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Diversify for green economy, New Zealand says

Government looks to oil for revenue and renewables for electricity generation.

By
Daniel J. Graeber
New Zealand's energy minister said a diverse base of resources is essential for the shift to a low-carbon economy. Photo by Reinhard Tiburzy/Shutterstock
New Zealand's energy minister said a diverse base of resources is essential for the shift to a low-carbon economy. Photo by Reinhard Tiburzy/Shutterstock

CEBU, Philippines, Oct. 13 (UPI) -- A diverse pool of energy reserves is essential if governments are to effectively make the switch to a low-carbon economy, New Zealand's energy minister said.

New Zealand Energy Minister Simon Bridges said the combination of heavy rainfall in the regional and rising sea levels brought on by a changing climate present unique infrastructure challenges to his economy.

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"This all requires us to think harder about how we develop and manage our infrastructure and manage our natural resources efficiently," he told an energy conference in the Philippines.

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

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.

New Zealand utility company Genesis Energy, meanwhile, 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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The company said changing market conditions for electricity means coal power is no longer needed.

Bridges in September said the government was preparing nonetheless to offer oil and gas exploration permits to potential investors.

Oil by itself is the fourth-largest export for New Zealand, bringing in around $700 million each year in royalties and taxes. The government said there are around 149 million barrels of oil reserves remaining in fields already in production.

But with renewables accounting for nearly 80 percent of the country's electricity generation in 2014, the minister said a good mix was necessary for the low-carbon transition.

"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.

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