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Horizons 2050: NZ's renewable future

Article posted by Cobalt Recruitment

New Zealand already has excellent renewable energy credentials but still wants to set its sights higher – a vision endorsed by Prime Minister Ardern.

Taking advantage of its ‘geographical luck’ in the words of one commentator, New Zealand already produces 80% of its electricity from renewable resources; hydro, geothermal and land-based wind power. Auckland, Wellington and Kapiti have been listed as some of the world’s most ‘renewable’ cities or urban areas – cities where a high proportion of their electricity comes from renewable energy sources.

National ambition for a future with renewable energy

Now the government has set an ambitious target of 2035 for an electricity grid which is 100% powered by renewables – just one of the issues in its new Zero Carbon Bill.  Also working towards an ambitious vison, the National Energy Research Institute (NERI) launched its Energy Research Strategy for New Zealand, shortly after Ardern’s election in Oct.

The strategy aims to ensure that the country has ‘a secure, resilient, energy supply that meets environmental demands’ without needing ‘a safety net’ of traditional fuels or imported technology.  This means looking at areas that don’t currently use renewable resources. One key area of focus is transport.  

Light vehicle transport – renewable potential

With a lower than average distance for a typical commute, New Zealand is well placed to look at a rapid transfer to electric vehicles for day-to-day travel. New Zealand also has expertise in inductive power transfer and rapid charging that could be used at home or earn export revenue.

Air and marine transport – renewable research goals

Such transport is vital to New Zealand’s tourism industry and food trade. The strategy suggests more research into biofuels and biomass feedstocks. An initiative taking place at the Robinson Research Institute at Victoria University is collaborating with international partners to work on long-range hybrid-electric aircraft. The work needs to achieve step changes in power/weight ratio, which may involve superconductor technology.

Accessible research

The NERI strategy also includes setting up a searchable database of New Zealand research initiatives. This is one of the ways the vision and tools can be shared to create an even greater renewable future for New Zealand.

The strategy and vision for New Zealand’s sustainable future certainly seems to have national backing. It also appears to have a wide-ranging view looking at both easier to achieve objectives and longer-term goals. For these it needs to draw on a range of engineering expertise and creative ideas to meet New Zealand’s own particular energy needs. 

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