Weekend Sun column

Friday, March 13, 2015

I have been kept particularly busy over the last couple of weeks with my Energy and Transport portfolios.

Last week I was in Auckland to address the 2015 Downstream Conference. This is one of the biggest events on the Energy calendar, where sector executives get together to discuss developments and challenges in the sector. This year there was a focus on the new technologies and how this will affect consumer behaviour. It is now possible for households to monitor their electricity use in real time, which means they can save money by using appliances in off-peak times.

I also discussed New Zealand’s renewable advantage. We have around 80 percent renewable electricity generation currently, and the Government is committed to achieving our goal of 90 percent by 2025. This means it makes sense for us to take advantage of technologies like electric vehicles. I am also keen to see New Zealand leverage our renewables expertise overseas and convert international interest into economic returns for local companies.

This week I was at the Road Lighting 2015 Conference, where innovation and new technology was also the order of the day. LED technology is now at a point where it is cheaper, smarter, safer and more efficient than the current road lighting in use. LED lights produce a better quality of light, meaning improved vehicle and pedestrian safety. They are also cheaper to run. I announced that NZTA would be bringing its investment forward so councils will be able to commence replacements sooner. All future Government roading projects, including the Roads of National Significance and Accelerated Regional Roads upgrades will use LED lighting.

You may have seen some of the Transport announcements I have made recently. On Monday I announced that we would commit to replace 10 single-lane bridges on Northland’s State highways with double-lane bridges. Earlier this week I also announced that the NZTA had approved over $1 billion to complete the final sections of the Waikato Expressway. This project has been identified as key to unlocking New Zealand’s potential for economic growth, especially the Waikato and Bay of Plenty regions.