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Published: 2009-08-17 00:00:00

The Waikato, New Zealand’s leading electricity generation region, is launching the country’s first regional energy strategy at the Beehive on Wednesday, as it seeks to help ensure the country continues to have access to reliable energy at an affordable price.

The Waikato Regional Energy Strategy, initiated by Environment Waikato and developed with community and business input, will be formally presented to Energy and Resources Minister Gerry Brownlee by Waikato Regional Energy Forum coordinator Dutch Glass on August 19.

The strategy is a groundbreaking document designed to help Waikato people generate more electricity from renewable sources, develop innovative new energy technologies and use energy more efficiently, said Environment Waikato chairman Peter Buckley.

“Energy issues have become top of mind for people in recent years, with rising petrol and electricity costs hitting households hard,” Cr Buckley said.

“At the same time, the need to cut carbon emissions to address climate change issues has become increasingly urgent.

“The Waikato region is the leading area in New Zealand for energy generation, containing more than 75 per cent of the country’s known geothermal energy resources, important hydro dams, large thermal generation plants, and significant wind and wave resources along the west coast.  We have a crucial role to play in ensuring people continue to have access to reliable energy supplies at affordable prices.”

The strategy’s development began several years ago, partly in response to the release of new Government policies, which promoted energy security and aimed to have 90 per cent of the country’s electricity produced from renewable sources by 2025.

“Environment Waikato saw a need to localise and adapt that policy to fit the unique characteristics of our region,” Cr Buckley said.

“We realised we needed buy in from the whole community, because no one level of government or sector of society could address the full scope of issues.”

The final strategy itself grew out of a regional energy conference Environment Waikato organised in 2007, attended by representatives from the energy sector, local government, central government, transmission and network companies, major energy users, educational institutes and community groups.

“The forum was very supportive of creating a Waikato Regional Energy Strategy and it’s thanks to that collaborative approach that the project has been such a success,” Cr Buckley said.

With EW’s support, the Waikato Regional Energy Trust was set up in 2007 as an independent body to develop the strategy and progress energy related projects in the region.

Trust coordinator Mr Glass said the real value of the strategy would be in the combined actions its recommendations inspired.

“The completion of the energy strategy is a significant accomplishment but the real work starts with implementing its recommendations and keeping up the momentum for change.”

Two projects inspired by the strategy are already underway at the Waikato Institute of Technology, where a new energy-efficient student village and an energy efficiency promotion centre are planned.

This May, the Waikato Regional Energy Trust’s work on the forum was recognised with a commended award in the public sector category of this year’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority awards in Auckland.