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Crucial connections needed in electricity sector

Crucial connections needed in the electricity sector

New Zealand's electricity sector has come under the scrutiny of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Dr Morgan Williams. Speaking at the launch of Electricity, Energy and the Environment yesterday, Dr Williams emphasised that "The time has come to make some crucial connections. We need to examine the options for how electricity is used and provided in New Zealand and how our choices impact on sustainability. These connections are essential for achieving significant social and economic gains, and for putting us onto an environmentally sustainable pathway."

There has been plenty of debate about electricity over the last few months. This has mostly focused on 'keeping the lights on'. New Zealand, like other developed countries, has recently experienced some significant challenges in this area. Dr Williams notes that "Although short-term difficulties need to be addressed, it is vital not to lose sight of a long term vision. To avoid future energy crunches, we need to critically examine how we think about and use electricity, as well as developing environmentally sustainable sources of electricity supply."

Dr Williams was speaking at the launch of a draft 'assessment framework' to politicians, chief executives of government agencies, members of the electricity industry, NGO's and consumer groups. The Commissioner is seeking comment on the framework that will be used for making ongoing environmental assessments of New Zealand's electricity sector. Assessments of this type have not been undertaken anywhere else in the world. The framework is therefore very much 'new territory'.

The Commissioner believes the assessments can play an important role. By maintaining a long-term view, Dr Williams comments that "There are enormous opportunities that can be gained from the assessments. It makes sense to get more from our existing resources, as well as capitalising on our significant sources of renewable energy. In essence, it is part of a worldwide movement to 'get more, from less, for longer' in the energy and natural resource sectors."

While maintaining an independent position, the Commissioner will work with participants in the sector to forge the development of a secure and sustainable electricity system.

The Commissioner is seeking feedback on the proposed assessment framework until 30 September 2003. Free copies of the discussion document, and an associated background paper, can be obtained from http://www.pce.govt.nz or by contacting the Commissioner's office.

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