Electricity sector transformation in New Zealand: A sustainability assessment approach

Suomalainen, K.; Sharp, B.
May 2016
Journal of Renewable & Sustainable Energy;2016, Vol. 8 Issue 3, p035902-1
Academic Journal
New Zealand has a long history in producing a major part of its electricity from low-carbon resources. A major transition from a state owned and operated electricity sector to an open electricity market model and the policies adopted during this period have shaped the generation mix of New Zealand to its current form. Currently, domestic fossil fuel resources offer opportunity for economic growth, while renewable energy resources are significant and present opportunities for green growth in both domestic and global markets. What is particular about the New Zealand case is the "middle out" approach of the national renewable energy strategy, rather than the common top-down approach of many other countries. Consenting is done on a case by case basis at regional level, allowing for wide community and stakeholder participation. This paper describes the transitions in the electricity sector and renewable energy policy of New Zealand, and presents an assessment using sustainability indicators to study the impact of this transition on the level of sustainability of the country's electricity supply system. Although the electricity mix has seen a transition from hydropower towards gas, geothermal, and wind energy, there has been no significant change in the overall sustainability index of the New Zealand electricity supply. This is because the system remains based on renewable sources and gas, which scores relatively high in the model we have applied. Using the country-specific values for the indicators would give a more reliable model to assess the sustainability of the electricity system in detail from its economic, social, and environmental aspects.


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