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NZ: Energy Minister praises wind power at conference

Four-fold growth in wind energy generation this financial year is just a starting point, Energy Minister Pete Hodgson said in Palmerston North yesterday.

A third round of bidding for Kyoto carbon credits, this time 6 million, will run from next month to mid-October. The results will be announced in December. Carbon credits have supported the wind-farm expansion that's under way.

Speaking to the conference of the New Zealand Wind Energy Association – 160 delegates from here, Australian and Denmark – the minister said energy policies that will penalise fossil-fuel burners and reward clean energy projects, coupled with cheaper wind technology, will make wind energy increasingly affordable.

"Wind has the potential to provide over 20 percent of our electricity needs (and) has been the stand-out success so far in the Government's projects to reduce emissions programme," Mr Hodgson said.

"Wind also enjoys the highest levels of public support for any type of generation."

A recent Electrical Efficiency and Conservation Authority survey gives wind a most-preferred rating by 82 percent of respondents.

"The general public are often the silent majority when it comes to all sorts of developments. Now their views are known. It is up to the electricity industry to take these views into account and plan accordingly."

The minister cautioned that if the public perceived a problem – such as noise – then there was a problem and it was the industry's problem.

"You must address it, even if this is only a matter of correcting misconceptions. The same is true when it comes to explaining reliability and availability. It is part of your job and mine to address the public's concerns . . . perceived or actual."

The Resource Management Act, he said, presented no difficulty in handling well-researched wind energy projects. Meridian Energy's Te Apiti application (unlike the expensively derailed Project Aqua) was a clear example, needing just one week from the start of hearings to granting of consents.

"We want to deliver greater certainty and clarity in the way the legislation operates and is applied, to improve the quality of decision-making, and to further reduce delays and uncertainty about costs.

"We are also keen to reduce the scope for vexatious objections. It will not, however, compromise environmental standards," Mr Hodgson said.

Kyoto carbon credits play a major role in wind-power projects.

Manawatu's Tararua stage two and Te Apiti are both carbon credit-supported, as are yet-to-start Te Rere Hau of the Tararuas, the Wainui Hills Wind Farm company's Wellington development and Genesis' Hau Nui extension and Awhitu projects.

The minister said the third round of carbon credits from August would add to the success of wind energy, and he praised current work to develop new Zealand's own wind generation technology – the equipment to be erected at Te Rere Hau.

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