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Cablegate: Sandia Explores Renewable Energy Transportation

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DE RUEHWL #0391/01 3232019
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P 182019Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5546
INFO RUEHAP/AMEMBASSY APIA 0516
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 0445
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RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 0216
RUEHMJ/AMEMBASSY MAJURO 0135
RUEHOT/AMEMBASSY OTTAWA 0340
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RUEHRH/AMEMBASSY RIYADH 0023
RUEHSV/AMEMBASSY SUVA 0774
RUEHNZ/AMCONSUL AUCKLAND 1798
RHEBAAA/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC
RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 WELLINGTON 000391

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ENRG KRGY ELTN KGHG PREL NZ
SUBJECT: SANDIA EXPLORES RENEWABLE ENERGY TRANSPORTATION
PROJECTS

1. (SBU) Summary: On October 31 - November 1, Sandia
National Laboratories (Sandia) representatives Bruce Balfour
and Dr. Blake Simmons visited New Zealand to solicit support
for a Sandia proposal to create a global network of
public-private partnerships for the development and
deployment of low-carbon transportation solutions to combat
global climate change. This was the first of several
international visits planned by Sandia to introduce the
proposal. The New Zealand responses were positive though
there were no solid commitments to HITEC, particularly given
New Zealand's many competing priorities in this sector. End
Summary.

Sandia Looking for Partners
---------------------------

2. (U) Sandia National Laboratories' representatives Bruce
Balfour and Dr. Blake Simmons visited Auckland, Rotorua and
Wellington from October 31 through November 1 and conducted a
series of meetings with GNZ officials, researchers and energy
producers to explain, promote, and obtain support for a
Sandia project entitled the Hub for Innovation in the
Transportation Energy Community (HITEC). Balfour and Simmons
also sought to obtain energy-related contacts and an overview
of renewable energy transportation projects within New
Zealand. Balfour's role within Sandia is to promote external
partnerships and business development for Sandia; Simmons is
the manager of Sandia's Energy Systems Department.

3. (U) Sandia is a USG-owned organization within the U.S.
Department of Energy that is operated under contract by
Lockheed Martin. Its facilities are located in Livermore,
California and Albuquerque, New Mexico. Sandia, born out of
the Manhattan Project in 1945, is the largest of DOE's
national laboratories with approximately 10,000 employees and
a budget of USD 2.4 billion (2007).

HITEC -- A Global Partnership
-----------------------------

4. (U) Sandia envisions HITEC will become a network of
global public-private partnerships involving industry,
governments, national laboratories, and universities with a
goal to discover, develop, deploy, and commercialize
innovative low-carbon transportation energy solutions.
According to Balfour and Simmons, HITEC is in its formative
stage, and NZ was the first country in which the concept was
proposed to potential international partners. Sandia also
intends to visit and solicit participation from Australia,
Britain, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Malaysia, the PRC, and
Saudi Arabia. In the initial phase of HITEC, Sandia is
soliciting letters of support for the project and input for
the make-up of a steering committee that would guide the
structure, funding and work of HITEC. In phase two,
according to Balfour and Simmons, HITEC would use financial
contributions from participating partners to leverage
potential matching funds from DOE, and would seek to engage
other USG agencies in HITEC projects.

New Zealand Not Encouraging
---------------------------

5. (SBU) Balfour and Simmons met with representatives from
several GNZ ministries dealing with energy and
transport-related issues: the Ministry of Research, Science
and Technology (MoRST); the Ministry of Economic Development
(MED); the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF); and
the Ministry of Transportation (MoT). They also discussed
the HITEC proposal with representatives of the National
Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) and Scion
Research Limited (both are GNZ-owned research institutes),
with Meridian Energy Limited (a GNZ-owned electricity
producer), and with Lanzatech New Zealand Limited (a

WELLINGTON 00000391 002 OF 002


privately corporation engaged in energy research and
production). Poloff accompanied Balfour and Simmons in all
of their meetings, with the exception of NIWA, Scion and
Lanzatech.

6. (SBU) Balfour and Simmons said that the reactions to the
HITEC proposal from NIWA, Scion and Lanzatech were
enthusiastic and positive. In fact, according to Balfour and
Simmons, they appeared ready to sign letters of support
immediately, but deferred commitment pending review by the
organizations' leadership. The response from Meridian was
noncommittal and it requested another meeting with the Sandia
representatives during their planned return to New Zealand in
December 2008.

7. (SBU) At the meeting between Balfour, Simmons, and
representatives of the GNZ ministries with energy and
transportation portfolios, the GNZ response was less
optimistic. Eric Pyle, the director of environmental and
social programs for MoRST and the spokesperson for the
ministries that met with Sandia, commented that New Zealand
is a relatively small country with a limited budget and that
the GNZ recently endorsed and committed financial support for
the Energy Development in Island Nations (EDIN) project (a
joint GNZ, USG and Government of Iceland venture to promote
renewable energy development in island nations).
Consequently, Pyle predicted that New Zealand would be
unlikely to endorse participation in HITEC.

Comment: Interested But Spread Thinly
-------------------------------------

8. (SBU) As with all multilateral initiatives, the GNZ is
wary to sign up for fear of spreading its limited resources
too thinly. With the GNZ currently engaged in EDIN,
officials are skeptical they have adequate personnel and
funds to take on another initiative with overlapping
objectives. GNZ-owned research institutes and energy
companies, however, have considerable freedom to engage in
international partnerships without central government
approval (especially with non-GNZ funds received from
independent revenue sources), and they may decide to
participate in HITEC. End Comment.
McCORMICK

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