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New Zealand lauded for renewables, but challenges remain

Company relies on oil for revenue, but has a strong electric-vehicle sector in place.

By Daniel J. Graeber
New Zealand lauded for renewables, but challenges remain
New Zealand Energy Minister Judith Collins discusses energy sector issues during meetings with IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol. Photo courtesy of the International Energy Agency

Feb. 21 (UPI) -- Even with international praise for its renewable energy strategy, New Zealand's government said there is room for improvement.

An annual review of the New Zealand energy sector from the International Energy Agency described the country as a "success story" for its ability to advance on low-carbon options like hydro-electric power and geothermal energy, all without government subsidies.

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At more than 200 pages long, the report praised the government for its support of the Paris climate agreement and for its "ambitious" plans to put more electric vehicles on the road.

Energy and Resources Minister Judith Collins said electric vehicle goals in particular were supporting efforts to limit carbon emissions.

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"New Zealand is a global leader in the development of electricity markets and we have one of the highest percentages of renewable electricity generation in the world," she said in a statement.

Collins in January said more than a dozen projects will be targeted with a $2.5 million fund to incentivize the electric vehicle market. The funding is part of an effort to put 64,000 electric vehicles on the country's roads by 2021.

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Oil, however, 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.

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Collins said that, like any country, there are challenges in finding the right mix to balance needs against climate commitments.

"Outside of its largely low-carbon power sector, managing the economy's energy intensity and greenhouse gas emissions while still remaining competitive and growing remains a challenge," the IEA's report read.

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