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The Resource Management Act is set to undergo reforms aimed primarily at expediting the assessment and approval of certain developments. A change to the process for designations - a planning mechanism available to companies providing public service-type infrastructure, such as pipelines and transmission networks - could increase delays in authorizing important energy projects.
The Supreme Court has issued its long-awaited decision on consent authorities' consideration of non-renewable energy proposals. A majority reaffirmed the Court of Appeal decision that such authorities must not have regard to the effect of greenhouse gas discharges on climate change when considering granting discharge permits for non-renewable energy proposals.
In 2008 Parliament remodelled Parts 4 and 4A of the Commerce Act, while transitional provisions allowed the Commerce Commission to complete the authorization for the control of supply of natural gas distribution services by Vector and Powerco. This update summarizes some key decisions under the commission's 'building blocks' methodology to determine allowable revenue under the authorization.
In light of New Zealand's target of 90% renewable electricity generation by 2050, the minister for the environment has announced a board of inquiry to review a proposed national policy statement for renewable energy. Such a statement is intended to give greater certainty to decision makers, resource consent applicants and the wider community.
A Local Government and Environmental Select Committee report recommends that biofuels should result in significantly reduced greenhouse gas emissions and should not compete with food production or reduce biodiversity. It proposes a cut in the biofuels sales obligation, a measure strongly supported by some oil companies, but avoids the issue of whether imported ethanol will hinder domestic biofuel production.
New Zealand's much-vaunted emissions trading scheme is now slipping towards political oblivion and recently came under scrutiny from the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee. Among other recommendations for the energy sector, the committee proposes that the restriction on thermal generation should remain and that the stationary energy and industrial process sectors should join the scheme in 2010.
Public consultation has closed on two proposed national environmental standards. One would define the activities that grid operator Transpower can undertake without resource consent to maintain the national grid. The other aims to protect transmission lines from activities which could put the national grid at risk and to protect people from transmission lines by establishing a buffer zone.
The government has been forced to delay implementation of its proposed biofuel legislation in the face of a lack of support and a recommendation from the parliamentary commissioner for the environment that the bill not proceed. The bill would regulate the quality of biofuels and require suppliers of petrol and diesel in New Zealand to supply specified volumes of biofuel.
The Court of Appeal has rejected an argument by the environmental activist group Greenpeace that greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation should be regulated by both central and local government. The court was considering an application from Genesis Energy, a state-owned electricity company, for approval for a gas-fired power station.
A bill before Parliament introduces the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme and establishes a preference for renewable electricity generation by implementing a moratorium on new baseload fossil-fuelled generation. Critics argue that security of electricity supply will be threatened by the 10-year 'ban' as New Zealand becomes dependent on variable renewable energy capacity.