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IEA releases new report on renewable energy landscape in New Zealand

According to the International Energy Agency's latest study of New Zealand's energy policies, the past decade has seen New Zealand's growing energy needs outpacing improvements in energy efficiency, mainly because of the country's expanding economy and growing population.

 A recent report released by the IEA, Energy Policies of IEA Countries: New Zealand 2017 Review, points out that staying competitive in industry, while limiting greenhouse gas emissions outside of the power generation remains a technology and policy challenge for the country. However, the report also praises New Zealand on its unique resource base, calling it a ‘success story’ for the development of renewable energy, especially in the areas of hydro and geothermal, without government subsidies.

New Zealand has set ambitious goals to cut its greenhouse gas emissions to 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. To be in line with the Paris Agreement, it will have to adopt policies supporting the energy system transformation, encouraging greater energy efficiency, electrified transport and expanding renewable energy in the buildings, heat and industry sectors. However, the IEA commends New Zealand for its new initiatives, the electric vehicle program and the update to the New Zealand Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy.

"Government policies, including targets and standards, are needed to open up the potential of energy efficiency in industrial heat, buildings and transport. Strong standards and policies will guide technology innovation and growth," Dr. Fatih Birol, the IEA Executive Director said when presenting the report today. "New Zealand is a world-class success story for renewables and has excellent opportunities for using even more renewable energy in heat, but also in power supply and for the electrification of transport."

New Zealand serves as a model for effective energy markets and secure power system operation, says IEA. But the IEA report shows that security of supply cannot be taken for granted, and can be strengthened through a strategic reserve auction. The country's unique hydro-based power system brings challenges for maintaining physical security of supply. A purely market-based system may not provide a timely or fully effective response to low water levels at all times.

Security of supply will also be strengthened by boosting investment in the country's large oil and gas resource base, says the report. The role of gas has grown in the residential sector, in power generation, and industry. However, New Zealand is not connected to the global LNG markets and lacks long-term visibility for natural gas demand and supply.

The IEA approves of New Zealand's electricity and gas market reforms and encourages the market regulators to continue on this path. As the energy sector becomes more decentralized and local, with greater shares of wind, solar, battery storage and electric vehicles, the IEA recommends that the government should ensure that consumers and market participants are encouraged to build a smart system. The widespread deployment of smart metering and the emergence of new technologies in New Zealand provide opportunities for more efficient, innovative and competitive electricity retail and distribution.

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