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Energy efficiency and conservation

Our energy demand increases each year as our population and economy grow - we are using about 2% more energy each year. Making the most of our energy efficiency and conservation opportunities means we can reduce this growth in energy demand, and make sure we get the most out of the energy we use.

How energy efficient is New Zealand compared to other countries? One measure is ‘energy intensity', or how much energy is used to produce one unit of GDP.

The Government's energy efficiency target is for New Zealand to continue to achieve a rate of energy intensity improvement of 1.3% per annum¹. This is, on average, the rate of energy intensity achieved since 1990.

EECA estimates that there is significant opportunity for New Zealand to cost-effectively save on energy. We estimate that around 20% or around 100 PJ a year (worth around $2.4 billion a year) could be cost-effectively saved across the economy.

Although they are often used interchangeably, there is a distinction between energy efficiency and conservation.

Energy conservation

Energy conservation is best described as avoiding using energy, or avoiding wasting energy. Examples include switching off the lights when you leave the room or not leaving appliances on standby.

Conservation measures are generally very cost effective, as they often involve a change in behaviour which costs little to implement (though not necessarily easy to achieve!).

Energy efficiency

Energy efficiency involves changing the results gained from the amount of energy use. This could be from inputting less energy to get the same outcome (for example, installing energy efficient light bulbs) or inputting the same amount of energy for an increased result (for example, a factory making their production line more efficient and making 20% more products using the same amount of energy as they did before).

Usually some investment is required to achieve greater energy efficiency, so some consideration is needed to work out if the cost of the investment is worthwhile - if it will pay itself off in greater productivity, lower energy bills or provide some other benefit.

Benefits of energy efficiency and conservation

Energy efficiency and conservation can deliver many benefits, depending on the type of fuel they affect:

  • Reducing energy costs for businesses or households
  • Helping businesses become more productive, and more profitable
  • Reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change
  • Slowing the need for new energy generation plants, that have an environmental impact

Efforts to improve energy efficiency and conservation can also result in less obvious benefits, for example, fuel efficient driving is linked to road safety, and insulating houses to reduce energy loss is linked to better health outcomes from living in a warmer drier home.


Related pages



¹ New Zealand Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy 2011-2016 (NZEECS)