New Zealand government tackles impending energy crisis head on

The New Zealand government announced on 30 July that it is to take the lead in averting an energy crisis predicted to occur later on in the year with proposals for a 15% electricity savings target for the public sector, and an allocation of NZ$2.25 million (US$942,000) for the scheme.

The impending crisis, which newspapers are reporting could result in California-style energy black-outs, is due to low levels in hydropower lakes which won’t start rising again until the snow starts to melt in a couple of months time. This is combined with the fact that state-owned electricity companies are fearful of passing the resulting higher cost of electricity on to consumers – as seen in California (see related story), which is also serving to push smaller energy companies out of the industry.

However, the Government is determined that the US crisis should not be repeated in New Zealand, and on the same day that it announced the energy efficiency targets, Energy Minister Pete Hodgson also symbolically switched on diesel generators for Parliament, cutting the building’s reliance on public supplies by at least 20%. The Government is also launching an energy saving campaign that will provide the New Zealand public with practical information on how to save electricity.

“Government needs to show leadership in the effort to save electricity and that’s why we’re asking the public service to meet the higher target of a 15% saving,” said Hodgson. “The Ministers of Health and Education will be advising Cabinet of practicable targets for hospitals and schools, where we need to balance the need for savings with the need to maintain comfortable and safe conditions for patients and pupils.”

New Zealand industry is also being expected to play its part, with a targeted scheme of electricity audits for large commercial and light industrial enterprises, and an information campaign similar to that for domestic customers.

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