In the years ahead New Zealand could save and generate huge amounts of energy by adopting local energy systems, according to a report from the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment tabled in Parliament on 12 December.
Get smart, think small: Local energy systems for New Zealand shows that in 30 years' time, some 16,000 GWh per year of energy could be delivered by adopting local energy systems now. That is more than the 12,732 GWh of electricity consumed by the entire residential sector in 2005 (GWh = gigawatts per hour, with 1 gigawatt = 1 billion watts).
Local energy systems comprise microgeneration technologies and energy efficiency measures. Commissioner Dr Morgan Williams says they would complement today's big power plants, and offer many benefits.
"People would have more control over their use of energy and their power bills. A well-designed home that captures the sun's warmth and has features such as solar electric panels, a wood burner, double glazing, and good insulation is far more self-sufficient in energy.
"Promoting local and small-scale energy generation would also build greater resilience into our electricity system at a time when climate change and peak oil have heightened concerns about the security of energy supplies."
A shift to local energy systems needs a strong commitment from Government, he says.
"The Government's recently-released draft energy strategy has the worthy goal of making our energy supply more renewable. But that must be backed by the setting of clear targets and incentives to guide investment."