Energy targets set a new direction
By: Mike Underhill, Chief Executive, EECA
New national energy targets are on the cards, as recently announced by the Minister of Energy & Resources, Hon Simon Bridges.
In particular the Minister said: “We need to broaden our renewable energy use beyond electricity and increase its use in the transport and industrial heat sectors. This is an area where I’m considering setting a target.”
Naturally we at EECA are delighted to be part of this, because we know there is work to be done to improve New Zealand’s energy profile.
It’s easy to feel complacent when you hear (as you often do these days) that New Zealand’s electricity is almost 81% renewable.
That is fantastic – but energy means more than electricity. Sixty percent of our primary energy supply comes from non-renewable sources, including oil, coal and gas.
We import $9b-worth of oil each year – it’s our biggest import. More than half of it goes into our private vehicles. Increasing our use of renewable energy in the transport sector, as the Minister suggests, is a great opportunity to reduce our reliance on imported oil and make a lot more of our home-grown renewable energy.
Kiwis seem to have cottoned on to the exciting potential of electric vehicles (EVs). Every month I see dozens of articles about new vehicles, technology and infrastructure. People’s idea of electric vehicles used to be a milk float or a golf buggy – but now we’re seeing extremely high-tech, sophisticated vehicles that cost the equivalent of just 30c a litre to run.
You might hear concerns about getting a flat battery but EV range is improving all the time. Besides, the vast majority of our daily travel needs could be met with an overnight charge.
And if you’re concerned that we’re going to run out of electricity, don’t be – we have enough consented renewable generation to run our entire fleet of cars.
The potential benefits are considerable. By changing 300,000 light vehicles to electric vehicles (10% of our current fleet) we could save a million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year.
And what about industrial heat? Much of the food we export is produced through the use of coal – always a challenge in a carbon-conscious market. Technology is bringing the fuel known as woody biomass – basically woodchips – to a competitive level. This is starting to offer real choice to major energy-using exporters.
Last year’s climate change talks in Paris set a strong direction on global thinking about energy and climate. For most countries, a shift to renewable energy and energy efficiency means getting rid of fossil-fuelled power stations. A shift in our transport and industrial heat sectors looks easy by comparison – and setting new energy targets is a great place to start.