New Zealand's green ambitions

March 23, 2007

On March 8, Greenpeace announced that a community campaign had stopped the construction of Mighty River Power's Marsden B coal-fired power station, which would have been the first coal-fired power station to be built in New Zealand in 30 years. The campaign, launched in 2004, involved the local community, indigenous people and environmental organisations.

Greenpeace climate campaigner Vanessa Atkinson was quoted in the March 8 Northern Advocate as saying: "This is a great win, firstly for the climate and for the thousands of Kiwis who opposed Marsden B. Mighty River Power's decision is another nail in the coffin for coal — New Zealand's energy future is in renewable energy, not fossil fuels."

On February 14, Prime Minister Helen Clarke announced her ambition for New Zealand to become the first "carbon neutral" country in the world. New government policies include ensuring all new energy generation is from renewable sources; a 3.4% target for use of biofuels; for six government agencies to be "carbon neutral" by 2012 (through reducing energy demand and "offsetting" remaining emissions); the establishment of a national emissions trading scheme; encouraging small-scale household energy generation as well as more efficient use of fertilisers in the farming sector; and the establishment of a research panel to look into electric cars powered by renewable energy.

New Zealand is well-placed to wean itself off fossil fuels. It has just one coal-fired power station currently in operation and the majority of the country's electricity is generated from renewable sources.

On February 26, Meridien Energy announced that its electricity has been certified "CarboNZero" (carbon neutral) by Landcare Research. Meridien Energy supplies 30% of New Zealand's electricity, generated by nine hydro stations on the South Island and the Te Apiti wind farm on the North Island.

Another electricity company, Contact Energy, has announced that it will delay the construction of its 400MW gas-fired Otahuhu C power plant in order to speed up the approval of its other renewable energy projects. The company has committed NZ$2 billion to the development of wind and geothermal energy.

On March 5, Adrian Whitehead from the Australian-based Beyond Zero Emissions said that "As soon as the New Zealand government stated their position, the debate shifted and now we've seen some real positive response from industry. One large energy company is moving strategy, resources and capital away from a carbon producing energy infrastructure and towards renewables. If this was done in Australia then we'd see the same result."

However, Simon Louisson wrote in a February 25 NZPA article that "The Government has done nothing, and apparently plans to do little, to address greenhouse gas emissions from farming, which produces 50-60 per cent of New Zealand's total".

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