Friday, February 23, 2007



Contact goes green

Contact Energy, New Zealand's second dirtiest electricity company, looks set to go green. According to a story on Stuff, they are planning to invest $2 billion in renewable electricity projects over the next five years, primarily in geothermal and wind power. While further gas generation (currently the core of Contact's portfolio) remains an option, it is very much relegated to a back seat, being seen primarily as a way of replacing older stations and providing dry-year backup. So, the National Energy Strategy seems to be working, despite not having been finalised or any legislation passed.

The down side is that Contact is pushing for changes to the RMA to get its projects through. It's easy to see why they want this - the local democracy aspect of the RMA is so troublesome for arrogant corporations, who would rather just lobby the Minister like they did under Muldoon - but I'm not sure that its really necessary. Despite challenges in the Environment Court, the RMA hasn't really been a barrier to wind generation (mainly because the arguments against it tend to be spurious at best - though Project Hayes may see some limits drawn around outstanding landscapes). With geothermal, there are tricky issues about impacts on others, and about the rights of local iwi to be taken into account, but OTOH we are still seeing geothermal projects going ahead as well. The participatory aspect of the RMA - giving local communities a strong say in their development - is one of the most valuable aspects of the law, and I would not like to see it eroded, even for renewables. The existing process seems to produce the right result in the end, and it would be better to let it just work its way out rather than eroding valuable protections so that foreign shareholders can receive greater dividends.

8 comments:

I note that the Minister of Research Science and Technology said that the RMA was not the biggest barrier to geothermal deleopments. He looked a tad silly when the Ministry of Research Science and Technology said that the RMA is the biggest barrier to geothermal.

Posted by Oliver : 2/23/2007 01:12:00 PM

Why is Project West Wind still in the Environment Court, after consent was granted in December 2005?

Posted by kiwi_donkey : 2/23/2007 01:18:00 PM

KD: I'm not sure; the wind projects that were appealed at a similar time have all been resolved. I'm hoping they make a decision soon.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 2/23/2007 02:22:00 PM

> RMA is so troublesome for arrogant...

those arogant people who think that renewable resources are the way to go and that we need them NOW not in 50 years.

Lets all chant together NIMBY... NIMBY... NIMBY!!

giving local communities control to stand in the way of national government objectives seems to me to be somthing more like what I would expect of Republicans in the USA

GNZ

Posted by Anonymous : 2/23/2007 03:48:00 PM

"The participatory aspect of the RMA..."

Good comment. Corporations have seized on the 'urgency' of getting renewable energy projects up and running as a means of circumventing the RMA and making a profit sooner. I'm also in favour of more renewable energy, but consider that the RMA, and the community say it allows, is a safeguard against the untrammelled industralization of rural landscapes for energy generation.

Posted by The strategist : 2/23/2007 08:36:00 PM

Genius: those arogant people who think that renewable resources are the way to go and that we need them NOW not in 50 years.

And I'm one of them. However, I don't think that trashing the broader environment is the way to do it. I also think that problems with the RMA are exaggerated by interested parties in an effort to try and bully their projects through.

In practice the RMA has not presented any barrier to wind generation. Many projects have been unanimously consented with full community support. And every project appealed to the Environment Court so far has been granted consent.

The RMA has presented a barrier to stupid hydro schemes (those with no storage, in areas of significant landscape value), but I don't really have a problem with that. If generators want a project to pass, they need to get better ones.

As for the cry of "NIMBY", if Aucklanders want electricity so badly they are willing to destroy the environment, let them destroy their own, and leave the rest of us the fuck alone.

giving local communities control to stand in the way of national government objectives seems to me to be somthing more like what I would expect of Republicans in the USA

Hardly. Instead its about Muldoon and the National Development Act. After that debacle, we wanted to ensure that control was where it belonged - primarily with local communities, with any national guidance being done transparently and independently rather than over a whiskey bottle in the PM's or Minister's office.

Local communities have a better idea of what is environmentally important in their local area than far-off bureaucrats in Wellington. And they are better bale to balance those local values against the benefits of a scheme than someone who is not familiar with local issues. But then, that's the problem - opponents of the RMA think that local values simply should not be considered, and that they should be allowed to do whatever they want irrespective of its impacts on others. It's a very Texan mindset, and one that has no place in New Zealand.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 2/23/2007 11:53:00 PM

Yes, but time is money in these projects. If the RMA allows excessively long delays, it costs a lot of money. That can affect the viability of a project and and price of power.

I agree with the principles of the RMA, but I think the pendulum has swung a little too far.

Posted by kiwi_donkey : 2/24/2007 08:14:00 AM

> However, I don't think that trashing the broader environment is the way to do it.

Push comes to shove any reasonable person should pick global warming type environmentalism over aesthetic environmentalism.

Can you imagine 200 years down the line - "yeah sorry about the 10 degree temperature rise and the droughts and famine and such - but we were just trying to keep our country looking pretty for a tiny number of hikers for a bit longer."

> If generators want a project to pass, they need to get better ones.

The problem is WE need them to pass.
"We gave group x an incentive - so it doesn’t matter what road blocks we throw in their way" doesn't make sense.

> If Aucklanders want electricity so badly they are willing to destroy the environment, let them destroy their own.

We are all in this together - and as the communists would say - 'from each according to their ability to each according to their need'.

If the rest of the country wants to ignore Auckland's tax dollars and pay for their own roading, health care etc, don't be surprised if some areas look decidedly third world afterwards.

> It's a very Texan mindset, and one that has no place in New Zealand.

Hmm I’m thinking 'teaching creationism in schools', denying gay rights etc. Right down to individual property rights. 'National development act' logic seems to me more the antithesis of the US mindset - rather more the Chinese mindset.

Posted by Anonymous : 2/24/2007 08:48:00 AM