New Zealand plans to increase renewable energy by up to 42% by 2012

The New Zealand government has announced that it aims to increase renewable energy supply by 19-42% and improve overall energy efficiency by 20% by 2012, as part of the country’s new NZ$79 million (US$32 million) energy strategy.

As part of the new National Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy, more specific targets will be set following further analysis, says Energy Minister Pete Hodgson, who stated that although sources of energy such as solar, wind and biomass, are found in abundance in New Zealand, the country has been slow to utilise them. Ultimately, renewable energy systems will be the main source of energy for a sustainable economy, said Hodgson.

“This is a key step in the path to a sustainable energy future for New Zealand,” said Hodgson. “The benefits of more efficient energy use will include improved economic productivity, healthier communities in warmer, drier homes, lower carbon dioxide emissions, greater economic resilience through more diverse energy supply, and improved transport systems,” he said.

“Current energy trends are not sustainable,” said Hodgson. “New Zealand is predicted to use 20% more energy in 2012 than now, with an increasing reliance on fossil fuel energy sources such as oil, gas and coal. This will push up carbon dioxide emissions to at least 45% above 1990 levels by 2012.”

The renewable energy target will be partly met through increased geothermal, woody biomass, hydro and wind energy providing electricity and industrial process heat. However, further expansion of renewable sources of process heat and electricity will be needed, as well as an increase in solar water heating. Mechanisms that are being evaluated for their value to the achievement of the forthcoming renewables target include:

  • tradable renewable energy requirements for energy retailers;
  • tradable fossil fuel use restrictions for all electricity generators and suppliers;
  • support for sectors such as solar hot water and renewable industrial process heat; and
  • voluntary measures such as negotiated industry agreements or green pricing of renewable energy.

An increase in energy efficiency for both commercial and domestic customers will also help cut the country’s use requirement for fossil fuels. “An important part of the strategy is a business energy efficiency commitment programme for small to medium enterprises,” said Hodgson. “Financial incentives could include accelerated depreciation for energy efficiency measures that follow an energy audit, and subsidies for the audits themselves.” Other measures in the strategy include minimum energy performance standards and labelling for generic industry equipment, sector energy efficiency studies, international benchmarking, and research on the use of woody biomass.

The strategy’s energy efficiency objectives include:

  • retrofitting pre 1977 houses with cost-effective energy efficiency measures, such as insulation within 15 years;
  • the achievement of mean energy performance in existing commercial buildings of less than 150 kilowatt-hours per square metre within 15 years, with new commercial buildings to achieve 100 kilowatt-hours;
  • ensuring that all new homes are able to maintain an internal temperature of 18-25°C at reasonable cost, without significant use of heating or cooling energy within 15 years; and
  • the improvement of appliance energy efficiency to best practice.

“Seventy percent of homes were built before any insulation standards and New Zealand homes are often colder than the World Health Organisation recommends,” said Hodgson. “Insulation, draught-proofing and energy efficient appliances could reduce energy costs in more recent homes by around 20% and by up to 60% in older houses.” Homes could even be given a national energy efficiency rating within ten years, he said.

The Government will also be targeting transport, aiming to cut energy use by reducing the need to travel, progressively improving the energy performance of the public transport fleet, and improving the provision and uptake of low energy transport options. Domestic transport accounts for 40% of New Zealand’s energy use and 42% of the countries carbon dioxide emissions, with average occupancy of vehicles being only 1.6 people, dropping to 1.1 during rush hour.

“Perhaps most important is the application of a more rational basis for pricing transport,” said Hodgson. “Having prices that increasingly reflect the full cost of energy supply, including environmental impacts, would help underpin all of the strategy’s transport objectives. The adoption of new technology, such as electronic road charging systems, will also send signals to alter travel behaviour and steer investment towards energy efficient options.”

On 30 July, the New Zealand government announced proposals for a 15% electricity savings target for the public sector, with an investment of NZ$2.25 million (US$942,000), in order to avert an energy crisis predicted to occur later on in the year because of low levels in hydropower lakes not due to be replenished until snow melts (see related story).

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie