clarifying power station type as gas-fired
New Plymouth, Feb 19 – The controversial Stratford gas-fired power station should be given the go-ahead, as long as enough trees are planted to counter fully its carbon dioxide emissions, a board of inquiry has recommended.
In recommending a 34-year resource consent, the report which was released today, said the environmental effects of the station’s CO2 discharge could be mitigated by planting enough trees to act as a permanent carbon sink.
"I don’t know how much of the North Island would be required to plant all those trees — a fairly large area!" said Taranaki Regional Council chairman Ross Allen on hearing of the recommendations.
"Personally, if we see more trees planted I think that’s a good thing. My understanding is that they could be planted anywhere in New Zealand, not necessarily in Taranaki. Probably a large number of farmers would be prepared to plant trees if they could go into partnership with ECNZ.
"But let’s wait and see what the minister decides."
Greenpeace climate and energy campaigner Kirsty Hamilton said from Christchurch it was significant that the report said ECNZ had not been able to prove there was a need for the proposed station.
The report said there were alternative electricity-generation methods which did not produce CO2 discharges, and ECNZ had not satisfactorily established the need for the proposed station as the only viable option.
"The only rational thing for ECNZ to do is to withdraw its application and get on with doing the alternative things such as wind power, energy efficiency, biomass and solar generation of electricity," she said.
"As for building a station and planting trees, the corporation should give up on that idea for starters.
"The report completely backs up the evidence that we put before the board."
She welcomed the report’s recommendation that the environment minister start a process to introduce a national policy statement on CO2 emissions.
The report’s recommendations include a number of conditions to the resource consent, such as:
* ECNZ must establish a carbon sink "sufficient to eventually store in perpetuity the equivalent quantity of carbon emitted from the site over the term of the permit".
* ECNZ must prepare a plan showing how it will achieve the carbon sink.
* That plan must be evaluated by a board comprising the Taranaki Regional Council’s general manager or his nominee as chairman, one person nominated by the Forest Research Institute, and another nominated by the environment minister.
The board will not approve the plan unless it is satisfied it will fully mitigate the station’s CO2 discharge.
* Within two years of the station’s commissioning, ECNZ must report on any technological advances made in the reduction of emissions. It must also give details of the sation’s emissions, and any measures that have been taken to improve the station’s energy efficiency.
* ECNZ must control emissions of contaminants such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides, to limit their ground-level concentrations.
* Discharges must not directly cause significant adverse effects on Taranaki ecosystems.
* The TRC may review the consent conditions, to deal with any unforeseen significant environmental effects.
The report noted that the station would discharge 1.5 million tonnes of CO2 a year (plus other contaminants that would have only local and minor effects). It would be neither economic nor practicable to remove CO2 from the station’s exhaust gases.
While the commissioning of the station might reduce electricity-generation CO2 emissions in the short term because it would displace less efficient generation, there was a strong probability that the station’s discharge would significantly increase New Zealand’s emission of CO2 — perhaps up to 5 percent.
That might make it more difficult for the Government to meet its obligations under the international Framework Convention on Climate Change to adopt policies and take measures to return the emission of greenhouse gases to their 1990 levels.
"There is likely to be substantial growth in the New Zealand economy and an increase in the demand for electricity," said the report.
"However, we have not been able to establish the extent of the increase in demand, because the estimates used by ECNZ cannot be given any weight due to uncertainties inherent in the modelling process and because of the omissions of material factors from its analyses."
The board of inquiry comprised Auckland Queen’s Counsel David Williams (chairman), Professor David Elms, professor of civil engineering at Canterbury University, and TRC member Noel Johnston.
NZPA TDN pm 19/02/95 22-57NZ