Energy Strategy gets a facelift - are the changes cosmetic?

Published: Tue 30 Aug 2011 11:35 AM
New Energy Strategy gets a facelift – but are the changes cosmetic?
WWF says the long awaited New Zealand Energy Strategy released today by the Government has been given a ‘facelift’ but still fails to achieve the required shift to a low carbon energy mix and retains its previous plans to expand oil exploration.
The Strategy – a vision for New Zealand’s future energy generation and use – was finally released today by Acting Energy and Resource Minister Hekia Parata after public consultation closed in September last year. It contains some changes from a previously leaked draft copy.
Encouragingly, the Strategy no longer mentions New Zealand’s coal resources and their potential to contribute to transport fuels and fertiliser - a reference to controversial plans to mine and process Southland lignite, the lowest grade, most polluting form of coal.
Peter Hardstaff, WWF-New Zealand Climate Change programme manager said, “We hope this means the Government has listened to the public outcry and has abandoned plans to support processing lignite into liquid fuel and fertiliser – a crazy idea that would contribute an additional 10per cent per year to New Zealand’s emissions. We urge the Government to make clear that converting lignite to liquid fuel has no place in New Zealand’s energy future.”
Mr Hardstaff continued, “The document does show changes in response to high levels of public concern about the emphasis of the previous draft on fossil fuel extraction. There’s certainly been a facelift, however we are concerned that these changes are purely cosmetic. The main thrust of the Government’s policies remains broadly the same and it does not provide the fundamental shift in direction that is required to meet the challenges of reducing emissions that contribute to climate change and the rising price of oil.”
While there is clear recognition of the need to reduce emissions and that the rising price of oil leaves New Zealand exposed, action to address oil security and transport remain inadequate. The strategy contains no plan to transition away from fossil fuels for vehicles and no indication the current emphasis on road building will change.
Mr Hardstaff commented, “There remains a chasm between rhetoric and reality on transport and oil prices. The Government clearly recognises that oil prices will rise and that we need to cut pollution, yet is still planning to spend nearly 40 per cent of the transport budget on state highways and only 1 per cent on public transport infrastructure.”
On renewable electricity, Mr Hardstaff said, “We welcome the 90 per cent renewable electricity by 2025 target but the strategy fails to say how we will get there. The Government continues to rely on the ETS to meet this goal, when the Ministry of Economic Development’s own figures suggest current policies will only get us to 78 per cent renewables. Changes are clearly needed to meet this target however the Government continues to pursue a business as usual approach.”
Colmar Brunton polling from April this year shows that 73 per cent of New Zealanders want the Government to increase development of renewable energy such as wind, geothermal and biofuels. WWF will continue to encourage the Government to respond to public calls for a clean energy future.

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