A church investigates supplying cheap electricity

cheap electricity

A Hawkes Bay church wants to build a mega solar farm to help to reduce energy poverty in the region.

To alleviate the energy situation for about 400 Flaxmere households, Reverend Jill McDonald and Chris Lambourne of St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Hastings hope to construct a large solar farm to provide Flaxmere with cheap electricity.

The church is close to finishing a feasibility study and had an engineer review the project.

The next step would be finding up to two hectares of land to build on.

They aimed to raise the majority of the $2.5 million needed through the parish, local and central government, iwi, the community and charities.

They hope then to sell power at prices about 25 percent below those offered by mainstream companies.

“Technically, the customers can be anywhere, but we’ve used Flaxmere as a concept where people understand there’s a lot of low-income households and people in need,” said project manager Chris Lambourne.

Data showed that people in Flaxmere, which is in the church’s catchment area, were using 20 per cent less electricity than the average New Zealand home.

“People can’t afford to heat their houses and, as such, they … get sick. That affects their employment, and if you’re unemployed, then it affects your ability to have a house, that was the picture we saw happening,” Lambourne said.

The church would also purchase electricity from the wholesale market to service customers during non-sunlight hours.

A spokeswoman for the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority said solar energy was likely to be an “increasing part” of New Zealand’s future.

It was currently more expensive to generate solar compared with large-scale renewables like wind and geothermal, but prices were falling, she said.


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