Tiwai Point smelter considered in renewable energy strategy, Southland agency says

6:26 am on 4 April 2023
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The renewable energy strategy which is out for public consultation includes development more wind farms. Photo: 123RF

The Southland Regional Development Agency is predicting the area will need to produce as much energy in the next 15 years as it has done in the past 130.

A new renewable energy strategy is currently out for public consultation until 26 April, and includes developing more biomass boilers, hydrogen generation and wind farms.

Public information hui will be held in Gore, Te Anau and Invercargill during the consultation period.

Projects general manager Stephen Canny said consumers were putting pressure on companies to be more sustainable.

"They're demanding cleaner processes and a greater efficacy in production so for regions such as ours, it's vitally important," he said. "We produce 15 percent of New Zealand's exports."

Decarbonisation would bring both the economic benefit of sustained industry investment in Southland and a commercial benefit to businesses by increasing the appeal of their products, Canny believed.

The draft Southland Murihiku Regional Energy Strategy 2022 to 2050 was developed by consultancy firm BECA and commissioned by Great South in partnership with Murihiku Regeneration.

An advisory group of iwi, councils, major local industry and the electricity sector guided the process and development of the draft strategy.

The ultimate goal was to have it embedded in the Resource Management Act to make it easier for renewable energy projects to get consent, he added.

The strategy had also considered the Tiwai Point Smelter.

Owner Rio Tinto threatened to close the smelter over high electricity costs, but made a deal with power and energy companies in 2021 to keep it operational for another four years.

Canny said with the smelter's future unclear, the new strategy included multiple scenarios covering closure and continued operation.

"We have anticipated the possibility of the smelter remaining and other large industries commencing, such as green hydrogen - both of which demand a lot of electricity."

Meridian's Southern Green Hydrogen project had entered its second phase, and several more new clean energy players were looking into Southland's viability, he said.

Public hui will be held in Gore on Monday 17 April, Invercargill on Tuesday 18 April and Te Anau on Thursday 20 April.

Submission forms and further information can be found on the Great South website.

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