Environmental concerns over the sale of state owned assets
At this crucial time in New Zealand’s energy history we need a road map towards sustainable, clean, economy and strategies that capitalise on our world class renewable energy expertise. To achieve this New Zealand needs to have control over our energy infrastructure and the decisions made regarding the technology pathways we choose.
- In a world that is carbon constrained and economically volatile now is not the time for New Zealand to sell off our highly successful, resilient renewable energy powerbase. These are publicly owned entities that have been grown and owned by New Zealanders who have spent years nurturing and developing the expertise that could be the cornerstone of a cleaner, smarter, robust economy.
- The Government is selling our best opportunity to become large-scale exporters of renewable energy technology. Private sector imperatives will likely delay and deter the switch to increased renewable use, which could further affect New Zealand’s chance of becoming a cutting edge developer and exporter of renewable technologies.
- Partial privatisation is an inevitable prelude to foreign ownership of a large chunk of our energy companies. Prized energy assets like Manapouri power station could also be sold off under the legislation into full foreign ownership and control.
- There are huge risks in further binding our economic and energy fortunes to the whims and profit margins of overseas investors. It could mean that we will lose the power to direct these energy companies towards cleaner energy technologies and to make decisions that will determine our country’s overall energy strategy and mix.
With the right vision and political will, we can keep their renewable energy know-how and innovation in New Zealand, capitalising on the potential to create thousands of green, highly paid jobs; insulate our economy from the volatile fossil fuel markets; and build a more sustainable future for our country.
Returning to monopoly public ownership of the main generating capacity
This could be done under tight oversight and control to ensure efficiency, give it a responsibility for energy conservation as much as new generating capacity, require it to charge average costs or below for a base usage allocation for households, and require a proportion of small-scale sustainable generation such as from wind and tidal sources which could come from independent providers. Feed-in tariffs for firms and households producing their own electricity from small-scale renewable generation should also be part of the mix. The monopoly public generator could also act as default retailer to ensure there are reasonably priced services for low income and other households which may be considered undesirable to for-profit retailers.
More energy-efficient power production
New generating capacity should be required to be increasingly renewable, and the need for new capacity should be as far as possible replaced by conservation measures. New advances in technology can save hugely in power costs using smaller and more efficient and decentralised power plants which are also more resilient to natural disasters such as earthquakes. This seems unlikely to happen with the only incentives being a weak ETS scheme which pushes up power prices and creates an incentive for companies to charge more not save more. Regulation is required to force companies to explore other options which will save the country drastically in the long run.
Investment in Green Technology and Jobs
The Green Party and many environmental NGOs have strongly advocated for an alternative vision that creates decent jobs, adds resilience to our economy, and protects our natural environment. By retaining ownership in our energy companies, we could focus their profits and research and development investment on renewable energy opportunities. The global renewable energy sector is growing rapidly into a market worth up to $800 billion by 2015. These power companies have the expertise and the capital to take advantage of this growing industry and create tens of thousands of jobs here in New Zealand. Privatisation will end that opportunity to create investment and employment opportunities in the clean energy revolution.
National Energy Strategy
The development of a comprehensive national environmental strategy around power generation is necessary to deliver a positive environmental future. A move to privatise the four energy companies will compromise New Zealand’s ability to implement such a strategy in order to give our children the environmental future they deserve. The SOE Act provides a ready-made vehicle for the Government to roll out renewable energy and energy efficiency solutions that may not be commercially viable for a profit-driven energy company but may deliver net benefits for the country as a whole. Possible examples include smart meters, electric vehicles and infrastructure, small-scale renewable generation, and bioenergy.
For more info on organisations offering positive solutions see: