New Zealand Wind Energy: Project Hayes decision fails to find balance

“New Zealanders value our environment. But we also want economic growth, which comes hand and hand with increased energy use. It is well recognised that wind energy provides one of the best options for low-cost new electricity generation combined with minimal environmental impacts.

“There will be a range of opinions about the Project Hayes decision. Opponents of the project will see it as a win.

“Whether or not the decision is the right one, what is concerning is that it seems to raise the bar for assessing renewable energy projects above and beyond the bar for other large scale infrastructure projects. This has the potential to create a far greater loss for all of New Zealand by hindering the development of other renewable energy schemes.

“The Court considers that Project Hayes is not the next best option for new generation in New Zealand, and so it would be preferable if other options were investigated more fully first. With other potential sites requiring their own, equally comprehensive analysis there is no way such an investigation could ever be achieved in a timely and effective manner.

“In addition the significant contribution that Project Hayes would have made to security of electricity supply has not been attributed with any value in the decision. This is despite wide acknowledgement of the issues New Zealand faces in maintaining security of supply, and the Court’s own recognition of the important role wind energy plays in reducing the risks of the electricity system failing during dry years.

“New Zealanders value renewable energy, but this decision has the potential to make it more difficult for other renewable projects to achieve consent.” A public opinion poll commissioned by the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority in 2008 found that 94% of respondents felt renewable energy is something New Zealand needs to focus on for the future.

“At some point we will have to find the balance between economic growth, increasing electricity prices, increasing emissions from electricity decisions, and effects on landscapes that some or all New Zealanders hold dear. The Project Hayes decision does little to help us understand where this balance is,” concludes Mr Clark.

The New Zealand Wind Energy Association (NZWEA) is an industry association that works towards the development of wind power as a reliable, sustainable, clean and commercially viable energy source. We aim to fairly represent wind energy to the public, government and the energy sector. Our members include about 80 companies involved in New Zealand’s wind energy sector, including electricity generators, wind farm developers, lines companies, turbine manufacturers, consulting firms, researchers and law firms.

New Zealand’s eight wind farms have an installed capacity of 492.8 megawatts and generate about 3% of the electricity.