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Boost Energy Efficiency To Slash Coal Imports And High Power Bills – It’s A No Brainer

Energy efficiency is an obvious way to fix New Zealand’s struggling power system, an energy efficiency expert says.

“All too frequently we hear talk that New Zealand’s power system cannot keep up with demand and needs to burn thousands of tonnes of carbon-belching Indonesian coal, that blackouts are possible, and spot prices are at sky-high levels,” said Chris Mardon, managing director of Ecobulb.

Self-interested participants in the energy sector who make money from selling as much power as possible are quick to say New Zealand needs to generate more power.

But none of the generators, retailers and lines companies are touting the other side of the power equation – reducing overall energy demand, including all-important winter peak loads through energy-efficient appliances – because it reduces power consumption and therefore their growth in profits.

“What’s missing is the larger energy efficiency and carbon dioxide emission reduction potential from the widespread rollout of efficient lighting, hot water heating and electric motors in New Zealand homes and buildings,” Mardon said.

Last night kiwis were warned to reduce their electricity use amid potential tightness in supply as spot prices hit $5,000 per MWh. Transpower put out a notice saying if "the situation worsens, we may have insufficient generation to meet demand and cover reserves for a contingent event".

Warnings came as Genesis Energy resumed importing coal as it needs to stockpile 350,000 tonnes due to increased electricity demand and gas shortages.

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Most New Zealand homes could lower their power bills, peak demand, and overall energy volumes by installing LED light bulbs and other efficient devices,” Mardon said.

“Efficient technologies are being adopted, but at a slower rate than one would expect. Meanwhile the government has exited the promotion of energy efficiency through cancelling the $1 billion GIDI fund. No one is speaking up for lowering demand through energy efficiency.”

A Concept Consulting evaluation found that replacing all 29 million inefficient light bulbs in New Zealand homes with LEDs would deliver:

  1. 3.9 million tonnes of avoided carbon dioxide emissions through to 2040.
  2. 340MW electricity network peak winter load reduction. This is equivalent to a Hamilton city-worth of peak load reduction.
  3. $2.02 billion Net Present Value to New Zealand Inc.

“Energy efficiency is a no brainer but its importance is overshadowed by an electricity industry focused on building more power stations and power lines, running old coal-fired generation, and consumers paying more and more for their power.“

Ecobulb has written to Ministers and the Climate Change Commission recommending that the government should:

  • Recommence and scale up its co-investment for all energy efficiency programmes that deliver electricity savings at a lower cost than new electricity generation.
  • Obligate and incentivise lines companies and electricity retailers to improve energy efficiency.

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