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Clean coal investment hints at huge opportunities

Major clean coal investment hints at huge opportunities for New Zealand

A $100 million investment in clean coal and alternative energy research announced today could produce huge returns for New Zealand – and means the country is making long-term energy choices to do things better rather than opt for a cold shower.

The New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development says Solid Energy's announcement that it will make the huge investment over the next 20 years, in a bid to develop cleaner ways of burning coal and capturing and storing C02 greenhouse gas emissions, reflects the balanced approach New Zealanders back when thinking about meeting our energy needs – while protecting the environment and managing climate change.

Business Council Chief Executive Peter Neilson says the move to launch a detailed survey of possible land-based CO2 storage sites in Otago and Southland will provide people in regions with major coal reserves, and major coal using industries, with significant hope that sustainable, profitable, and environmentally responsible economic growth is realistically on the cards for the future.

The country has an estimated 15 billion tonnes of coal in its main fields, in the Waikato, Taranaki, West Coast, Otago and Southland regions. Coal is being used to generate about 12% of the country's electricity. Significant businesses, like the Glenbrook steel mill and Huntly power station, and other businesses in the dairy, meat, timber and heath industries rely heavily on coal for energy.

"A breakthrough to cleaner coal use will open up huge opportunities for sustainable business development. We don't have a shortage of future energy sources in New Zealand, just the challenge of making their use compatible with our environmental concerns, particularly climate change," Mr Neilson says.

"Clean coal technology and sequestration of CO2 is the most promising approach internationally and it's likely to provide a reliable low-cost source of electricity and liquid fuels, without putting CO2 into the atmosphere.

"Some environmentalists here argue we should not use coal at all. We have to be careful that we don't get trapped into thinking of coal as a technology that created the dark satanic mills. It may well become the cleanest fuel available going forward. A breakthrough will allow some regions here to develop and sustainably maintain energy-intensive industries.

"The research investment Solid Energy is making, along with its Australian-based research partners, also holds out the prospect of significant earnings from any new technology, given the reliance of major developing nations like China and India on coal for electricity.

"Solid Energy's decision to invest $100 million in clean coal and alternative energy research highlights the choice we face as a country – to close down all the coal use options and take a cold shower, or take a balanced and positive approach holding out hope for future energy security and economic growth undertaken in a way which enhances the environment and our quality of life," Mr Neilson says.

Ends

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