Renewable Energy in New Zealand

by F Weightman, CADDET New Zealand National Team


Most of the technologies needed for a more sustainable energy future are already proven internationally and are available in New Zealand, according to a new report on renewable energy launched in August. The report on new and emerging renewable energy opportunities looks ten years into the future but for some of the technologies featured, the future is already here.
 Examples of New Zealand's energy future include the first commercial wind farm (already up and running with no government subsidies); a second, larger, windfarm having received planning permission; landfill gas projects at commercial and industrial sites; and more than half the process residues from New Zealand's 1.3 million hectares of forest estate being used by the forest processing industry for heat and/or power generation.
 The report sees these "new renewables", as well as forest arisings and new small hydro schemes, as likely to make an even greater contribution to national energy supply within the next 10 years. It projects a doubling of the contribution of "new renewables" by the year 2005 from 5% to around 10% of New Zealand's energy supply.

The Report

The report "New and Emerging Renewable Energy Opportunities in New Zealand" is a joint publication by the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) and the Centre for Advanced Engineering at Canterbury University. It covers renewable energy sources other than New Zealand's traditional large hydro and geothermal resources.
 The report outlines the present state of the technology, economic viability and environmental impact of various types of renewable energy systems for implementation in New Zealand.


Around 30% (128 PJ) of New Zealand's energy is supplied by renewable resources. Direct heat from renewable sources, mostly from biomass and, to a lesser extent, from geothermal resources, contributes 11% of the country's energy supply. The remaining renewable contribution (19%) is in the form of electric power. Hydro contributes about 70% of all electricity generated, including that from thermal power stations, while geothermal sources provide 5%, and less than 1.8% comes from new renewable resources (mainly small hydro projects).
 Plenty of coastal land and elevated sites mean that New Zealand has a wind resource that would be envied by many other countries, with sites of 10 m/s currently being assessed. The report concludes that wind power will have increased its generation capacity by more than 25 times to at least 100 MW by 2006.
 The location of the country also means that its coastal and near off-shore waters receive a massive amount of wave energy. Technologies are not yet available to reliably tap this energy source and commercial plant will probably not be developed within the ten-year time frame. In the longer term, this resource could become important to New Zealand.
 In terms of both magnitude and potential for medium term realisation, biomass energy stands out. New Zealand has a very large and growing exotic forest resource which will produce a substantial contribution in the form of arisings and processing residues. While there will be demand for this material as a fibre source, it is likely that a large amount will be available as a potential energy source. Overall the report assesses that the use of biomass fuels will double by 2005.
 The country also has a large amount of land suitable for growing crops and establishing short rotation tree plantations with energy production as the main or as a subsidiary purpose.
 New Zealand has a temperate climate and a good level of sunshine. This means that the energy needed in a well designed home, to provide space and water heating, is not great compared with that which is readily accessible to the home from passive solar, solar thermal and photovoltaic conversion.


There is significant potential to develop renewable energy projects within New Zealand. Concern about the environment, for example the risk of climate change from increased carbon dioxide emissions, is focusing increased interest on new and emerging renewable energy technologies. In addition, many New Zealanders appear to support greater emphasis on renewable energy supplies in order to achieve a more sustainable future. For example, based on a recent survey, there is a willingness by up to one third of consumers to pay a premium for "green energy" supplied from renewable sources.
 In the near term, new renewable energy developers will concentrate on finding suitable niche markets in New Zealand as a step towards wider commercialisation. This can be achieved by identifying opportunities that range from remote area power projects to embedded generation, by promoting projects that can replace transmission upgrades, and by developing synergies with conventional fuels.
 The new renewable energy technologies which are most likely to make an increased contribution to New Zealand's primary energy supply within the next decade are: biomass in the form of wood processing residues, domestic firewood supplies and forest arisings; wind power via wind farms; and new small hydro schemes.
 Passive solar design could also make a significant contribution to reducing the energy demand in buildings, particularly if social barriers to its adoption are addressed. At the end of the ten- year time frame it is possible that photovoltaic conversion technology will become viable for general household use and will start to be more widely used.
 New biomass conversion technologies, possibly using purpose-grown crops, may also become commercially viable within the next ten years.
 For more information contact the CADDET New Zealand National Team in Wellington.

The CADDET Renewable Energy Newsletter is a quarterly magazine published by the CADDET Centre for Renewable Energy at ETSU, UK.

The articles published in the Newsletter reflect the opinions of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the official view of CADDET.

Enquiries concerning the Newsletter should be addressed to
Pauline Toole, Editor, CADDET Centre for Renewable Energy, ETSU, Harwell, Oxfordshire OX11 0RA, United Kingdom. Tel: +44 1235 432968, Fax: +44 1235 433595.