Venture Southland advocates for awareness of efficient, innovative and environmentally-friendly techniques that mitigate climate change in New Zealand.
Electricity and fossil fuel price increases due to global issues place a higher priority on energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy resources. Many local businesses have not thought about the implications of these global issues for Southland's economy, or their business.
Education is needed to encourage Southlanders to adopt more efficient technologies and practices when considering future energy availability and making investment decisions, be it as simple as what kind of light fittings to install, or as complex as how to best design a dairy shed, or where to locate new industrial premises.
Being proactive in addressing these issues is critical, because in an energy scarce future it may be expensive to rectify energy-inefficient decisions – particularly in relation to large capital investments such as buildings.
Investment in energy efficient buildings, renewable energy generation and resource efficiency dramatically enhances business and community resilience, and is a key factor in retaining and attracting businesses and residents to the region.
Southland has taken a lead in the energy sector by having a regionally co-ordinated approach to energy, with the first Energy Assessment for the region undertaken in 2003, and the Regional Energy Strategy published in 2005.
It has been identified that more strategic actions are required to prepare the region for what is to come, and highlights the need to create a combined long term vision for the future of Southland‘s energy. These actions include looking at the mix of industries in the region, and the population. If Southland is to address the challenge of future energy supply and benefit from any opportunities arising in the energy sector in the future, planning and action is required.
A need to shift focus from developing resources that will maximise economic growth, to preparing for how to maintain stable energy services is necessary for supporting a thriving healthy community. Changes in sources of energy are intrinsically linked to environmental impacts and need to be carefully managed. This is evident both at the source and the point of use, as illustrated by some residents noting a change in air quality with lower quality coal now being used.
Some businesses, community groups and residents are questioning their sources of energy as a result of heightened awareness. Availability of alternative energy sources is an issue; for example Southland doesn't have access to natural gas options at present. There are barriers to small scale distributed generation which need to be addressed.
The energy strategy emphasises the need for co-ordination, new thinking, investment and skills to implement change. By examining a number of possible future options, it is clear that there are some long lead times involved with regards to developing new energy technology. The lead time should be used to ensure that the regulatory and compliance environment enables the development of alternative technologies.
Two new strategic opportunities emerged from the 2011 review of the strategy. One is the potential use of gas as a local transport fuel. The other is the possibility that the waste from industry, such as dairy farms, could be used to provide energy from waste, which may have the potential to significantly reduce electricity demand as well as avoid environmental harm.
The energy strategy for Southland outlines the strategic actions needed to ensure Southland has a secure and cost effective energy supply. This is important to enable and foster community and economic development, while acknowledging that maintaining our environment‘s health underpins the ability for this development to occur. Energy, its availability and its cost, will be hugely important factors in determining the standard of living Southland people will enjoy in the future.