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Big hydro generators offered protection from new water regime

Thursday 5th September 2019

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Government efforts to improve freshwater quality have run up against its 100 percent renewable electricity goal, requiring protection for the country’s largest hydro-electricity schemes from key elements of the proposed new National Policy Statement on Freshwater Management.

With hydro-electricity producing around 60 percent of the country’s total electricity supply, major electricity generators were “concerned over the regulatory risk and uncertainty” created if they had to meet the new fresh water standards when they came to renew resource consents.

“The continued operation of New Zealand’s hydro-electric baseload will be crucial in meeting emissions and renewable electricity goals,” according to a discussion document on the proposals, released at Parliament today by Environment Minister David Parker and Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor.

With increasing electricity generation from wind farms, it would become “more important, not less” to be able to manage water held in hydro lakes flexibly, it says.

The document proposes carving out the six largest hydro schemes in the country, operated mainly by the largest power companies, to allow the electricity system to get the best use from renewable resources.

Those schemes are the Waikaremoana, Tongariro, Waitaki, Manapouri, and Clutha schemes, and account for about 90 percent of national hydro generation capacity.


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