Electricity, energy and the environment: Environmental performance assessment 1 July 2004 - 30 June 2005

10 July 2006

The global challenge of climate change casts a shadow across this second assessment of the Electricity Commission. Described by UK Prime Minister Tony Blair as "a challenge so far-reaching in its impact and irreversible in its destructive power, that it radically alters human existence", climate change dominates how we must view the provision of energy and its impact on our environment.

New Zealand's electricity sector must evolve so that

  • it raises the efficiency of supply, distribution, and use
  • the resilience of the entire system is improved so that it can withstand whatever the future may bring
  • electricity generation is decarbonised as quickly as possible.

In today's energy debates in New Zealand, the supply and distribution of more electricity receives too much prominence. Major electricity users and the generators who retail most of the electricity tend to dominate current thinking about what the country needs.

All aspects of supply and use need to be democratised. We are currently researching this position and, in an upcoming report, we will examine the potential for greatly expanding small-scale distributed generation and energy capture.

I have made six recommendations to the Commission. Generally, it is asking many of the right questions and investing money and effort in the right areas. But it has powers within only parts of the electricity sector. I have also made seven recommendations to government ministers and agencies.

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