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Approximately 40% of primary energy (Heat and power) is from renewable energy sources in New Zealand. Approximately 80% of electricity comes from renewable energy, primarily hydropower and geothermal power.
Renewable energy by type
Renewable electricity in New Zealand is primarily from hydropower. In 2017, 82% of the electricity generated in New Zealand came from renewable sources. In September 2007, former Prime Minister Helen Clark announced a national target of 90 percent renewable electricity by 2025, with wind energy to make up much of that increase.
Solar technologies in New Zealand only became affordable alternatives in the mid-2010s, compared to previous renewable offerings. The uptake in the residential and commercial market, though slow, has increased steadily. As with all renewable options, price of generation is key to the sustainability. It is only these recent changes in pricing that may see solar generation plants in the future.
Solar hot water
According to the New Zealand Bioenergy Association, more than 10 percent of New Zealand's energy currently comes from bioenergy. Biodiesel, bioethanol and biomass (generally in the form of wood) are all used in New Zealand as a source of renewable energy.
New Zealand is rich in biomass from wood and waste which can be used as fuel. Biomass is sourced primarily from in-forest and wood processing residues and municipal wood waste. This can be processed into pellets, chip or hog fuel.
The Bioenergy Association of New Zealand has investigated the potential for greenhouse gas reduction brought about by switching from fossil fuel to wood biomass for industrial heat. It assessed that by 2050 New Zealand could more than double 2017 biomass energy supply, providing up to 27% of NZ's energy needs and realising a 15% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
Milk processing provides current examples of biomass use in industry:
Biomass is also used for heating in hospitals, schools and universities.
Wood fuel industry leader, Azwood Energy, advocates for government policy change to incentivise and accelerate fuel switching to biomass, in order to improve emissions reduction. Dr Martin Atkins, Senior Research Fellow with Waikato University's Energy Research Group, believes using woody biomass as a fuel source for industrial processes will be vital in meeting New Zealand's GHG emissions reduction targets.
Pumped Energy Storage
When the water in lakes used for hydro-electricity runs low, coal and gas fired power stations have been used to make up the shortfall. In 2021 the Ardern government invested $11.5 million to investigate the feasibility of storing energy by pumping water to Lake Onslow in Central Otago. The lake could store up to 8 terawatt-hours of electricity or approximately one fifth of the country's consumption. The pumping would use power when it is plentiful and cheap, including wind power. Critics have argued that the scheme could upset the market by placing a cap on electricity prices.
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