Wind power in New Zealand: Wind energy targets ‘on track’ despite wind farm decision

The Government is shrugging off questions over whether New Zealand can meet its renewable energy targets after Meridian Energy’s decision to walk away from its Central Otago wind farm project.

The state-owned power company has abandoned its six-year fight to build the $2 billion, 176 wind turbines Project Hayes wind farm on the Lammermoor Range. New Zealand has committed to meeting a target of having 90% of renewable energy by 2025.

Environment and Climate Change Minister Nick Smith says 13 other renewable energy projects have resource consent, covering 1340 megawatts of power.

He says once those generating stations are up and running, they will provide enough power for more than 800,000 households.

Dr Smith says there are enough new projects for wind, hydro, geothermal and tidal power to meet the renewable energy targets.
Flat power demand

The Wind Energy Association says flat energy demand contributed to Meridian Energy’s decision to quit the giant wind farm project.

Wind Energy Association chief executive Eric Pyle told Summer Report that that despite flat demand for the last few years, the wind energy industry is well positioned.

"We think that wind is poised to meet a substantial amount of New Zealand’s future generation from about 2014 onwards, when demand is predicted to increase again."

Meridian initially won resource consent for Project Hayes but lost it following an appeal to the Environment Court. While it subsequently won the right to go back to the court, it decided against continuing with the project.

Meridian chief executive Mark Binns said on Thursday that time, cost and uncertainty involved in another court case was one factor in shelving the project.

The company has consent for wind farms in Ohariu Valley, north of Wellington, and in Taihape.

The Green Party is suggesting the decision to quit the wind farm project might be connected to plans to partly privatise it.

The Government plans to sell up to 49% stakes in Meridian Energy, as well as Mighty River Power, Genesis Energy and Solid Energy.

Greens energy spokesman Gareth Hughes told Summer Report that Meridian’s decision might be connected to the privatisation plans.

He said a $2 billion project that had dragged on for years would have caused investor uncertainty.

Mr Hughes said the decision showed the need for good Resource Management Act processes.

"The risk of fast-tracking, which is what we’re seeing under the current government, is that these projects might go ahead without people actually getting a say."