Government’s new energy strategy not fit for purpose, WWF



Posted on 03 April 2011  | 
Coal energy plant. Hunter Valley, New South Wales, Australia
© Tanya Petersen WWF-CanonEnlarge
The Government’s revised Energy Strategies were published yesterday by the Coal Action Network Aotearoa (CANA); the document, entitled “Developing Our Energy Potential” was obtained by the group ahead of its official release by the Ministry for Economic Development. 

Commenting on the Government’s Energy Strategy as it appears on CANA’s website, WWF-New Zealand Climate Change Programme Manager Peter Hardstaff said he hoped the document wasn’t the final version, because: “there’s a massive gap in it, where the strategy part of this strategy should be. This strategy as it stands is not fit for purpose.” he said.

“If this is the final version, it’s deeply disappointing that the Government has failed to act on nearly 4,000 submissions from the public, many of which called it to account for its emphasis on fossil fuel exploration and lack of ambition in the draft document,” said Mr Hardstaff. 

Media reports today stated Ministry figures that over public 300 submissions were received on the draft strategy, when the total figure obtained by WWF-New Zealand is 3,844.

The strategy recognises that oil prices will continue to rise, regardless of how much oil is extracted in New Zealand. Worryingly, the Government intends a hands-off approach to increasing oil prices, stating that, “The Government will not pick winners. Ultimately, uptake of new energy sources and technologies will depend on decisions made by investors and consumers as they respond to oil prices.”

WWF says this is not the approach the majority of New Zealanders want. In August 2010, opinion polling by Colmar Brunton found that the majority of New Zealanders (72%) think the Government should prepare now for future oil price rises by investing in alternative fuels and in public transport.

Mr. Hardstaff, said: “The Government acknowledges oil prices will increase in future, yet the strategy offers no protection against this. Its plan is to have no plan and hope for the best.  As the research shows, the majority of New Zealanders don’t believe that is good enough.”

Hekia Parata, acting Minister for Energy and Resources, today defended the Government’s approach saying that it has been commended by the International Energy Agency (IEA) . However, the Agency’s recent review of New Zealand also stressed the challenges we face and called for New Zealand’s energy strategy to be strengthened.

Although the IEA review calls the 90% target for renewable electricity generation by 2025, “a step in the right direction” it also says, “the strategy should also include a detailed road-map towards achieving the government’s 90% target for renewable electricity,”

Commenting on Strategy as a whole, the IEA says, “The Strategy should include clear priorities and identify firm actions needed to meet them,” while on the Energy Efficiency and Conservation part of strategy, the IEA report says, “the draft proposals lack a firm commitment to actions that will contribute to achieving the energy saving goals.”

Mr Hardstaff says these comments indicate the current document falls short of what is required of a energy strategy and is not fit for purpose.

At the launch of the IEA report last week, its Executive Director Nobuo Tanaka commented that although energy security remains at the heart of New Zealand energy policy “more investment is needed, however, to build a robust system; one that meets future demand and places New Zealand on a firm path to a low-carbon energy future.”

By contrast, in September 2010 Energy and Resources Minister Gerry Brownlee said, “The new strategy has our petroleum and mineral resources at the very heart of it. It is a clear message that the government is keen to see those resources developed.”

Mr. Hardstaff, said: “The Energy Ministry’s continued obsession with fossil fuels is alarming. Digging and drilling for more coal, oil and gas is applying a 19th century strategy to 21st century challenges. As recognised by the IEA, real opportunities exist to build on New Zealand’s significant renewable energy potential including wind, geothermal and home-grown biofuels.  But without a strategy to promote them, these technologies won’t develop fast enough. This leaves New Zealand out of being part of a viable economic and environmental solution to climate change and instead sees us contributing further greenhouse gas emissions to the problem.”

ENDS

Notes:

•    The New Zealand Energy Strategy and Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy was published online by CANA on April 3 at: http://coalactionnetworkaotearoa.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/nz-energy-strategy-nzeecs-v12-21-march-11-1.pdf

•    The new energy strategy, titled ‘Developing our energy potential’, sets out in broad terms the government’s intentions to develop resources (both fossil fuel and renewable energy), promote energy security, affordability and efficiency, and promote environmental responsibility.

•    In email correspondence from the Ministry of Economic Development, 10 September 2010, the total number of submissions to the draft NZES and NZEECS combined was 3844.  Email available on request. 

•    WWF made 22 specific recommendations in the consultation phase, including:

-    There should be a clear strategy on liquid fuels that addresses the identified challenges of increasing oil prices and the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This part of the strategy should include the Government’s objectives on public transport, on transport fuel efficiency and on the development and adoption of alternatives to fossil fuel-based liquid fuels. The document should also set out the strategy for achieving these objectives including existing policies or initiatives (and what they are expected to achieve) and the kind of new policies or initiatives that will be required.

-    There should be a clear strategy on electricity generation that can address the challenges of, for example, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, diversifying supply, upgrading electricity infrastructure and the potential impact of increased use of electric vehicles. This part of the strategy should include the Government’s objectives on renewable electricity generation, coal fired electricity generation, gas fired electricity generation, distributed generation, fuel poverty, more efficient use of electricity, smart grids and smart meters. The document should also set out the strategy for achieving these objectives including existing policies or initiatives (and what they are expected to achieve) and the kind of new policies or initiatives that will be required.

•    As part of Colmar Brunton’s omnibus poll in August 2010, New Zealanders were informed that the Government expects oil prices to rise steadily in the future as cheaper, easy-to-reach oil supplies decline around the world, and that increased oil production in New Zealand will have no impact on this trend because the price is fixed to international oil prices.  They were asked if they thought the government should:

Invest now in developing public transport and alternatives to petrol and diesel for New Zealand

Or allow consumers and companies to find or develop their own alternative transport methods and fuels when they consider petrol and diesel prices have become too high

Seven out of ten - 72% - said the Government should invest now in alternatives, whilst 24% said the Government should let consumers or companies find their own alternative. The remaining 4% said they don't know.

The research was conducted using Colmar Brunton's telephone omnibus, a survey of 500 New Zealanders aged 18 and over.  Interviewing was conducted from 10 to 16 August, 2010.  The results are post-weighted to reflect New Zealand population statistics in terms of gender, age and region, and have a maximum margin of error of +/-4.4%.

•    The full text of Gerry Brownlee’s speech to the 2010 New Zealand Petroleum Conference can be found at: http://www.beehive.govt.nz/speech/opening-address-new-zealand-petroleum-conference


Media contacts: Jenny Riches WWF-New Zealand Marketing & Communications Manager, tel: 04 4714288 / 0274477158

About WWF
WWF-New Zealand is part of WWF, the global conservation organization.  WWF-New Zealand works to stop the degradation of the planet’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature.  Through WWF’s global reach, local presence and scientific rigour, it establishes innovative partnerships and seeks ambitious solutions for a living planet.  For more information, visit wwf.org.nz

Coal energy plant. Hunter Valley, New South Wales, Australia
© Tanya Petersen WWF-Canon Enlarge

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