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New Zealand

New Zealand

New Zealand industry fit to face challenges

NEW ZEALAND: The new chief executive of the New Zealand Wind Energy Association has defended the country's market after it was criticised by the country's sole turbine manufacturer.

Last month, CEO of New Zealand wind turbine manufacturer Windflow Technology Geoff Henderson said wind farm activity in the country is "stagnant and decreasing".

But NZWEA chief executive Eric Pyle said New Zealand is well on its way to achieving 20% of the country's energy generation from wind by 2030 despite the economic slowdown.

Pyle agreed the wind industry is facing challenges, with the international financial crisis and the ongoing impact of the devastating earthquake that hit the city of Christchurch in February. The result is low electricity demand, which will affect investment decisions and new generation.

However, the long-term outlook is for electricity demand to increase along with demand for New Zealand commodities, such as food. With significant wind resource, capacity factors of up to 50%, good land opportunities and a price on carbon in place, Pyle said there is certainly a role for wind energy in the country.

The New Zealand government offers no upfront subsidies for wind-energy developers, but Pyle said that industry growth without such support has engendered a certain sense of pride.

"(The industry) started on its economic merits, and that, I think, is a source of pride for some of the members.

"Because we have not got a research and development programme in New Zealand supporting wind, the wind industry has had to do it all for itself."

Ambitious target

NZWEA estimates that about 4GW of installed capacity is needed to meet the 20% target. Currently, wind accounts for about 4% of electricity supply with 615MW in operation, 1.4GW consented and an additional 700MW lodged for consent by early August.

The government's National Policy Statement for Renewable Electricity Generation is "still (in the) early days of its implementation", said Pyle, and developing a good, consistent consenting framework across New Zealand is a priority for the organisation.

"The NPS certainly signals the government's intent that (wind farm consent) is a priority issue," he said. "The next stage is to say: what does that actually mean? What does that translate into? Into actual actions that people have to take."

Pyle was previously director of environmental and social development at the Ministry of Research, Science & Technology, where he had responsibility for energy-related activities including the integration of renewable energy into the electricity grid. He has also held senior positions at Forest and Bird, WWF and the Ministry for the Environment.

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