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NZ Legislators Confused about ‘Renewable Energy’

The New Zealand Climate Science Coalition


NZ Legislators Confused about ‘Renewable Energy’

“Government power policy decision-makers are confused about so-called ‘renewable energy’,” said Owen McShane, chair of the policy panel of the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition today. He was commenting on an article in National Business Review about the banning of a proposed geothermal plant at Ngawha in Northland.

"This story reveals that figures supplied by the New Zealand Geothermal Association demonstrate that if the Government is serious about ‘greenhouse’ gases it should prefer combined cycle gas plants such as the Genesis 400MW combined cycle gas plant proposed for Rodney District,” said Mr McShane.

“The Minister for Climate Change Issues, David Parker, will not permit the gas powered plant to go ahead because of its energy strategy designed to help us meet our Kyoto commitments. But the expanded 25MW geothermal plant at Ngawha produces about 600 grams of CO2 per kilowatt hour of electricity produced, while the Genesis gas powered plant would produce only about 400 grams of CO2 per kilowatt hour. Geothermal plants always release subterranean CO2 which otherwise would stay underground. Some release very little. Ngawha happens to produce more than a modern combined cycle gas plant. Being ‘renewable’ is not enough.

“This means the fossil fuel driven Genesis plant would be more GHG efficient than the ‘renewable energy’ powered plant at Ngawha,” said Mr McShane..

“Governments around the world have fallen into the trap of assuming that using what they call renewable energy will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions while fossil fuel plants will always increase them. But this is not necessarily so. The Government has committed us to using biofuels to replace a percentage of our petrol and diesel even though, in most cases, the biofuels will produce more greenhouse gas emissions that the petrol when the whole cycle is taken into account.

“The Resource Management Act requires decision makers to favour renewable energy even though renewable energy may reduce our Kyoto commitments in some cases.”

Mr McShane said that Government's need to understand the science and to ensure that decision makers take into account changing technologies and the facts of each and every circumstance. Section 70 of the RMA needs to be amended to read:

"Decision makers shall recognise that 'renewable energy sources' may or may not emit more or less greenhouse gases than fossil fuels and other non-renewable energy sources, and that each application shall be assessed on its overall merits."


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