Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Climate change: promoting renewable generation

Back in 1990, when the government first began to think about policies to combat climate change, it produced a report entitled Responding to Climate Change: A Discussion of Options for New Zealand. One of the first policies it suggested was the use of National Policy Statements under the then-Resource Management Bill. The suggestion has been repeated in every broad policy discussion document ever since.

Today, the government finally moved to start that process, appointing a board of inquiry to consider a National Policy Statement on renewable electricity generation. The draft NPS would require local authorities to

  • have regard for the benefits of renewable generation in their plans and policies;
  • consider practical constraints when considering measures to avoid or mitigate environmental effects;
  • consider the reversibility of environmental effects (a clause which favours wind over hydro);
  • alter their local plans to encourage the assessment of the potential renewable energy resources, and
  • alter their local plans to encourage small-scale distributed generation, research projects.

The upshot will be to make it much easier to consent renewable projects, particularly wind farms, leading to a long-term shift in our generating capacity away from thermal and towards renewables, and thus a reduction (or at least a cap) on electricity-sector greenhouse gas emissions. And it only took them 18 years to do it!

The board will now seek submissions on the draft before making a recommendation to the Minister. if you're interested in submitting, MfE's cost-benefit analysis (which highlights issues submitters might want to consider) is here [PDF].