Wind energy promoters are suggesting charges on the carbon produced by thermal power plants and a renewable energy quota system as ways to support wind power in New Zealand.
New Zealand Wind Energy Association chief executive Fraser Clark told his organisation’s conference in Wellington on Tuesday that a consistent policy was needed from the Government.
The provision of new wind power capacity in this country had spiked in 2004 and this year, although some of the new capacity might not be built until 2008, Mr Clark said.
But other than 2007 development, that could go into next year, so far no more new wind energy projects were on the order books for 2008 or 2009.
“We’ve got 1000 megawatts sitting in the consenting phase but how much of that is going to be built and when might it be built?” he said.
In contrast, worldwide wind energy production had been growing at 25 to 35 per cent a year for about the past six years, with the vast majority of the overseas projects being built in places with lower wind speeds than in this country.
Drivers of the global expansion of wind energy included a need to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, and for security of supply and security of price, Mr Clark said.
This country was feeling more comfortable about its gas supplies for now, but looking at the forward curves there was a point were “apart from the mysterious reserves to be developed” supply was to drop away.
The cost of thermal electricity production was going to rise in this country, and wind power may be an option for meeting future electricity needs.
Mr Clark suggested the wind association should respond to the Government’s proposed energy strategy by proposing that thermal generators should pay a price for the carbon they emitted.
At the same time renewable projects could be made eligible for green credits that can be traded to the emitters.
Bernhard Voll, from Australian company Allco Wind Energy, which has four wind energy projects in this country, said wind energy “desperately” needed support in this country.
Difficulties included a complex, restrictive and expensive resource consent process, and a well developed nimby (not in my backyard) syndrome.
To overcome problems clear government policy was needed, along with an open energy market, more independent power producers, a simplified resource consent process and better transmission infrastructure.
“We have to get these lines up, otherwise we have a big problem in this country,” Mr Voll said.
Support could be provided to the wind energy industry by the introduction of a quota that would require retailers to source at least 25 per cent of their energy from new renewable resources.
Also speaking at today’s conference, Energy Minister David Parker said the Government was considering a consolidated consenting process for wind and geothermal projects that would enable a pool of projects to be called in and considered by the same decision-making panel.
But Mr Clark said such a process would help large scale projects, but not smaller ones, and would therefore create commercial inconsistencies.
Rather each local authority simply needed to treat wind projects in exactly the same manner, with the same tests and thresholds. The Government needed to give the authorities the right tools to adequately assess energy objectives against environmental ones.
“The quickest – and fairest – path to obtaining consent for essential renewable energy projects should be through local authorities,” Mr Clark said.
“Leaving consent applications in the hands of local authorities ensures each project is treated on its merits, and local suitability, and there is local ownership of the decision.”
By Michael Daly
13 March 2007
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