Key Points:

As a Government of a distinctly less green hue comes to power, alternative energy pioneers aren't jumping to any conclusions about the likely impact on their industry.

National Party talk of changes to the emissions trading scheme (ETS) and a lifting of the moratorium on new thermal generation plants is "hyperbole" and "rhetoric", according to key figures in several renewable energy ventures.

"I think they'll [the Government] be pretty neutral in the sense that they're very conscious of the obligations under Kyoto," says Barry Leay, chairman of wind turbine maker Windflow Technologies and a director of Aquaflow Bionomic, a biofuel producer.

Chris Bathurst, the director of a company working on a tidal flow turbine trial in Cook Strait, Neptune Power, and another biofuel venture, Solray Energy, isn't quite so sanguine.

If the ETS is radically changed, he worries that the incentive to invest in renewables would be lost. And he expects to feel the effects of National's plan to scrap the 15 per cent tax credit on R&D spending.

Leay, a former National Party secretary-general, retains close party connections. He believes Prime Minister John Key's new Cabinet is well stocked with senior ministers who are au fait with renewable energy developments.

"[Energy and Resources Minister] Gerry Brownlee, for instance, was present when we commissioned our [Windflow's] very first prototype turbine at Gebbies Pass and he's followed that all the way through to the opening of our new factory in Christchurch in his electorate in May."

Leay says he has known Environment and Climate Change Issues Minister Nick Smith for a long time and, as MP for Nelson, where Aquaflow Bionomic is based, Smith has been kept "in the information loop" about the company's progress. "So no issues there at all," Leay says.

But how the election hype translates into policy is far from clear. In the first week after his election victory, Key told 95bFM that "the environment is very important to New Zealand" and "we have to have balance between growth and the environment".

Last week he told Federated Farmers National Council in Wellington that a review of the ETS would, at the insistence of Act leader and climate change sceptic Rodney Hide, include the option of scrapping the scheme in favour of a carbon tax, a policy National and Act opposed when it was put forward by the Labour-led Government. Leay sees little threat to renewables in the lifting of the moratorium on new thermal electricity generation because he knows of no source of gas to power any new plants.

"It's part of the hyperbole - there isn't any gas. We've used Maui up. We would have to make a massive find of that kind of order to make gas-fired power stations work. To contemplate importing liquefied natural gas is going to make electricity so expensive that gas-fired power stations will just not be economic."

Bathurst says the new Government will have to tread warily with any such move. Europe, in particular, will use trade policy to punish New Zealand if it becomes less green.

In the end, the election of Barack Obama in the US might have a greater impact on Leay and Bathurst's ventures than anything our Government says or does. Leay notes Obama will be the first US President in a long time who will not be captive to the American oil and coal lobbies.

"If he makes the kind of move to recognise global warming and the problems that are occurring then I suspect we will get a different kind of pressure at an international level," he says.

"New Zealand will not want to retreat from the position that it currently holds in terms of its clean, green and very effective renewable energy track record."

At a commercial level, Leay also hails the US President-elect. Leay made the point at the Windflow AGM the day after the American election that Obama could be the best thing that ever happens for the company if he boosts the US appetite for imported wind turbines.

Bathurst, too, has an eye out for overseas interest in his renewables ventures. Solray Energy is playing host to visits from Mitsubishi and Boeing representatives this month, and he won't rule out the company selling its algae-based biofuel business to either.

As for post-election fallout, Bathurst is not fretting - yet. "It's not until you see the cold, hard effects that you can make a judgment."

Leay is even less worried. "Given the reality of what happens once governments get down to business ... the rhetoric of election campaigns doesn't concern me unduly."

Anthony Doesburg is an Auckland technology journalist