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Conflicting Messages - Officials on Energy Policy

Press Release from New Zealand Wind Energy Association 28 March 2000.

Conflicting Messages from Government Officials on Energy Policy Directions.

The New Zealand Wind Energy Association (NZWEA) congratulates Tararua Wind Power with obtaining the first prize in the Energy-Wise 2000 Renewables Award by the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA), an independent arm of government. The Minister of Energy, the Hon Pete Hodgson mentioned during the award ceremony that Tararua Wind Power, in building a wind farm near Palmerston North in 1999, has helped New Zealand achieve a significant reduction in the emissions of greenhouse gases.

"EECA, in promoting the Energy-Wise Awards, is to be congratulated for working hard to support and promote energy efficiency and renewable energy projects" says Mr Paul van Lieshout, chairman of NZWEA. The Minister of Energy, reflecting Labour's election policies on these issues, has been an outspoken supporter of the work EECA is doing.

Mr van Lieshout noted that other governmental departments seem to be unaware of the economic opportunities that wind power and other renewable energy industries could bring to New Zealand.

In February the Ministry of Commerce (MoC) released a background paper (NZ Energy Outlook to 2020) on projections for future electricity generation. This paper predicted that the use of renewable energy for power generation in New Zealand would decline by a further 30% over the next 20 years. The paper predicted significant increases in coal and gas use for electricity generation. These forecasts suggest an increase of almost 40 percent higher greenhouse gas emissions by 2010 compared to the 1990 levels.

NZWEA was encouraged that the Minister of Energy immediately refuted the report as not being based on Government policy positions, including a commitment to ratify the Kyoto agreement on reductions of greenhouse gases. He asked the new Ministry of Economic Development (previously the MoC) to redo the calculations without the use of coal as a fuel for electricity generation purposes. Coal is the most damaging fuel source in terms of release of pollutants and greenhouse gases.

"But this policy direction message from the Minister is still not getting through to Government officials" according to van Lieshout, who finds it amazing that the supplementary report produced by Ministry of Economic Development and released today only replaces the coal with gas fuelled generation and not wind power. The report then argues that this gas scenario could raise the electricity price by 26 percent.

Mr van Lieshout argues that "if the Ministry of Economic Development had replaced the 13% of coal based electricity in their model with wind energy then the electricity cost would not be dearer than today¹s commercially viable Tararua Wind Power project. And the added benefit would be no emissions of damaging pollutants and green house gasses".

He continues "Ignoring wind power also bypasses wind energy technology employment opportunities for New Zealand. Australia has embarked on a modest policy to ensure that renewable energy supplies increase by 2%, is seeing that European companies setting up local factories to produce wind turbines. A Victorian company, which is expected to grow to 700 employees in the near future, has just started manufacturing generators for these wind turbines."

Throughout the world, wind energy generation is now growing at more than 25% per year, and the cost of wind turbines continues to drop. New Zealand¹s abundant wind resource could supply at least 20% of New Zealand¹s electricity needs. Wind power is a perfect "companion" energy source to our existing large hydro-power systems - water can be conserved when the wind is blowing.

The forecasted decline in renewable energy generation sources in New Zealand is against all international trends. "NZWEA calls on the Minister to establish a target for renewable energy power generation that restores it to more than 85% of the total by 2012 (the end of the first Kyoto Protocol commitment period). There should be no additional fossil-fuelled power stations installed during this period," said Mr van Lieshout.

"The Minister should ask his officials to examine this target in the context of international experience with wind power. NZWEA can show how this target can be achieved without increasing retail electricity prices and would be pleased to work with officials to this end," concluded Mr van Lieshout.

ENDS

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