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Clean, green and quick, but not happening here


25 May 2000

Clean, green and quick, but not happening here

There is a good chance New Zealand is going to be beaten by Australia again ­ this time in an industry area, wind power.

Today¹s (subs: 25/5) national wind energy conference in Wellington heard that New Zealand is losing employment and investment to Australia, while the local industry continues to stagnate.

New Zealand Wind Energy Association chairman Mr Paul van Lieshout said the issue was urgent. The country was missing out on jobs and clean energy sources, while the Government played catch-up on policy.

"New Zealand is clearly missing out. If we are not careful we will be buying wind turbines from Australia when we could be making them ourselves.

"In Victoria, there¹s a wind turbine manufacturing base under construction which will provide 700 jobs. That¹s just one example.

"In New Zealand, we haven¹t been able to start up more than a couple of real wind farms, although we have one of the best natural wind resources in the world. "There is some fantastic engineering knowledge here, but commercial development is seriously limited."

Mr van Lieshout said wind farm technology was widely accepted as a great option for this country: wind power was available, clean, quick to build and could help reduce greenhouse gas outputs to meet the Kyoto Protocol obligations.

"But wind energy just can¹t compete with fossil fuels for electricity generation under the current set up.

"Fossil fuels have a hidden subsidy, because they¹re producing pollution which the country as a whole has to pay to counteract.

"The Government is making good noises. We had both Ministers of Energy and Environment speaking positively at the conference, but they don¹t have actual initiatives to announce yet.

"They say wind power is a real option for future electricity supply partly because it will reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

"That¹s great. And we understand they have a lot on as a new government, catching up on years of policy neglect while also balancing the books."

But what the industry players could see was that action was needed immediately, if the country wasn¹t to miss the boat, he said.

"We¹ve told them what needs addressing if they really want the clean, renewable energy industry to grow in New Zealand.

"We need targets set that give the country a clear direction towards building our renewable energy sources.

"And we need the playing field tilted back to level again. Otherwise, we can¹t help but lose when we¹re playing uphill.

"Australia¹s doing really well because their government has taken a position. "To reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, they¹ve set targets for increasing their electricity generation from renewable energy, and they are putting millions into industry development initiatives."

Wind farm developer Alistair Wilson told the conference in his view the boat might have already gone.

He said while New Zealand had the potential to run the lowest cost, unsubsidised wind power in the world, in the current set up there were few sites where it would be economic to build a new wind farm.

New Zealand faced stiff competition for international investment, while skilled labour was attracted to greener pastures in Australia.

Mr van Lieshout said there was no need to accept this pessimistic view. If the Government acted to level the playing field, then there could be up to 60 good sites for new wind farms.

"We want to be part of New Zealand¹s response to reducing greenhouse gases and to meet our Kyoto Protocol obligations. We want to create jobs here in turbine manufacture, but there¹ll be no growth without real policy action.

"We look forward to seeing the Government act, and soon." [ends]

For more information, please contact Paul van Lieshout, Tel 04 495 8505 or Mobile 021 519 085 Or Ian Shearer, manager, NZ Wind Energy Association Tel 025 306 004

-- Ian Shearer Manager New Zealand Wind Energy Association P O Box 553 Wellington, New Zealand [Courier:130 Hutt Rd, Petone] Phone: +64-4-586 2003 Fax: +64-4-586 2004 Mobile 025 306 004 Email: nzwea@windenergy.org.nz

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