Rapid approval of large geothermal energy project in New Zealand

The Tauhara 2, 250 MW project took only 8 months to complete the entire authorization process, thanks to new rules enforced in 2009 to streamline the approval of renewable energy projects and increase certainty for investors.

The Tauhara 2 project, submitted by Contact Energy, will be built near the town of Taupo, in the central part of the island, in the north of the country, one of the richest geothermal areas in the world. The planned investment amounts to 500 million euros.

However, in this case the most relevant aspect is the unprecedented fast approval, rather than the technical and economic characteristics of the project.

Indeed, the project was submitted in March 2010 and its approval process was completed in only 8 months. This was possible thanks to the new state regulation that promotes renewables, which was enforced in 2009 to streamline procedures and attract more investment.

Before the new regulation, approval on average took more than 2 years, with peaks of 8 years. "Long delays in getting consents for such renewable energy projects over the past decade came at a high economic and environmental cost," said Environment Minister Nick Smith. Under the new rules, the licensing process now consists of a single phase, in which a special Commission must decide within 9 months at the most.

Tauhara 2 is the first project that was approved under the new rules. "The careful process of consultation has enabled local communities to discuss all their needs and solve every problem. This is how a quick and sound decision was reached, "said Nick Smith.