National to overturn ban on new gas power stations

A National government would overturn the ban on new base-load thermal power stations, party leader John Key said today.

Releasing his party's energy policy at an infrastructure conference in Auckland, Mr Key said the Government's energy policy was creating the risk of electricity blackouts.

Mr Key said while New Zealand should still develop renewable resources the lesson from this winter was that thermal electricity stations were essential for keeping the lights on.

National feared that the Government was underestimating future demand and the ban was dangerous political symbolism.

"Our country simply cannot afford to have insecure supply of electricity," Mr Key said.

Mr Key said National saw a future for gas generation, but said his party's emissions trading scheme (ETS) would result in no new coal stations being built unless new technology reduced pollution.

National's ETS would be introduced within nine months of taking office and was likely to result in the phasing out of the use of coal at the Huntly power station, Mr Key said.

National supported the Government's goal of 90 per cent of renewable energy by 2025 and reform of the Resource Management Act would assist that.

"However, we will not let the 90 per cent target get in the way of security of supply... we will continue to need the constant reliability of thermal generation."

An incoming National Government would move immediately to reform the Resource Management Act as the legislation was currently the key barrier to new generation.

The amendments would include "priority consenting", removing the ministerial veto and stopping frivolous objections.

The new priority consenting process would mean major national infrastructure consents would be called in and determined centrally with a decision required within nine months.

Mr Key said a National government would review the multiple agencies running the electricity sector and said one possible outcome of the this was scrapping the Electricity Commission.

On wider infrastructure plans, Mr Key repeated pledges to increase investment through a "`modest" rise in debt levels.

This would lead to $5 billion more in spending on infrastructure over the next six years.

There would also a be a greater role for the private sector in major infrastructure development.

Mr Key said National's 20 year infrastructure plan would include a new category of state highway called "roads of national significance".

This would include roads such as State Highway 1 that were the backbone of the road network and which would get priority treatment.

National's wide energy policy also included plans to expand oil and gas exploration by spending $25 million over three years on seismic exploration, as well as reviewing the minerals regime to ensure it encouraged the sector.

- NZPA

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