Low emissions mandate for EECA
By Andrew Caseley, Chief Executive, Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA)
Few people would understand the excitement I got from seeing the New Zealand Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy 2017-2022 launched recently by the Minister of Energy and Resources, Hon Judith Collins.
This is EECA’s guiding document, and will influence our programmes for the next five years. I’m excited because it addresses several major opportunities to help New Zealand move to a low emissions and more productive economy – and after leading EECA for six months, I know how keen we are to meet this challenge and play our significant part.
Until now, EECA’s main focus has been on electricity efficiency. We’ve made excellent progress through, for example, our Energy Rating Label and minimum energy performance standards that keep poor performing and inefficient appliances out of the country.
We’ve hit the milestone of retrofitting insulation in over 300,000 homes nationwide to help make homes warm and dry by providing grants under the Warm Up New Zealand: Healthy Homes programme.
We’ve also become well-known for our ENERGYWISE information campaign which gives practical information on how to keep your home warm, dry and energy efficient.
But as the government agency tasked with encouraging energy efficiency and promoting renewable energy in homes, businesses and on the road, we’ve become increasingly aware of some prime opportunities to do more to increase energy efficiency but also transition to a low carbon economy.
Generally, over 80 percent of our electricity is generated from renewable resources – hydro, geothermal and wind. But as we move to a lower carbon economy, we need to think more about the wider energy picture. While our renewable electricity rates look fantastic, with a world ranking of third highest, the energy that fuels our economy still includes substantial amounts of non-renewable fuels such as petrol, diesel and coal.
Under the new strategy, EECA will focus on three priority areas. I strongly believe they are the right ones for New Zealand.
The first is the generation and efficient use of what’s known as process heat – usually steam or hot water generated by big boilers and used during manufacturing processes, or to heat public buildings such as schools and hospitals. Around 60 percent of the energy used in this sector is still non-renewable. EECA’s research shows significant scope to improve the efficiency of existing process heat plant and encourage investment in efficient, renewable energy-using boilers. One pressing action on EECA and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) is to develop and implement a process heat action plan to make the most of these opportunities.
The strategy also prioritises efficient and low-emissions transport. This sector’s use of energy is bigger than either electricity or process heat, and includes a tiny portion of renewable energy as it runs almost entirely on fossil fuel based petrol and diesel.
In transport, we will continue to encourage the uptake of electric vehicles (EVs) through the Government’s five-year information campaign to familiarise vehicle users with this technology and a contestable fund to help overcome barriers for their use throughout the sector. I urge everyone to consider an EV as your next vehicle purchase, not only for the great cost savings but because they’re fun to drive. We will also be working with the Ministry of Transport to explore options for improving the efficiency of the heavy vehicle fleet.
The third priority is the innovative and efficient use of electricity. Using our renewable electricity supply more efficiently is good for households and will make our industries more productive and more competitive. I would love to see New Zealand businesses become among the most energy efficient and least carbon intensive in the world.
EECA’s primary focus will now be on ramping up New Zealand’s overall renewable energy picture. Working with businesses, particularly those with a large carbon footprint will be an on-going priority. Already, we help businesses across a range of sectors become more competitive and lower carbon emitters by optimising the efficiency of their energy systems. Innovative technology offers exciting new ways for them to use even less carbon-intensive energy, from industrial heat pumps to super-efficient milk chilling systems. Technology is also advancing to the advantage of residential energy users by, for example, battery storage, rooftop solar, accessible information about their energy consumption and flexible pricing plans.
EECA, in conjunction with consumers and others in the energy sector, has shown what can be achieved in electricity efficiency. This strategy now highlights the priority to make similar progress for our transport fleet and process heat users.