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20, May, 2003

Electricity Paths: Fossil Fuels for Fossil Fools


Category: ECO Inc

The Environment and Conservation Organisations of NZ (ECO) today issued a package of proposals for a sustainable electricity future and called on the Cabinet today not to be "fossil fools" by hanging their electricity strategy on coal and gas.

ECO says the government should switch focus in its energy plan from finding new power generation to long term energy savings, energy efficiency and new wind and solar power.

ECO co-chair Cath Wallace, says that "strategies that focus on new generation with coal or gas deliver double damage to the environment: pollution from coal and oil extraction; ruined landscapes and water quality and serious air pollution too. The fossil fuel path is one for fossil fools: the government should not go down that path."

"We need to do the long term things that governments have dragged their feet over for 20 years. The Building Act and building standards need to be changed to require energy efficient buildings designed for passive solar energy, that provide smart energy efficiency and contain electricity meters that allow people to monitor consumption directly. "It is amazing how easy it is to save power when you know what different appliances use".

"ECO urges the Government not to sacrifice the environment in its new electricity policy. Those concerned about the environment are starting to ask hard questions about this government's commitment to the environment. We note the pressure being put on the Conservation Minister to allow coal mining and hydro dams on the conservation estate. He has our full backing in saying no."

"We have seen the government time and time again bow to short term business interests at the expense of the environment and that now has to stop.

"It is highly ironic that this dry year, consistent with climate change, is now inconveniencing the very people who fought off effective measures to combat global warming and climate destabilisation. "If the government had gone for an early carbon charge as we urged, we would all have had an effective savings incentive. Business NZ, Federated Farmers and the members of the Greenhouse polluters' group, the Greenhouse Policy Coalition, share responsibility for the predicament the country now is in."

"Past electricity restructuring has also aggravated the unsustainable nature of the electricity system and blunted incentives for cost effective energy conservation measures to be implemented."

"The early end of Maui Gas has been predicted for nearly 20 years and its is time Governments finally acted to put an electricity system in place that was renewable and sustainable into the future. Higher prices are inevitable."

ECO Co-chair, Cath Wallace, said New Zealand must not establish a system which makes it easier for coal or oil fired power stations to be built.

"There is no need to change the Resource Management Act to allow greater electricity generations. The RMA is not a barrier to the investment decisions of electricity companies: they currently have a number of unused consents."

Cath Wallace said what we need is both a fiscally neutral carbon charge and a Resource Management Act national policy statement on energy and climate change.

The government should not follow the fossil fool path to fossil fuels. They should embrace and encourage new wind and solar technology, take measures to embed energy efficiency in buildings, use price signals and carbon charges.

Smart energy transition measures proposed by ECO include: The Measures should:

1. Ensure that energy pricing rewards consumers who conserve energy so that fixed line charges should make up no more than 5% of an energy bill.

2. Extend minimum energy performance standards for all appliances by 2007.

3. Change the building code so that all new residential buildings and units require double the current minimum insulation standards, use passive solar design and have solar water heating installed.

4. Removal of barriers to energy efficiency with the aim of an initial improvement by the year 2010 of 20 percent on 1995 levels.

5. Fund the improved insulation and solar water heating on all Government owned residential buildings by 2007.

6. Expand the energy efficiency funding by $40m per year, to address the institutional and information barriers to achieving greater energy efficiency.

7. Implement a renewable energy target of 40 PJ/year by 2010 and (90PJ/yr by 2020) as part of the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources.

8. Introduce a predominantly fiscally neutral carbon equivalence charge that should be applied at a rate greater than $30/tonne CO2 from 1 July 2004.