New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark has unveiled the latest New Zealand Energy Strategy under which the country’s state-owned electricity generators will be prevented from building any new baseload thermal generation plants.

The NZES is designed to place the country on a path to greater sustainability with reduced emissions and greater use of renewable energy across the economy. Clark recently announced plans for a carbon emissions trading scheme and a target of generating 90 per cent of electricity from renewable energy by 2025.

The government believes that the emissions trading scheme will give strong incentives for the development of renewable generation over fossil fuels, but will also issue “guidance” to the country’s state-owned generators to prevent the construction of new fossil-fuelled power plants for at least ten years.

Energy minister David Parker says that the government is also considering imposing the moratorium on private power generators. “The government does not believe it is in the interests of the country for the [state-owned generators] to build any more base-load thermal generation,” said Parker. “We are also considering additional measures to ensure our message is loud and clear, for all generators, not just SOEs … we are considering amendments to the Electricity Act to limit new baseload fossil fuel generation over the next ten years. We expect to make a decision on this before Christmas.”

Analysis by the government shows that new geothermal and wind are economic options for developers under a medium-term carbon emissions price of NZ$25/tonne. “Although it is likely to be some time before the international and New Zealand carbon price reaches NZ$25 per tonne, new power stations last for decades and it is likely those building them will take into account the longer term cost of emissions,” said Parker.

The NZES will enhance energy security, rather than harm it, says Parker, as it will help to ensure that the country does not become reliant on imported liquefied natural gas. The government recently took measures to stimulate oil and gas exploration in New Zealand to ensure the continued supply of indigenous resources.