20 June, 2012
Apec Electric Vehicle Connectivity Workshop
Welcome to Wellington! And in some cases, to New Zealand. Thank you for inviting me to open this conference. It is a pleasure to be here with you this morning.
Fossil fuels make a valuable contribution to the energy needs of all countries, including New Zealand. At the same time many countries are looking to develop technologies to help address concerns about oil prices and about how to efficiently use fossil fuels as a precious resource.
Improving vehicle energy efficiency and increasing the uptake of renewable energy is important to the Government. Our commitment to supporting light electric motor vehicles was clearly demonstrated by our recent decision to extend their exemption from road user charges to 30 June 2020.
We believe that electric vehicles can contribute to reductions in transport emissions and greenhouse gases, and reduce New Zealand’s reliance on imported fossil fuels. Extending the electric vehicle exemption from road user charges is one way we have signalled this support.
Many of you have travelled here from overseas, and so I thought I’d start by giving you an outline of New Zealand’s local energy and transport issues.
Current transport energy demand in New Zealand is about 38% of our total energy demand. This demand is currently met almost exclusively by fossil fuels (99.9%) - petrol and diesel.
However, in many ways, New Zealand is ideal for electric vehicles.
An electric vehicle fleet needs to be fed by renewable energy if it is to meet its clean, green potential. In New Zealand we are fortunate to have an abundance of diverse energy resources: alongside oil, coal and gas, we have wind, hydro and geothermal contributing significantly to our energy generation.
In fact, our electricity supply is already around 77% renewable, and we are aiming to get to 90% by 2025. Better yet, we are building renewable energy generation without any subsidies – and some forms of renewable energy are our most economical type of energy generation.
Although driving range is often cited as a barrier to the uptake of EVs, the travel patterns of New Zealanders mean that EVs could be viable in New Zealand right now. For example:
- the vast majority of New Zealanders live in urban areas
- 90% of Kiwi cars are driven less than 85km a day
- about half of our households have two or more vehicles, and most homes have garages.
So what’s holding us back? The price of electric vehicles is still very high, particularly in New Zealand. We need to ensure that there are no barriers to trade in electric vehicles within APEC in order for the market to mature and achieve real competition. This could drive down the price for electric vehicle buyers and increase uptake.
We need to look for areas of standards and policy which can improve the uptake of electric technologies across national boundaries. It is my hope that some of the discussion which takes place here today will help find a way of increasing the international availability of electric vehicles and so reduce the price.
One of the big-picture issues, not just here in New Zealand but around the world, is to understand how electric vehicles connect and interact with electrical grids. By looking into the state of the electricity grids and the standards and policies that affect electric vehicles, we can better understand what next steps are needed.
Obviously, this workshop is a great chance for you to not only share ideas, but to meet with industry leaders. There is an impressive line-up of presenters and discussion leaders here today, and thanks to EECA for organising the event with the APEC Expert Group in New and Renewable Energy Technologies.
I would also like to thank Nissan for the opportunity to drive their Leaf vehicle this morning!
Transport fuel issues are an important challenge world-wide, inspiring some truly innovative solutions from all corners of the globe. International co-operation such as you are undertaking here makes it possible for people from all corners of the globe to come together and to agree on how best to advance these solutions.
I am very pleased to formally open the conference and I wish you well for the upcoming sessions.