NZ Energy Generation Trends & Renewables Strategy

New Zealand has an overall objective of achieving “90 percent of our electricity generation coming from renewable energy sources by 2025, providing this does not affect security of supply.” So how have we been doing?

Currently we are at 79% and making good progress in wind and geothermal power generation but solar energy ( on a larger scale) has been neglected. Despite these objectives we haven’t been doing so well in the last decade or so.

“While there has been rapid growth in electricity generation from other renewable electricity sources – especially wind, which has increased by 2.5 petajoules (over 4000 per cent) between 1998 and 2007 – the share of total electricity generation from non-hydro renewables remains too small to meet the growing gap between electricity demand and hydro’s static generation. Instead, fossil fuels have been increasingly relied upon.

Between 1998 and 2007, the use of coal and gas to generate heat in thermal electricity generators increased by 47 per cent. This increase has contributed to a 68 per cent increase in greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation over the same period.”

NZ Energy Generation by type

How much electricity does NZ generate currently?

About 9,751 MW* as at December 2011. Of that only 108 was renewable from sources that included solar**. Wind generation at 614mw has been steadily growing since about 2002.

*Actual capacity numbers and power used don’t match as hydro fluctuates depending on water / weather and overall consumption is impacted by weather and in NZ the Christchurch earthquake for example.

One of the ironies of these numbers is that Tiwai Pt Aluminium smelter used 625mw of electricity in 2011. At retail that power is worth over $1b but gets sold to Tiwai Pt for $320m so they can make about $1b in revenue. See the previous post – nothing about that deal makes sense.

Looking at the chart above it seems like if we didn’t have Tiwai Pt we could eliminate all of the coal generation and some of the gas generation pretty much overnight. If the government was really committed to improving our reneables energy generation and reducing our carbon emissions they should do that.

The RENEWABLE ENERGY IN NEW ZEALAND document is a source document here. There is so little in it I have included the full text below.

+New Zealand is fortunate to have a diverse portfolio of energy resources, both renewable and non-renewable. It is this diversity that is the basis of New Zealand’s comparative advantage.
+ We need to continue to develop both our renewable and non-renewable resources, and improve our energy efficiency to manage our environmental responsibilities and realise our economic opportunities.
+ New Zealand has abundant renewable energy resources and a proud history of developing our renewable energy resources in an environmentally responsible way.
+ Our hydro and geothermal developments are amongst the country’s greatest engineering achievements. We have well regarded expertise in geothermal. In addition, we are rapidly developing expertise and a track record in wind energy.
+ Actions taken by this Government that support the development of renewable energy sources include improved call-in processes under the Resource Management Act, which have benefited a number of wind and geothermal projects.
+ The Emissions Trading Scheme encourages renewables in preference to fossil fuels by introducing a price on carbon.
+ The recently gazetted National Policy Statement on Renewable Electricity Generation recognises the national significance of renewable electricity generation activities by providing for the development, operation, maintenance and upgrading of new and existing renewable electricity generation activities.
+ The Government is committed to the target of 90 percent of our electricity generation coming from renewable energy sources by 2025, providing this does not affect security of supply.
+ New Zealand has been tracking well towards this target – over the March quarter renewables made up 79 percent of our electricity generation. This is one of the largest shares in the OECD, and has been aided by strong hydro inflows and generation from new wind and geothermal sources.
+ This, combined with the use of gas rather than coal at the Huntly power station, resulted in the lowest quarterly electricity generation emissions in ten years.
+ In support of our emphatic determination to continue our strong domestic focus on renewable energy, and to ensure that New Zealand works to remain alongside the top performing countries, the Government joined the International Renewable Energy Agency, effective 1 May 2011.
+ The Government will continue to ensure market incentives and the regulatory framework support further investment in appropriate renewable projects by removing unnecessary regulatory barriers.

What do you think? What actual policy steps do we need to do to move New Zealand towards a higher use of renewable energy and prepare for the end of fossil fuels?


Germany fed a whopping 22 gigawatts of solar power per hour into the national grid last weekend, setting a new record by meeting nearly half of the country’s weekend power demand. After the Fukushima disaster, Japan opted to shut down all of its nuclear power stations and Germany followed suit after considerable public pressure. This seems to have paved the way for greater investment in solar energy projects. The Renewable Energy Industry (IWR) in Muenster announced that Saturday’s solar energy generation met nearly 50 percent of the nation’s midday electricity needs AND was equal to 20 nuclear power stations at full capacity!

If Germany can generate the equivalent of 20 nuclear power stations at full capacity then New Zealand needs to look a bit harder at that especially in Northland and parts of NZ where sunshine hours are the highest.

Read more on Germany example: Germany Sets New Solar Record By Meeting Nearly Half of Country’s Weekend Power Demand