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Published: 2006-09-15 00:00:00

Environment Waikato is welcoming the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority’s Regional Renewable Energy Assessment, which will feed into its Regional Energy Strategy.

Environment Waikato policy and strategy programme manager Blair Dickie said central government was currently developing a New Zealand Energy Strategy which was likely to promote the use of renewable energy. In response to that Environment Waikato would be inviting industry, councils and community groups to help develop a Regional Energy Strategy. Work would begin in the current financial year.

Provision for the regional strategy had been included in Environment Waikato’s Long-Term Council Community plan.

“Inviting stakeholders to join a Regional Energy Forum will be the first step in the process,” Mr Dickie said.

He expected the EECA report would prove useful during the initial stages of the strategy’s development.

“The EECA report outlines potential renewable energy sources in the region. It also provides a summary of the relevant technologies used to access renewable energy sources, and summarises the quality, quantity and location of the particular sources within the region.

“It’s good to know what we’re starting out with and what the options are so we can be in a better position to proactively manage demand.”

Mr Dickie said while use of renewable energy reduced greenhouse gas emissions and was good for the environment, there could be local environmental impacts, which needed to be managed. Dams, for example, could result in flooding of land and wind farms could have visual and noise effects.

He said the Waikato Regional Energy Strategy would be about striking the right balance.

The Waikato was the first region in New Zealand to undergo an EECA energy assessment, which looked at renewable energy potential within the region and council’s role in realising that potential.

Selwyn Blackmore, Senior Advisor Renewable Energy for the EECA, and Dr Phil White of Sinclair Knight Mertz Limited, which was contracted to carry out the assessment, presented their findings to this week’s Environment Committee meeting in Hamilton.

Mr Blackmore said demand for energy had nearly doubled in New Zealand over the past 30 years.

“Utilising as much of our abundant renewable energy resources as possible means we can meet this demand in the most sustainable and environmentally responsible way.”

The EECA report had focussed on the location and magnitude of untapped resources within the Waikato region, based on technology that “may or will become economic in the next 10 years”.

The assessment identified 580 megawatts of additional geothermal energy potential in the region over and above the 380 megawatts currently being tapped.

There was 500 megawatts available through windpower, 100 megawatts through hydropower and significant potential for solar thermal hot water systems installed on the roofs of homes.

Wave energy potential was in the thousand megawatt range, 200 million litres of ethanol could be generated through existing low grade forestry and 20 million litres of ethanol could be extracted from existing grain crops.

Cr Paula Southgate said Environment Waikato had to balance the use of renewable energy resources with the environmental, social and cultural values in the region.

Cr David Peart felt central government should focus its attention on the further development of photovoltaic cells, which could deliver electricity directly to homes, as a long term energy future.

“It could be the same scenario as personal computers, which used to be prohibitively expensive. Now the farm computer is probably more important than the dog. You need to think about this on a national scale because this is where we should be going.”