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Energy Study Results Highlight Need For Urgent Climate Action

Dunedin City Council and University of Otago media release

Wednesday, 4 November 2020

The results of the latest Dunedin Energy Study highlight the need for urgent, community-wide action to reduce the city’s carbon footprint, says Mayor of Dunedin Aaron Hawkins.

The Dunedin City Council-funded study – undertaken by the University of Otago’s Centre for Sustainability – analysed the city’s energy consumption in the year to 30 June 2019.

Centre Director, Associate Professor Janet Stephenson, says that despite some bright spots such as more solar generation and electric vehicle registrations, the latest research identified some worrying energy use trends.

“The city’s energy use is tracking mostly in the wrong direction – diesel consumption and carbon emissions are up, while renewable energy use and energy efficiency is down,” says Stephenson.

Report co-author and Otago PhD candidate Felix Cook says data on all the electricity and fuel use – including coal, wood, LPG, diesel and petrol – showed Dunedin used 13.7 Petajoules of energy for 2018/19, up 2.3 per cent on the previous year.

Cook says that in comparison to 2015/16, when the annual study began, energy use has become less efficient; energy consumption per capita has increased an average of 3.25 per cent per year, and energy consumption per unit of GDP has increased nearly 2 per cent per year.

Over this period, the proportion of use of non-renewable fuels in Dunedin’s energy supply has increased from 63 per cent to 67 per cent. Diesel use is the biggest factor behind this, increasing 12 per cent between 2017/18 and 2018/19 alone. LPG use has also doubled since 2015/16. Overall, energy-related carbon emissions have increased at an average rate of nearly 4 per cent per year.

Mayor Hawkins says the results were concerning, but not surprising given the DCC’s recently released Dunedin emissions profile revealed the city’s greenhouse gas emissions have grown 4 per cent since 2015, largely driven by transport emissions.

“The Energy Study again highlights the scale of the mountain we face to achieve the city’s goal of being net zero carbon by 2030.

“Our upcoming 10 year plan is an opportunity to carefully consider which initiatives we might need to progress or speed up to have a significant impact on reducing emissions. Clearly, reducing transport emissions needs to be a key point of focus, but there’s also a role for the DCC to better understand the specific drivers of these increased transport emissions.

“It is also clear that the Council won’t be able to achieve the net carbon zero goal on its own. Council recently agreed in principle to establishing a Zero Carbon 2030 Alliance to take a partnership approach to city-wide emissions reduction. It is critical that the city’s major employers, institutions and stakeholders work together on this most urgent issue,” Mayor Hawkins says.

Stephenson says the report’s findings are not all bad. Bright spots include an upward trend for solar generation, with photovoltaic units increasing by 17 per cent (to 384 installations) over 2018/19. Electric vehicle registrations have steadily increased every year since 2015, to a total of 799 by the end of the 2019 calendar year.

Encouragingly, coal use has been trending down since the first Energy Study, and decreased by 21 per cent on the previous year. This large drop may be due to the closure of the Cadbury factory and the conversion of one of the four coal fired boilers at the Dunedin Energy Centre to biomass.

Stephenson says another promising sign is the consistent use of locally sourced biomass used to produce energy.

“Most people wouldn’t be aware of how much our local forests contribute to our energy supplies. In the past year 12 per cent of the city’s energy came from local biomass (mainly firewood and wood chips). Unfortunately, this has hardly changed over the years studied, but it has huge potential – wood chips could replace coal for heating, and we could have a local supply of wood pellets for pellet burners, which are becoming increasingly popular,” she says.

The Dunedin Energy Study 2018/19 is available online at http://hdl.handle.net/10523/10448.

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