A low-carbon energy future: Breaking the dependence on fossil fuels
There is a growing urgency for a major transformation of global energy systems, both to limit greenhouse gas emissions and to achieve greater energy security in the face of resource depletions. Because of the fundamental role of fossil fuels in everyday life, most nations are largely locked into dependence. Some incremental shifts are occurring with new forms of energy and new technologies, but increasingly it is clear that a rapid transformation of entire energy systems is required, including both physical and societal infrastructures. For New Zealand the transition to a low-carbon energy future offers significant opportunities for many businesses, as well as significant environmental and health benefits. Equally it will present difficult challenges to businesses strongly dependent on existing energy systems. The efficacy and cost-effectiveness of carbon capture and storage (CCS), a premise upon which proposals to further develop New Zealand’s fossil fuel resources is argued, is as yet unproven. New Zealand may have much to gain by delaying the development of fossil fuel reserves – coal, lignite, oil, gas – for the 10-15 years it will take to determine whether, or not, CCS will become a viable long-term technology with acceptable risks. In the immediate term, New Zealand innovators can contribute globally in developing new energy technologies, but possibly more intriguing is the real potential for New Zealand to make a significant contribution to the world transformation process, by moving rapidly to a system-wide low-carbon economy. Learnings from this process could be globally significant, and many other benefits would accrue, including robust ‘clean green’ branding spin-offs for New Zealand’s products and services.
Publisher: National Energy Research Institute
Keywords: energy future; transition; fossil fuels; low carbon; New Zealand
Research Type: Commissioned Report for External Body
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