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Renewable Energy Zones – an opportunity for Northland

Northland has the opportunity to become New Zealand’s first Renewable Energy Zone pilot. The region’s renewable potential has been recognised in a New Zealand wide consultation into Renewable Energy Zones being led by Transpower – the owner and operator of the national grid. 

Local lines companies, Top Energy and Northpower, have been working with Transpower to help make this happen and they want the community to get behind the Northland proposal.    

Top Energy Chief Executive Russell Shaw and Northpower Chief Executive Andrew McLeod are thrilled by the potential the pilot offers and the benefits it could bring to the region.

We want to be the main contender for the pilot and have worked hard to position Northland as the best location,” says Mr Shaw.

Mr McLeod agrees and says the region’s renewable potential remains largely untapped.

Over the last two years Transpower, Top Energy and Northpower have received dozens of applications from generation developers totalling nearly two gigawatts of renewable generation. That’s enough to power over 375,000 households – with some to spare.”

The issue, Mr Shaw says, is that currently there is not enough capacity on the electricity networks to connect this new generation without upgrades to the networks.

“The cost of these investments can be substantial and would require multiple generation parties to contribute to make it economic.”

This is where Renewable Energy Zones can help as they enable multiple electricity generators such as wind and solar farms, to co-locate and share the costs of network upgrades.

Mr McLeod says not only is this cost effective for generation developers there are also other benefits.

“Increased local generation introduces more competition into the electricity wholesale market, reducing wholesale prices, and stimulates the local economy through investment in construction of generation and network infrastructure.”

“This includes job creation and work force training as well as ongoing employment opportunities in maintenance and operations.”

Renewable Energy Zones are also an important tool in helping to meet the Government’s target of 100% renewable energy by 2030.

“Decarbonisation is a big challenge for the energy sector. We are proud that Northland could be a big part of the solution,” Mr Shaw says.

Transpower’s consultation runs from 28 February to 8 April and depending on the level of interest, will decide whether to proceed with a Northland Renewable Energy Zone pilot.

If so, Expressions of Interest will be sought from generation developers later this year which will include various options and investment opportunities to increase network capacity for new generation.

Any renewable energy projects in Northland will still need to go through Council approvals.

The consultation at this stage for Northland is checking the level of community support and generator developer interest in supporting the pilot concept.

Both Mr Shaw and Mr McLeod encourage people to give their feedback by going and completing the online form.

Top Energy’s electricity network spans from Cape Reinga to Hukerenui and services over 33,000 customer connections; Northpower’s networks covers Whangarei and the Kaipara with over 61,000 customer connections.

For more information contact: Philippa White (021 2418740)