Green economy 'way of future'

JASON KRUPP
Last updated 05:00 11/02/2013

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Greenpeace New Zealand, which made headlines by illegally occupying oil drilling rigs, has opened a new front against the National-led Government - the economy.

Today, the environmental lobby group will make public a 30-page report, The Future is Here, outlining the economic gains within New Zealand's reach if it begins transforming its oil-based economy to a green one.

The report is based on research by the German Aerospace Centre's Institute of Technical Thermodynamics.

The think tank modelled what would happen if the country produced 100 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2025, and was fully reliant on renewables for all its energy needs by 2050.

The headline figures suggest New Zealand could be oil free in 22 years, save $7 billion a year in oil imports by 2035, and create 27,000 jobs in the bio-energy sector. It would also reduce the country's greenhouse gas emissions by 94 per cent on 2009 levels.

"This is a call to action for the Government, saying the case is compelling," said Nathan Argent, chief policy adviser at Greenpeace New Zealand.

The gains are based on the Government making massive investments in the economy, specifically in the geothermal, smart electric and transport sectors.

The changes include greater use of electrically powered public transport, use of electric and hybrid vehicles, and producing wood-based biofuels to replace oil-based stock where needed.

Greenpeace is also calling for investment in the electricity grid, smart meters and renewable energy generation, specifically geothermal.

Argent said the upside of geothermal was that the expertise already existed, and could be exported to other countries in a market that potentially could be worth as much as $4.4b a year.

"What we tried to do is focus on the key sectors where New Zealand has an awful lot of potential in terms of being able to meet domestic needs, but also where emerging markets are going and need the kind of technology we have to fill those needs."

Where the report stumbles is on the financial side, giving no detail on the level of investment required or the economic tradeoffs, making it impossible to judge if the transformation would be worthwhile or simply a pyrrhic environmental victory.

Argent said this was a deliberate choice, with the aim of the report to spark a discussion rather than getting too bogged down in the numbers.

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- BusinessDay.co.nz

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