New Zealand is making impressive strides towards a low-carbon future. By 2022, just over 85% of the nation's electricity was generated by low-carbon sources. More specifically, this energy was largely sourced from hydropower (shifted by approximately 60% of the total electricity) and geothermal power (just under 20%). Although the fossil fuel sources, mainly gas and coal, still account for almost 15% of electricity production. In addition, low shares of wind, biofuels, and solar energy also contribute to New Zealand's energy mix. However, as the country continues to electrify other sectors such as transport, heating, and industry, its electricity demand will likely increase. New Zealand is a bit of an energy island as it does not import or export electricity from or to other countries.
Given New Zealand’s abundant natural resources, increasing production from low-carbon electricity sources shows considerable promise. Looking further afield, countries like Sweden, Denmark, and Norway have successfully harnessed wind power on a notable scale, with each producing approximately 360, 370, and 340 watts per person respectively. Meanwhile, countries like Sweden, France, and Finland have embraced nuclear power, generating over 500 watts per person. Drawing on these examples, it suggests that New Zealand could further utilise wind resources and also consider nuclear power as part of their low-carbon energy mix. Additionally, solar power utilization is successfully achieved in sunnier countries like Australia and the Netherlands, indicating further potential areas of energy development for New Zealand.
Examining the historical data, New Zealand's journey towards low-carbon electricity has predominantly been focused around hydropower. In the mid to late 1970s, production increased significantly, with only minor declines in 1976. Another phase of considerable growth was again observed in the 1980s. However, the 1990s were marked by a largely unstable and fluctuating period, with notable increases in hydropower production countered by several periods of decline. Despite these fluctuations, hydropower generation steadily increased from the early 2000s onwards, recovering from a substantial decline in 2005. The commitment to this low-carbon, sustainable energy source solidified New Zealand's dedication to green electricity, positioning the country as an environmental leader among developed nations.