The Energy Minister is pushing for a seven fold increase in the amount of power generated by wind turbines.
David Parker said today on TVOne’s Agenda that there is substantial room to increase turbine numbers.
“It’s about 2% of our generation at the moment. it might go up about sevenfold to around 15%”
Currently there are 241 turbines nationally; the increase could see that rise to a total of almost 1700.
The minister acknowledged there will be some community opposition to an increase in wind power generation.
“I know that people around the Manawatu are thinking ‘You know when is enough enough’ and those are proper questions to be asked.”
He said that while such moves might be unpopular, the process will be governed independently through the Resource Management Act, and won’t become a political football.
“RMA rules are still applied, there’s no difference in the point of law, it’s chaired by a judge, it’s independent of political interference.”
Banks’ Says ‘Yes’ To Pubilic Transport
Auckland’s new mayor John Banks will focus this term on encouraging the use of public transport, and won’t be supporting major roading projects such a second harbour crossing and the eastern corridor.
The mayor said today on TVOne’s Agenda that he would focus on public transport rather than roads.
“My focus this three years is about public transport, getting people out of their cars and into public transport.”
Mr Banks said he supports the electrification of the Auckland rail network, but more has to be done to attract rail passengers.
“What we do need is modern trains, modern rolling stock that run on time.”
He said it was unlikely Auckland would see a second harbour crossing within his lifetime, and that other roading projects were also in doubt.
“The people of Auckland have said they don’t want an eastern transport corridor across Hobson bay – it’s a dead cat and I don’t bounce dead cats.”
Mr Banks said there was an anomaly in the fact that Auckland still uses diesel trains, but has a clean and green image.
“We wax lyrically about wind farms and wind power. but we have diesel trains across Auckland.”
FULL TRANSCRIPT FOLLOWS:
©Front Page Ltd 2007 but may be used provided attribution is made to TVOne and “Agenda”
Presented by RAWDON CHRISTIE
RAWDON The government’s energy strategy is certainly comprehensive but it will also now be very political and yesterday’s local body results won’t help with Mayors like John Banks previously reluctant to turn away from building more roads, but within parliament the government will have to get political support for many of its proposals, at the core of that deal making will be the Greens. The Minister of Energy David Parker is in our Dunedin studio and the Green Party Co-Leader, Jeanette Fitzsimons is in Auckland. They join Guyon Espiner now.
GUYON ESPINER – TVNZ One News
Well David Parker, let’s start with how realistic this energy strategy is. You’re effectively banning new coal and gas plants and generation to a move to 90% renewables, I mean where is this power going to come from?
DAVID PARKER – Minister of Energy
Well firstly I’ll make the point that we’ve said all new generation should be renewable except to the extent necessary for security of supply. So if security of supply was threatened we’d build more, we’ve also made it clear that we don’t think there’s a need for more base load of thermal capacity from fossil fuels, and that means that we’re very confident that we’re gonna get more generation capacity from geothermal and wind. Demand grows at about 150 megawatts a year, we know that we’ve got an excess of 1000 megawatts of geothermal out there and even more wind.
GUYON And wind is going to be one of your main sources isn’t it. I mean you envisage under the Electricity Commission in this document a sevenfold increase in wind power by 2016. Now that could be quite frightening to some communities, explosion in the number of wind turbines that are going to be potted all over New Zealand.
DAVID` Well sevenfold that’s right but it’s off a pretty low base, it’s about 2% of our generation at the moment, it could get up to 20% and as you say this sort of posits you know predicts that it might go up about sevenfold to around 15%. Yes it is true that any form of electricity generation has adverse environmental effects and of course the main effect in respect of wind farms is landscape effects. I know that people around Manawatu are thinking you know when is enough enough and those are proper questions to be asked and the RMA will sort out that balance.
GUYON Well Jeanette Fitzsimons do you have a problem with this, I mean we’re going to see something like – we’ve got 250 nearly wind turbines here now, that could go close to 1700 I mean that’s going to put some fear into some of these communities isn’t? How do you feel about that?
JEANETTE FITZSIMONS – Co-Leader Green Party
It’s all a question of where you put them Guyon and also whether you continue building the very big ones, the three megawatt ones or whether there is a role for some smaller ones, say half megawatt ones which are more of a community scale and we community might feel more sense of ownership for them, but look if it comes to a choice between some hilltops have wind turbines on them which is just a visual thing and changing the climate, then really there’s no choice at all.
GUYON Well can I ask you whether you would be comfortable living close to a wind farm, these are big big structures aren’t they?
JEANETTE Well I do live close to a wind turbine, we have one that powers our farm and yes I would feel comfortable living close to them provided the noise was adequately controlled and the rules now do that pretty well, and modern turbines are pretty quiet. I don’t have a problem with them. Look at the structures we’ve already got all over New Zealand in terms of power line structures, pylons, and we’ve lived with those for more than 100 years and people generally don’t complain and yet they’re put in some places where they look ghastly, so I think it’s relative and I think you need careful siting and you need proper consultation with the community.
GUYON Okay Minister, back to you on this. Your government is going to have to call in a lot more projects aren’t they, I mean you’re gonna have community resistance to some of these things, you’re going to have to use those call in powers a lot more surely.
DAVID Well we might do but can I make the point that call in powers don’t change the environmental test, district plan rules are still applied, RMA rules are still applied, there’s no difference in the point of law, it’s chaired by a judge, it’s independent of political interference. What call in process does is have one hearing on the facts instead of two. You know I actually come from a background of environmental law, I used to act for objectors at times as well as applicants and I know that things that are automatically going to go on appeal, it often frustrates people that they’ve gotta run this gauntlet twice rather than having just one decent hearing.
GUYON Okay well let’s talk about that gauntlet that you mention, why don’t you just amend the Act, I mean you’ve got this national policy statement, I mean why don’t you just change the Act to make it easier to get these things built?
DAVID Well we did consider doing that in 2005 and there was virtually universal opposition from both applicants councils and objector groups, environmental groups, and they were right to point out that that was a flawed idea because the reality is that nine out of ten things that go to council hearings don’t get appealed, and if you just have only one hearing on the facts you cause those nine hearings to cause over ever stone because they don’t give another chance, so you load cost on the nine hearings to save cost on the tenth. So that’s why we actually think that local decision making is appropriate for most of these things but that occasionally you should call them in.
GUYON Can I just get it from you today, what is the future for hydro?
DAVID Well I think there will be some more hydro but not a lot more hydro, we make the point that although water is a renewable resource unmodified rivers are a very finite resource and that’s a view that’s very strongly held down in the lower half of the South Island for example where a lot of our rivers are already dammed. Now that actually coincides with the economics anyway which is good. Our cheapest baseload is actually geothermal and we’ve got a lot of that, and that’s what I think we’ll see most developed.
GUYON And Project Aqua completely dead now?
DAVID No there is a smaller version of Project Aqua which is making its way through the courts at the moment, through – there’s a council hearing at the moment before commissioners. I suspect that whatever the outcome of that is it’s likely to go on appeal to the Environment Court and they’ll make the decision. The second version of that has a lot less impact on the environment than the first. The canal structures turn into tunnels and things, so that’s really for the Environment Court to determine in the end.
GUYON Okay, can we move to security of energy supply, because our critics on this strategy say you know we’ve had a couple of dry years, a couple of brown out scenarios in the last few years, I mean if we get rid of coal and we get rid of gas, we get rid of the Rodney Project, we get rid of maybe Huntly in a few years, were gonna have some problems aren’t we?
JEANETTE Well what we’re talking about is the gradual phase out of existing thermal as new wind and geothermal come on board, but the other thing to remember is that security of supply is just as much about demand as it is about supply and the part of the strategy that I’ve been leading the energy efficiency part is going to reduce demand by putting in place much more efficient technology over the next few years.
GUYON That sounds good but those schemes in the past have saved very very little, what was the last one 1.5% something like that.
JEANETTE Well hang on that’s actually not true. If you look at what we’ve done since the Act came in just in six years with energy using appliances, for an investment of three million dollars we have saved consumers 60 million dollars in electricity bills by having more efficient fridges, washing machines, etc.
GUYON It’s still around the margins though isn’t it in terms of reducing consumption.
JEANETTE But this strategy has a much larger programme for energy efficiency and across the board we have calculated that if all those programmes are delivered we will save 30 times the electricity that Nelson uses by 2025, that’s a lot of power.
GUYON That is a lot of power. Minister back to you on one of the schemes that you’re looking at for transport, you’re talking about New Zealand becoming a world leader in the uptake of electric vehicles, is that really realistic given the size of the New Zealand market?
DAVID Well I don’t think we’ll be the developers of most electric car technology, but we aim to be one of the early adopters because they make such good economic sense as well as environmental sense for New Zealand. Can I just talk about the security issue cos I think that’s a really important issue that you raise. Let’s not forget New Zealand used to have 90% renewables, we’re just aiming to get back there.
GUYON But renewables have been dropping under your government though haven’t they?
DAVID Well that’s true but that’s largely been as a consequence of the Maui gas field declining and we have more reliance on coal as a consequence, but we need to reverse that trend and that’s what we’re proposing to do.
GUYON Let me come back to transport, we spoke to the Managing Director of Honda, now you use a Honda electric vehicle in your strategy document, he was telling us that his company’s electric cars could be 30 years away before they come in any scale into New Zealand. How realistic is this uptake?
DAVID Well I know that Mitsubishi are proposing to have a wide deployment of electric vehicles at the small car end of the market within the next few years. We also know that battery technology which is effectively the key to whether electric cars come forward, is proceeding very quickly overseas.
GUYON Okay well let’s look at another way that we can reduce emissions through transport, and that’s through the use of public transport, you must be pretty disappointed at the sort of stories that came out this week showing that Aucklanders are taking longer than at anytime since 2003 to get to work despite the road building programme.
JEANETTE I think it’s absolutely predictable that if you put most of your money into building roads they will get more congested. I spoke years ago to Infrastructure Auckland as it was then who wanted to build a whole lot more motorways, I said if you build everything you want to build, get unlimited money for roads in the next ten years how much will it chance congestion, how much will it improve and they said oh it will get worse, and the message from all over the world is that building roads doesn’t reduce congestion, building better public transport does and that’s what we’ve now finally persuaded the government to start doing, and I have to say over the eight years they’ve been there they’ve gone from spending almost nothing on public transport to spending quite a bit more. In our view it’s not enough yet but it’s a good start we’re electrifying the Auckland rail at last, we’ve bought back the rail track nation wide, there’s a 500 million package going into Wellington rail, we’ve started to turn that corner but we’ve got to put much more momentum in it if we’re going to deal with the twin challenges of rising oil prices and climate change.
GUYON Okay good place to leave it for me but I’m sure there’s thing that Rawdon and the panel would like to pick up on.
RAWDON Thanks for that Guyon, Brian let’s start with you.
BRIAN FALLOW – New Zealand Herald
Minister I was struck by something you said on Friday that suggests that the ban on more gas fire generation is not just about climate change but maybe about conserving our remaining gas supplies and averting or putting off the evil day when we have to import liquefied natural gas an expensive sort of fuel to have driving electricity prices. Was that one of the things at the back of – or even toward the front of your mind when you came up with this part of the strategy?
DAVID Indeed, in my opinion going renewable actually improves our security of supply rather than dilutes it. People have got pretty short memories you know, just a couple of years ago the government had to give an underwrite for Genesis to build a gas fired power station that we really needed for security of supply, and even now Contact and Genesis are investigating the feasibility of LNG infrastructure so as to import gas, now if that happened of course our electricity prices would go through the ceiling.
BRIAN Okay but isn’t there a danger that if you limit the market for gas you don’t create much of an incentive for people to go out looking and finding more, isn’t it a perverse incentive to have this ban in place?
DAVID Well it’s absolutely axiomatic that if you increase the demand for one part of the market you’re gonna decrease demand in the other, that’s an inevitability but that doesn’t mean to say that the current size of the gas market isn’t big enough for it to be worthwhile servicing, and I’ve never accepted the argument that you have to have an ever increasing fossil fuel market in order to have any fossil fuel market.
BRIAN Okay well what about the fact that it’s only a few weeks since you announced a carbon trading regime, the energy strategy lays out a sort of cost curve, how much geothermal how much wind you can do for these prices and they show them being cheaper than gas for some years yet. If you really believe those numbers and you trusted the market why do you need this ban on more thermal generation, won’t the market deliver that anyway? Which is it you don’t trust your prices or your market?
DAVID Well we’ve always said that markets and prices alone will not necessarily be sufficient, we’re in a state of transition. Since we’ve put out the draft strategy we’ve seen Contact put off baseload and I make the point baseload here not peaking plant at Otahuhu, Marsden B with Mighty River Power’s been called off so the liner is turning but it hasn’t yet fully turned and during that period of turning we think there’s need for regulatory rule. It’s very hard for New Zealand to reduce emissions in agriculture, we know it’s pretty hard in transport, we really do have to kill it in electricity generation, because it’s hard to see another area where we can substantially control our emissions as easily.
RAWDON Thanks Minister, I’ll let Carroll come in here, are the consumers going to be convinced?
CARROLL DU CHATEAU – New Zealand Herald
I’m not at all sure that they will, I think once again a lot of it’s going to go back to the ordinary person to pick up a lot of what Jeanette’s talking about, the savings we have to make with the landlords and so on and as we know every New Zealanders way of saving money these days is to have a rental property and so they’re gonna be up for that, are we gonna get the beer fridges given to us.
JEANETTE Well hang on here, look a larger and larger number of New Zealanders are renting homes and they are among the coldest most miserable dampest buildings in the country. Requiring them to be upgraded is going to improve the quality of life of a large number of New Zealanders and it’s not going to hurt the landlords because we’re offering a 50% subsidy and they can get all of the capital benefit. If you look at the beer fridges what the programme is likely to do is offer them a cash grant to take the beer fridge away and then they can either decide we can actually fit enough beer in the main fridge in the house to get through the weekend or we’ll get a rather more efficient little beer fridge to put in the garage, but it’s an optional thing and it offers them money to do it. If you look at the savings that we’re making on fuel, cars coming into the country are going to be 25% more efficient under the new rules by 2015, that’s going to save everybody every time they fill their tank with petrol and filling a tank of petrol is only going to get more expensive as oil prices continue to rise. This programme is really good for consumers that’s where it starts from.
CARROLL Just one more question, why have we taken so long to get our emissions problems under control, testing emissions of the cars?
JEANETTE Well now you’re talking about air quality emissions rather than climate change emissions and that is a matter where the Greens don’t have responsibility but we have been calling for many years for proper emissions testing of vehicles. We are now at least getting some standards about the end of this year that vehicles coming into the country are going to be a lot cleaner than they’ve been in the past. In our view we still need emissions testing at warrant of fitness time for the vehicles that are in the country, in order to clean up the air we breathe.
GUYON Isn’t this all going to load costs on especially to lower income people who are often the people who drive those cars which aren’t as flash and more pollution. I mean aren’t you with all these schemes really just loading costs on to the consumer there?
JEANETTE Poor people are also the ones that tend to live close to motorways and close to areas where air quality is bad. What is the cost to a low income person of dying a few years earlier with respiratory disease and we know about 1100 people a year are dying earlier than they otherwise would. What is the cost to low income people of being hospitalised because of the air that they breath. What is the cost to low income people of continually only being able to buy old cheap cars that guzzle so much gas they can’t afford to fill the tank?
BRIAN Could I add to that last point Guyon. The government’s done modelling through economic modellers, and that shows that even if we have tougher rules to slowly improve the vehicle efficiency of vehicles entering the fleet, the price of vehicles in the New Zealand market is not expected to move much, so we’ll have more efficient vehicles so people won’t have to spend as much on fuel, but the cost of those vehicles isn’t expected to go up much.
RAWDON Minister let me ask you what happens when you have a wind farm ear marked for a marginal seat, what’s going to be more important pushing ahead the strategy or winning the votes in the marginal seat?
DAVID Well as someone who used to hold a marginal seat and no longer does, I can absolutely guarantee that politicians don’t take environmental decisions based on whether it’s going to affect positively or adversely someone in a marginal seat. We are not that cynical, we really do hold environmental values dear in New Zealand and I would you know – I would be long gone as Minister of Energy before we started to sort of play those sorts of games, you can absolutely guarantee that under my watch that won’t happen.
JEANETTE And under MMP you don’t have to. Under MMP the marginal seat doesn’t determine who becomes government, the party vote does and so that is the security against the sort of port barrel politics that you’re worried about.
GUYON The point is though there that these are gonna be big big issues in terms of wind farms being built around the country, people don’t like it, we’ve seen that in Makara, we’ve seen there’s big big resistance and it is going to be a political issue.
JEANETTE Have you seen the huge crowd that turned out in Rodney up in Kaipara against the gas fired plant that Genesis wanted to build? That was massive, those people are very opposed to having a gas fired plant in their community, because they understand about climate change and they want to take action, so it’s not just wind farms that get opposition and you try and build a coal – did you see what happened at Marsden Point when they tried to build a coal plant up there? That was massive too.
RAWDON Thanks Ms Fitzsimons we’re gonna have to move on from here, and thank you also to Minister David Parker.
14 October 2007
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