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New Zealand puts bets on diverse energy mix

Report finds renewable energy use up, along with oil and gas spending.

By Daniel J. Graeber
New Zealand puts bets on diverse energy mix
New Zealand's government says it's taking a long view on energy diversity, one week after marking the end to coal power in the country. Photo by Reinhard Tiburzy/Shutterstock

WELLINGTON, New Zealand, Aug. 12 (UPI) -- Boasting of more spending by oil and gas explorers and increased renewable energy output, New Zealand's government said the right mix is good for the long term.

A federal government report published Wednesday finds renewable energy made up 39.5 percent of the nation's total primary energy supply, a measure of total domestic energy use.

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"It's a fantastic result and shows we are making real gains in transitioning to a lower carbon economy," New Zealand Energy Minister Simon Bridges said in a statement.

The government has credited the rise in domestic renewable energy use to the growth in geothermal generation, which more than doubled nationally in the last decade. The sector is expected to draw $7 trillion in private sector investments by 2030. In the past six years, investments in New Zealand have totaled $1.5 billion.

While Bridges said the renewable energy sector is drawing interest from potential investors, he said latest government data show oil and gas explorers spend more than $2 billion in the country last year, the highest level on record.

In April, the government offered a combined acreage 165,752 acres up for auction to oil and gas explorers, with most of that offshore. The minister said there's been "serious momentum" building behind the government's oil and gas exploration sector.

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"As the world transitions to a low carbon future, energy diversity is the key to achieving energy security, accessibility and affordability, and environmental sustainability," he said. "This is why this government takes a long-term view, with a mixed and balanced approach where we'll pursue opportunities in both renewable and non-renewable energy."

Last week, utility company Genesis Energy said it's on pace to shut down its last two coal-fired power plants by December 2018, effectively marking the end of coal power in New Zealand.

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