Solid Energy plans own hydro scheme for Stockton, plans to appeal proposed plant
Solid Energy says it will lodge an appeal in the Environment Court against a hydro proposal near its Stockton mine on the west coast.
Concerned that the hydro scheme would interfere with future operations at the mine, the state-owned coal mining company has instead applied for its own resource consents for a hydro-electricity generation scheme to power 22,000 homes.
Hydro Developments Ltd (HDL) last month gained consent for a $200 million proposal to harness tributaries of the Ngakawau River.
Using polluted water from Stockton, the scheme would divert it from the Stockton Plateau through a series of reservoirs tunnels and power stations to an ocean outfall.
In a statement in January, the company said the conditions of consent had the support of the Crown, including the Ministry of Economic Development, Department of Conservation and Solid Energy and work on building the project could commence as soon as next month.
The project could be well advanced by mid 2011, with dam foundations proven, tunnel portals established, tunnelling and dam building underway and power design for generation embedment in the local network well advanced, it said.
But in a statement released today, Solid Energy said based on the information to date, it had major concerns that the scheme would not meet some or all of its expectations.
Solid Energy said it was willing to talk to Hydro Developments about a land access agreement but it would be subject to meeting expectations including guaranteeing the mine’s ability to manage the plateau’s water resource, that the project is technically and financially credible and assured of proceeding and is the best scheme for water from the plateau.
Chief operating officer Barry Bragg said the company believed its scheme was a better fit with its coal mining plans and was not convinced Hydro Developments’ scheme was the best proposal.
“Solid Energy’s core business and expertise at Stockton is coal mining and while we might retain an interest in progressing our hydro scheme, we don’t see ourselves as retaining a primary role in financing, building or operating it.
“We’d look to other parties who have more expertise than we do in this field.”
Mr Bragg said Solid Energy would appeal the consents to protect its position, but if Hydro Developments could address its concerns he would expect it to be settled.
Hydro Developments project manager John Easther said it was not surprising. “We’ve presumed all along that they would appeal.”
But he said he would be surprised if Solid Energy had any grounds and he thought it would be decided at a pre-court conference.
“Solid Energy wanted our consents to be subject to anything they should do in the future … it’s blatant commercialism.”