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Farmers applaud 'realistic' energy strategy

Farmers applaud 'realistic' energy strategy

Federated Farmers is endorsing the New Zealand energy strategy for its realism.

"There's a refreshing realism because the New Zealand economy, as with the global economy, will be dependent on fossil fuels in the near term," says Anders Crofoot, Federated Farmers energy spokesperson.

"Farming is energy reliant. Depending on the farm type, farmers will consume between $18,000 and $60,000 worth of fuel and electricity each year. Our economy hinges on energy, whether that's used in a woolshed at shearing or in a locomotive hauling milk powder to a port.

"For some time crude oil has been New Zealand's fourth largest merchandise export, with over $2 billion exported in the year to June. The door is now open for our country to become a net exporter of petroleum and that would be great for the balance of trade.

"The fact is we're only scratching the surface of what we're naturally blessed with. Coal-to-fertiliser proposals, like what SolidEnergy is working on with Ravensdown, demonstrate how we can responsibly harness our mineral resources.

"The strategy also signals that biomass could become a renewable driver. This highlights how environmental impacts need to be taken in the round. If farms get close to energy self-sufficiency, then biological emissions will be recycled as energy, just as dairy farmers currently recycle their dairy washdown as liquid fertilizer.

"It's a future farmers are seeing at the processor level. Silver Fern Farms Balclutha plant generates 8.5MW from process waste sludge via a biofuel boiler. Fonterra has reduced its annual electricity usage equivalent to some 100,000 households.

"If anything, it may be a case of 'back to the future'. Before mechanisation, about 10 percent of any farm was used to grow feed for working animals.

"We're not quite there with current farm scale technologies because the costs outweigh the benefits. That said, these technologies are bounding ahead and the Energy Strategy specifically names bioenergy as a research priority. Federated Farmers endorses that.

"As business consumers, we also support the work of the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority. Energy conservation is about responsible resource use and that's a message farmers understand," Mr Crofoot concluded.

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