Approval for a $200 million wind farm in Te Uku is a “slap in the face” for Wel Networks consumers who love their power rebates and community grants.
That’s the view of staunch wind farm opponent and candidate in this month’s Wel Energy Trust election, Rodger Gallagher though Trust chairman Garry Mallett disagrees with his assessment.
Mr Gallagher was still awaiting his copy of the commissioners’ resource consent judgment which last week gave the green light to Wel’s proposed wind farm, but said the project would be a very expensive white elephant.
Mr Gallagher is standing for election on a “Restore Rebates” platform, where he argues the massive expense and shaky economics of the wind farm will diminish the amount of rebates or community grants Wel Networks will be able to supply in future.
“This is a real slap in the face for people hoping for more power rebates and community grants, because the company is going to be really short,” he said.
“As most of the wheels have now come off the Government’s climate change policy there will no longer be a carbon credit subsidy available for Wel to build the wind farm, so spending money on it is wasteful.”
He saw little chance of the wind farm solving the energy crisis.
“Earlier this week (Wel Networks chief executive) Julian Elder was telling us to pray for rain. That was after the existing wind farms failed New Zealand again.
“About 100,000 homes could not be provided with electricity from wind farms because there was no wind.
“If Wel is silly enough to go ahead with the wind farm project I can see that in a few years time Dr Elder will be telling us to pray for wind.”
But Mr Mallett disagreed with Mr Gallagher’s analysis.
“What we have got now is a viable project,” he said.
“The company has, in consultation with us, taken the view that we have three options: go ahead and develop the wind farm ourselves, form a joint venture with someone else, or sell what we have got.
“What we have now is something which has a value on the market which we could realise immediately. I am not for a minute saying which option we would take, but if we were going ahead, we have a self-contained investment.”
Wel Networks recorded a profit of $15.8 million for the year ended March 31 a largely static figure after one-off items were taken into account with $22.9 million disbursed to customers in annual discounts.
By Bruce Holloway
2 June 2008
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