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New Zealand hydro competition wastes water

According to the New Zealand Green party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons, electricity reforms in New Zealand have resulted in hydro plants generating less electricity from the same water flows than before the reforms. She said this practice would contribute to the ‘browning of New Zealand’.

Speaking at the Energy 2000 Symposium in Auckland, Fitzsimons commented: ‘Hydro stations in competitive ownership have the opportunity to hold water back when it is needed or to send it down the spillway without generating any electricity, just so they can get a higher price when they feed their electricity into the grid, for a strategic advantage over a competitor.’ The price that hydro plants receive for their electricity depends on who else is feeding into the grid during that half-hour period.

According to Fitzsimons, splitting up the Electricity Corporation of New Zealand has given hydro plant owners an incentive to play their water flows off against each other, instead of acting in the best interests of the country.

‘If we do not find some way to treat the hydro station as an integrated system, then we will continue to use our water wastefully. We do not necessarily have to reintegrate ownership, but it does mean we have to find a method to run hydro stations according to an agreed most efficient use of water for the whole country,’ said Fitzsimons.