Natural gas kept the lights on in 2020 – new figures

Natural gas helped keep the lights on for New Zealanders and made up for shortfalls in renewable electricity in 2020, according to new Government data.

The annual Energy in New Zealand 2021 report was released today by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).

“This highlights the major energy shortage New Zealand is facing and the pressure the system is under,” says Energy Resources Aotearoa chief executive John Carnegie.

Notable points include:

  • Renewables share of electricity generation fell to 81.1 per cent, the lowest level since 2014
  • Electricity generation from natural gas in 2020 was 13.8 per cent, an increase of 9.6 per cent
  • Hydro generation dropped by 5.2 per cent
  • Electricity generated from coal made up 5.0 per cent of all electricity – the highest level since 2013

“Without locally produced natural gas, New Zealand would have been in major trouble over the last 12 months. Natural gas has literally been keeping the lights on as weather-based renewable sources struggle to keep up with demand.

“The hallmark of a successful, well-balanced energy system is one that is affordable, reliable and sustainable. Right now we are struggling on all three elements.

“It’s pleasing to see new investment planned into renewable sources and natural gas fields, but our concern is it’s not enough in the long term.

“We strongly agree with MBIE that ‘flexible and reliable natural gas supplies will be critical to a low-carbon transition.’

“However the report says there are enough natural gas reserves to last us until 2030, which is a worry. Even the Climate Change Commission sees a role for natural gas to at least 2050.

“Our industry would like to work with the Government on an Energy Accord. This could encourage the investment needed to close our widening energy gap, and help the smooth transition we all want.”