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Electricity sector needs clear strategy

Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment
Te Kaitiaki Taiao a Te Whare Päremata

Media release

24 July 2006

TO: Energy and environment reporters

FROM: Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment

Electricity sector needs clear strategy

In the shadow of climate change and rising fossil fuel prices, it is essential that New Zealand’s electricity sector has a clear long term strategy, says Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Dr Morgan Williams.

Such a strategy must have three aims, he says: to raise the sector’s efficiency; to improve its resilience so it can withstand whatever the future holds; and to take fossil fuels out of electricity generation as rapidly as possible.

“Energy policy in recent years has tended to be short-term and crisis driven, particularly around security of supply. The Government has a responsibility to outline a clear view of where we are headed, and the Electricity Commission needs to put that into practice.”

Dr Williams was drawing on his latest report, “Electricity, energy and the environment: Environmental performance assessment 1 July 2004 – 30 June 2005”, tabled in Parliament on 24 July 2006. The report contains six recommendations to the Electricity Commission, and seven to the government. It shows that although the Electricity Commission is asking the right questions about the electricity sector and making good progress on energy efficiency, overall the sector still lacks a clear strategic direction.

The Commission has been overseeing the sector since March 2004, but it has still not developed an environmental sustainability framework, says Dr Williams. This means we don’t know how they make decisions that affect the environment, what criteria they use, and how the sector will achieve the government’s environmental aims.

“At the moment the major players, who favour building more big projects to generate more power, dominate industry thinking”, he says. However, New Zealand’s energy future lies in smart thinking and making better use of what we generate.

“We must focus on getting more from our electricity supply, developing renewable sources, and promoting local and distributed generation.”


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