Wednesday, 16 May 2007

Geothermal Asks for a Bigger Share

Proponents for Geothermal Energy are asking that New Zealand get on with conversion to this renewable energy source.

Current evidence shows that some fields have been degraded over time, but with best practice in place, geothermal can even be considered a sustainable energy source.

Geothermal also generates less pollutants that other energy options. The New Zealand Geothermal Association has published these emissions facts and figures: “CO2 emissions for geothermal power plants are normally in the range of 10-400 g/kWh compared to 900-1000 g/kWh for oil and coal-fired plants or 400 g/kWh for gas-fired combined cycle plant. Atmospheric emissions from geothermal plants average only about 5% of the emissions from equivalent sized fossil fuel power plants.”

Currently, geothermal caters for 7% of Kiwi energy needs. This could be increased four-fold, or even higher, with enough support. As the Ministry of Economic Development explains, the industry is facing a number of barriers.

“Delays and uncertainties in the resource consent process and subsequent compliance costs have been identified as the biggest obstacles to investment.”

The total capacity from fields, mainly in the Taupo area, equate to 500MW. If all of New Zealand’s resources were tapped using the same methods as we see today, that would grow 4-times to 2,000MW. Additionally, if greater research and resource was available to improve the science of capturing geothermal energy, this could even grow to 3.000MW.

New Zealand has made significant in-roads in this area and should be doing more.

In the meantime, as always, let’s reduce, reduce, reduce. Switch off that light.


Also, this from the Geothermal Association Newsletter:
Have you heard about the New Zealand Clean Energy Centre?

The New Zealand Clean Energy Centre has been established in Taupo with an interest in both geothermal and bio-energy developments.

Two projects currently being progressed by the NZCEC are:
· A geothermal heating system to serve Taupo Hospital, Liston Heights Residential Care Hospital, and Taupo Intermediate School. This project has drawn a significant investment from Energy for Industry, and represents the first significant steps into geothermal development by a Meridian-owned company
· An energy farming project in conjunction with Genesis Research involving the growing of Salix willow for the production of ethanol.

Sunday, 13 May 2007

A Personal Story Shows How Fair Trade Works

Image 1: Will speaking at the Fair Trade Morning Tea "A Good Brew"
Image 2: Will, Amie from the Salvation Army, and Pravin from the Fair Trade association

Will Padilla recently toured New Zealand as part of the Fair Trade Fortnight. I was lucky enough to attend two Auckland events where he spoke. The message of success for Coope Agri, his co-operative, is an inspirational one.
Image 1: Will speaking at the Fair Trade Morning Tea "A Good Brew"
Image 2: Will, Amie, and Pravin - organisers of the morning tea

Will is from the southern region of Costa Rica. While Costa Rica has a similar population to New Zealand, it has a fifth of the space. In the low lands sugar is raised, and in the highlands it is coffee beans.

With 12,000 members in the co-operative, the statistics of who is affected are significant. The trickle down affect is amazing, after all, farmers earning a fair wage can share their earnings within their families and communities.

Most of the farms are very small, but reap the benefit of working collectively using combined infrastructure that has been established over 46 years. Together they have facilities of a coffee mill, a sugar mill, gas stations, roastery, a credit agency, and more.

Coffee growers often struggle with a meager 3 cent payment for every cup of coffee we drink. This is 1% of what we pay for a coffee in New Zealand. One of the reasons that the costs are so low is that this is a raw material, which is later blended and branded into a marketable product. It is, therefore even more important that the co=operative has roasting facilities, so that they are one step further up the chain and can command more value for their beans. The ideal end goal is that these co-operatives have the facilities to complete the cycle and present the finished product, packaged and ready for sale.

Because Coope Agri is part of the Fair Trade community they charge a premium for their coffee. Naturally, this offers farmers a livelihood. It also means that they’ve invested back into the cooperative. More recently, Will explains that 80% of that price today goes back to the farmers. The other 20% is dedicated to a river protection programme in their local area. Without a co-operative system, no such “giving back” to the community could occur, and certainly not in such an organised manner.

Surprisingly, the social conscience of Coope Agri goes beyond farmers and land resources. The organisation has also addressed social issues in the area. Members pitch in a little each month to a housing programme giving needy families solid and practical housing that will see them through the region’s oppressive rainy season. Additionally, they offer scholarships to member’s children to give opportunities to the next generation.

The next challenge for Coope Agri is the sustainable and organic market. Will explains that they already have acquired sustainable certification on 2 large farms through planting trees in amongst the crops to attract the living organisms that promote the healthy cycle of soil nutrients, as well as balancing the needs of nature with man’s need to consume. Next the aim to achieve organic certification. He explains: “The problem is that production goes down significantly, so we have to be patient. People want quality and that is what we want to give them – but for a premium.”


Want to know more?

Trade Aid New Zealand has these personal stories to tell of the way Fair Trade changes lives:

What proof can Trade Aid offer that coffee growers who sell certified Fairtrade coffee receive extra benefit themselves?

“With Fairtrade income we have made improvements to our community. Before we slept on the ground and did not have basic amenities. Now some of us have floors, some furniture and potable water. If we sold all of our production at Fair Trade prices our dreams would come true”

“Thanks to Fairtrade, one of my children is now in medical school and the other is in midwifery school”

“Fairtrade income is used to buy medicine for the Cooperative CafĂ© Timor’s primary healthcare clinics. For that I am grateful, as the clinic’s staff saved my wife’s life during the recent birth of our child”

“With the revenue I receive from Fairtrade, I am able to provide for my children and improve my home. Now I do not owe any money to the intermediaries or the money lenders; I have begun to grow a wide variety of crops”