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Generation cannot be delayed, says Trustpower

A nationwide electricity savings drive will not reduce demand enough to significantly delay the need for new power generation, Trustpower says.

Spokesman Graeme Purches said at the height of the 2001 power crisis, when the Government called on people to cut electricity consumption, the 10% savings target was barely managed.

That was achieved with the aid of big power consumers, such as the Comalco aluminium smelter, significantly cutting production.

“Businesses couldn’t sustain such production cuts like that over an extended period and remain in business,” he said.

Mr Purches was responding to a call from anti-wind farm lobby group Rational Energy Debate to make conservation of energy the priority, allowing time for new technologies to develop and more serious debate.

The group has called for all wind farm developments to be postponed until the pros and cons of wind power generation can be “independently and competently” assessed.

However, Mr Purches said demand for electricity continued to grow and new generation was needed now.

He was well aware of the strong feeling against wind farms in some quarters, but argued they were the best renewable energy option available in terms of cost, environmental impact and construction time.

Hydro-electric generation took a long time to build, and was highly vulnerable to dry spells as power crises in recent years had shown.

Wave energy was yet to develop enough to be considered seriously, and solar energy was prohibitively expensive, he said.

Trustpower plans a $600 million wind farm near Mahinerangi which would generate 300MW, with between 83 and 150 turbines.

The company submitted consent applications earlier this year but, after strong opposition, decided to withdraw its application from the Dunedin City Council for the meantime, and it will submit revised applications to the Otago Regional Council and the Clutha District Council this month.

Trustpower is also evaluating a site at Otaraia, near Gore, and expects to lodge a resource consent within six months.

Over the past three years there has been a flurry of interest in wind farms nationally, but Mr Purches said a lot of sites which were evaluated would never generate power.

He agreed with Central Otago Mayor Malcolm Macpherson, who earlier this year likened the existing interest in wind farms to a goldrush.

“There’s been prospectors, if you like, roaring round the place saying “˜New Zealand needs more electricity generation . . . we should get in now, do some monitoring and see if there’s any potential for a wind farm here’,” Mr Purches said.

“A lot of the people doing that have no experience with wind farms, and certainly no experience with wind farms in New Zealand.”

By Blair Mayston