22 Mar 2013

Deck stacked against wind energy, conference told

10:08 am on 22 March 2013

A conference in Wellington has been told how the deck is stacked against wind energy thanks to global subsidies for fossil fuels and nuclear energy.

The comments were made in a speech to the Wind Energy Association by the secretary-general of the Global Wind Energy Council.

Steve Sawyer says governments tell people not to emit greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2), but the subsidies they pay to fossil fuels such as oil more than cancel this out.

These subsidies vary from complex tax incentives in the United States to governments in the Middle East subsidising the price of petrol.

Mr Sawyer says the amount of money involved is huge.

"Fossils fuel subsidies amounted to an emissions incentive of about $110 a tonne of CO2, which explains a bit why our carbon price of five, 10, 15 or even $25 a tonne of CO2 doesn't really do much in the face when governments are spending $110 to tell you to emit it instead."

Wind Energy is subsidised in the United States, and this was bitterly debated during the last presidential election.

But Mr Sawyer says the fossil fuel and nuclear industries get far bigger subsidies.

He says subsidy levels are low or non existent in some countries, and he praises New Zealand in this regard.

But Mr Sawyer says that globally, subsidies should be evened out and made completely transparent.