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Marsden B will make $500m Kyoto deficit harder

27 September 2005

Marsden B will make $500m Kyoto deficit harder to avoid

Firing up Marsden B on coal will make it even more difficult to reduce New Zealand's carbon emissions and the $500 million Kyoto deficit they are projected to cost, Green Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons says.

Independent commissioners yesterday granted initial resource consent, with a number of strict conditions, for Mighty River Power to re-commission the mothballed power station near Whangarei.

"Has the Kyoto cost of Marsden B's carbon emissions been factored into the cost of the electricity it will produce?" Ms Fitzsimons says.

"There has been a lot of political hand wringing about the cost of the Kyoto Protocol since the Government revealed earlier this year that updated net carbon estimates put New Zealand $500 million in deficit rather than $500 million in surplus. The Greens argued at the time that a trend is not destiny and that New Zealand could still financially benefit from Kyoto if we did actually take the necessary steps to cut our carbon emissions.

"The commissioners who granted this consent were not allowed to take into account its effect on New Zealand's climate change emissions, as a result of an amendment to the RMA last year. The Government decided that greenhouse emissions should be dealt with nationally, by a carbon charge.

"My efforts to ensure that the amendment did not come into force until the carbon charge was in place were not agreed to by the Minister. Now we still have no carbon charge and no consideration of climate change under the RMA and this plant has slipped through the cracks.

"However it is by no means clear that Mighty River Power will be able to meet the strict conditions on local emissions, particularly mercury, which has been set at one twelfth of the level the company sought. Burning coal is a dirty process and the barriers to keeping it clean are enormous.

"Even from an efficiency point of view, re-firing such an out-of-date piece of equipment is shortsighted. Only 34 percent of the heat produced by burning the coal will land up being turned into electricity. The carbon emissions per unit of electricity generated will be substantially higher than from a new, more efficient coal-fired plant.

"We do have alternatives. There are good wind sites in Northland. There is a lot of waste wood in Northland that could be used in industry. We could use our remaining gas as a direct fuel in Auckland rather than wasting half of it by turning it into electricity. There are major untapped opportunities for improved energy efficiency," Ms Fitzsimons says.

ENDS

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