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Plan Now To Avoid Future Power Crises

Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons today said New Zealand needed to develop long-term plans to avoid future power crises due to low hydro lake levels.

Ms Fitzsimons said with the changing global climate it was increasingly risky to rely on the rainfall patterns of the past and new environmentally friendly technologies needed to be used to ensure reliable power supplies.

A Treasury report has warned the Government that low hydro lake levels combined with lower than average rainfall could lead to a worse situation next year. "This is what climate change specialists have been saying for some time," she said.

Ms Fitzsimons said New Zealand should plan to do four main things:

1. It is low rainfall combined with cold winters which creates a shortfall. So we should aim to reduce the need for winter space heating. It is possible to build homes that require very little heating by using good solar design which costs no more than conventional building. We need a national programme to ensure solar design is understood by architects and builders and is demanded by those buying homes. Along with this much be the insulation and draught and damp proofing of all older homes, which still need it.

2. The electricity wholesale market must be redesigned to mimic as far as possible the integrated generation system we used to have under ECNZ where water was used for the benefit of the whole system and not for competitive advantage. The present system leads to incentives to spill water to get a competitive advantage. We must get the most benefit we possibly can out of the nation's water resources which belong to the people, not to private companies.

3.If we build enough generation capacity to replace hydro in dry years we will have to pay for it to stand idle all the rest of the time. Instead we need a staged conservation plan which kicks in only on those rare occasions that we are heading for a shortage. If we start early enough to do the easy things like turning off equipment when it is not being used, we will get through most shortages without ever having to do the hard things, which reduce our well-being or affect our economy. The conservation effort this year started far too late, and people didn't understand the most effective things to do.

4. We need to stimulate investment in other power production methods such as wind and waste wood if we are to have a robust and reliable power production system that is not vulnerable to our changing climate. Wind power could play a significant role in helping provide clean, sustainable power to take the load off our struggling hydro system. Some boilers are already being fired on waste wood and producing electricity as well as steam. There are many more opportunities to do these things and we need to do them now.


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