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NZ Draft Energy Strategy Embraces Biofuels and Plug-In Hybrids

Potential GHG reduction in the transport sector as outlined in the draft strategy. Click to enlarge.

New Zealand Energy and Climate Change Minister David Parker has released the Government’s draft energy strategy. The strategy aims to ensure the country develops a sustainable and affordable energy system which minimizes greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and which will give New Zealand an enduring competitive advantage over other countries.

The strategy outlines major efforts in making electricity generation more renewable and in reducing GHG emissions from transport via a number of initiatives, including renewable fuels, increasing vehicle efficiency, and introducing plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.

The recently published New Zealand Energy Outlook to 2030 predicts the country’s oil use will increase by 35% and energy-related greenhouse gas emissions to rise 30% if no changes are made in the production and use of energy.

If we make no changes to the way we travel and transport freight, transport energy use is expected to grow by about 35% by 2030—with three-quarters of that growth coming from road transport. Greenhouse gas emissions from transport would increase at a similar rate. The risks of climate change make it unacceptable for us to continue on this path.

It is in New Zealand’s wider interests to reduce our transport emissions and our dependence on imported oil. Achieving this is likely to require, among other actions, a combination of biofuels and the use of electricity for vehicles.

—from the Draft Strategy

Schematic of the types of action proposed in the transport sector. Click to enlarge.

The strategy proposes four priority areas for action, with a focus on reducing greenhouse gases:

  • Developing and adopting future fuels;
  • Improving the fuel efficiency of vehicles;
  • Shifting to more efficient means of transport; and
  • Ensuring a secure and diverse supply of transport fuels.

On the biofuels front, the strategy proposes establishing a minimum biofuels obligation, and developing transport policies over the next 15 years that will increase the proportion of biofuels in the fuel mix.

Because about 70% of electricity generation in New Zealand is already from renewable sources, the electrification of transport offers an attractive path to reduce transport greenhouse gas emissions, “as long as marginal new electricity generation has lower emissions per unit of energy required compared with fossil fuel alternatives.

To date, electricity use for transport has been limited to buses and trains.

To adopt these technologies as early as possible, we need to consider and remove potential barriers to the introduction of hybrid plug-ins and full electrics into New Zealand.

Action: The government will consider establishing a group of experts drawn from research and industry to advance consideration of implications of moving to significantly higher levels of biofuels beyond 2012 and the introduction of plug-in electric vehicles (hybrids or wholly electric) in significant numbers.

Other key transport-related elements of the strategy include:

  • Improving the fuel efficiency of the vehicle fleet through age/technology standards.

  • Instituting education programs to improve driver behavior. Differences in driver behavior alone can vary fuel use by up to 35%, according to the plan, and it has been estimated that a targeted driver training program for heavy vehicle drivers could give energy savings of at least 10%, or 6.1 PJ per year.

  • Increasing support for public transport and non-motorized forms of transport.

  • Developing a New Zealand shipping strategy and other different ways to move freight.

Complementing the draft New Zealand Energy Strategy are two additional discussion papers. One is on the longer-term options for addressing greenhouse gas emissions across all sectors of the economy beyond 2012, and the other proposes transitional measures to encourage renewable energy and/or limit greenhouse gas emissions in the electricity and industrial energy sector as part of moving to the longer-term policy.

To reduce greenhouse gas emissions, New Zealand is likely to need a combination of voluntary, price-based and regulatory measures, some targeted towards individual sectors of the economy and some for the economy as a whole.

—Minister Parker

The Minister begins the process for consultation on the draft strategy with a series of briefings to stakeholders this week. The closing date for submissions on the draft strategy is 30 March 2007.



Rafael Seidl

New Zealand is famously home to more sheep than people. Their abattoirs must produce copious amounts of waste biomass, which can be turned into biofuel using the thermal depolymerization process (TDP). ConAgra is using it at their Carthage, Missouri, turkey processing plant. Since sheep are potential hosts for disease vectors including scrapie, this beats feeding the current practice of recycling the offal into animal feed.

Robert Schwartz

Not to mention all of that sheep poop that could be turned into methane.


Australia, would do well to learn a few things from the Kiwis. I know Howard's not going to do anything significant in regard to renewables and electrifying transport but I suspect the Liberal party's days in power are numbered now that there is new opposition leadership. I know Peter Garret will be taking note.

shaun mann

the NZ sheep and cow industry is pasture-based, not industrial feedlot based, so the poo is too spread out for the methane to be effeciently collected.

animal (and human) waste products have been discussed as biofuel sources.

more importantly, the country is growing wind farms and pinus radiata (which can be converted to ethanol) like nobody's business.

As for their hopes for PHEVs, a small economy of 4 million people will have to take what they can get. Most of the cars on the road in NZ are imported used from Japan. So, in terms of cars, whereever Japan goes, NZ goes about 5 yrs later.

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