The ACT Party has released its energy policy for the coming election and says it will eliminate bureaucratic red tape which only makes everything more expensive.
Among its pledges is repeal of the ban on new prospecting for oil and gas in the ocean, which was passed by the Government in 2018.
It notes New Zealand’s natural gas reserves have dropped below 10 years’ supply for the first time since the 1970s, and says this is dangerous because gas will be needed until 2050.
“The ban on oil and gas exploration was a costly mistake," ACT says.
"It made for great headlines, but it was poorly thought out and means New Zealand is now further away from carbon-efficient electricity generation."
It adds the shortage of gas means in fact New Zealand burnt more coal.
ACT has also pledged to block the $16 billion dollar pumped hydro scheme proposed for Lake Onslow in Central Otago.
This is one of several options to provide electricity when the wind is not blowing and the dams are empty.
But ACT says the project scores “poorly on value for money and affordability criteria.
“Not only is this costly project reducing the appetite for the private sector to invest in solutions to increase electricity reliability, but the taxpayer will ultimately bear the cost for the government’s poor decision-making.”
ACT says it would not allow the Lake Onslow project to proceed as a government project, but would not object if a private operator wants to do it.
ACT also speaks in favour of the principle of Carbon Capture, Utilisation and Storage (CCUS), which involves keeping CO2 (carbon dioxide) out of the atmosphere by storing it in underground caverns such as depleted gas fields.
The party calls it a “promising technology” that has “not been evaluated fairly and expeditiously.
“ACT would remove unnecessary regulatory barriers and …. the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) should be amended to make CCUS a recognised removal activity.”
ACT also wants a fast tracked consenting programme for offshore wind turbines.
And it wants to remove the concept of Te Mana o te Wai from resource consenting. It says this requires international investors to understand Māori spiritual concepts such as “Mauri” or life-force, and it only adds uncertainty to energy projects.
It says the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management issued in February requires Te Mana o te Wai to apply to the consenting of all projects involving freshwater management.
The party says this would make the consenting of hydro schemes much more complex.
“ACT would remove Te Mana o te Wai from resource consenting,” it says, but it would retain Māori water rights granted by an existing treaty settlement.
ACT says New Zealand is able to have both a thriving energy sector and a sustainable environment for future generations.
“Red tape is inhibiting innovative solutions to New Zealand’s most pressing energy and environmental challenges,” it says.
“Our energy and resources policy settings should be fuel and technology neutral.
“The ETS should be the primary tool for addressing the issue of energy emissions. This should not be a controversial position.”
The party adds it is important to make electricity cheaper – it is too dear now and is forecast to get worse.