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Reasons for hope but not optimism

25 May 2000

Reasons for hope but not optimism

Government minister statements to a wind energy conference in Wellington today gave reasons for hope, though not yet optimism, said Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons. New Zealand had to change its energy sources fast, to have any chance of coping with the "twin missiles bearing down on us which will hit in the next decade", she told the New Zealand Wind Energy Association annual conference.

The two big threats were climate change, and oil depletion, which was looming as a disturbing, although barely admitted reality.

Clean renewable energy sources like wind power had to be given room to develop, Ms Fitzsimons said.

Wind energy faced an uphill battle against the current electricity market structure and the hidden subsidies for fossil fuel generators, who did not pay for the environmental and health costs they created.

Government had signalled a commitment to dealing with these issues, through the electricity industry inquiry, the passing of the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Act, the announcement to ratify the Kyoto Protocol in 2002, and promises to consider polluter pays taxes, she said.

Greenpeace campaigns manager Tricia Allen agreed the Labour Coalition Government was "grasping the nettle" of the difficult climate change issue, but needed encouraging. Wind energy should not be left waiting in the wings as an "almost competitive, fossil-fuel-free source of energy".

"It¹s been said before: why is New Zealand so brilliant at sailing but so useless at using its wind for electricity generation."

Minister of Energy Hon Pete Hodgson had earlier told the New Zealand Wind Energy Association annual conference that the Government wanted to assist wind energy to play "an appropriate role".

It was not unreasonable to suggest that wind power could be supplying 20 percent of New Zealand¹s electricity by 2020, he said.

While the conference came too early for him to be able to announce new policy, the industry should watch what the next year brought.

He agreed with the association¹s argument that there had to be changes to electricity market structures to allow renewable energy sources to develop.

Key issues were barriers to small local energy generation, and accounting for the real costs of fossil fuel pollution.

"This Government, I would assert, has demonstrated already a political will to address these issues."

Action already taken this year included the passing of Jeanette Fitzsimons¹ Energy Efficiency and Conservation Act, and the establishment of the Electricity Industry Inquiry.

While Mr Hodgson refused to hint at the likely results of the inquiry, which is due to report to him on 12 June, he promised any necessary legislation would be introduced this calendar year.

He said the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Act required the Government to promote energy efficiency, conservation and the use of renewable energy, and to develop a national strategy by April 2001.

At the same time, the announcement that New Zealand would ratify the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gas reduction in June 2002 set the Government a tight timeframe.

Legislation would have to be introduced to Parliament by November 2001, which meant the policy work had to be completed in 18 months.

Mr Hodgson, the coordinating minister for climate change response policy, said he expected "a series of reasonably crunchy decisions" would be made by November this year. That would not include a decision on any carbon charge, however, although the possibility of polluter taxes would be investigated.

Carbon charges would be considered as part of the taxation review and the decision taken to the electorate in the 2002 election.

The Minister for the Environment Hon Marion Hobbs also addressed the conference, reiterating the Government¹s commitment to climate change action within New Zealand. [ends]

For more information about the New Zealand Wind Energy Association conference, 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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