the companion documents.

The next few years in the energy industry will be both challenging and exciting, and we look forward to working with key stakeholders as we develop a more sustainable nation.

This new wind farm, once operational, is an important step along the way. It gives me great pleasure to be here as construction gets underway.


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