Gareth Hughes

Jobs and economic development blowing in the wind.

by Gareth Hughes

New Zealand has been described as the ‘Saudi Arabia of wind’ and I’m optimistic it will play a bigger role in our electricity generating mix.

Yesterday the New Zealand Wind Energy Association released a BERL report Economic Benefits of Wind Farms in New Zealand, that shows there will be considerable growth in employment in New Zealand’s wind industry over the coming years.

Their target is 20% of New Zealand’s generation coming from wind power by 2030 which could see 3500 MW of generation, resulting in 1460 direct and indirect jobs and a contribution to national GDP of $156 million.

The reports notes there would be a number of associated benefits from exports of expertise, research and development growth along with increased skills and training, tourism and regional economic development.  However I think they missed one – adding to our valuable clean, green brand. Look at Wellington, the city on the whole is powered from the Makara wind farm, and its electric trolley buses could be said to be powered by the wind. We could get close to 100% renewable electricity generation with a little leadership from the Government and support and this would be a considerable marketing advantage.

However I don’t consider wind is operating on a level playing field. The Government is doing all they can to promote extractive industries with their ‘drill it, mine it, frack it’ approach to economic development: offering subsidies, numerous tax credits and a very low royalty regime. Along with the considerable environmental risk from deep-sea drilling and fracking these tarnish our valuable clean, green brand.

I know which path I prefer. I mean have you ever heard of a catastrophic ‘wind spill’?

Published in Environment & Resource Management by Gareth Hughes on Thu, June 14th, 2012   

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