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New Zealand’s Renewable-Energy Dreams Get a Reality Check

August 4, 2021, 3:00 pm
New Zealand’s Renewable-Energy Dreams Get a Reality Check
WELLINGTON, New Zealand—New Zealand’s ambition to become fully reliant on renewable energy by 2030 has leaned on glacial rivers and lakes as sources of power. Its experience this year illustrates the challenges of that strategy. A power crunch has spread across the South Pacific country as dry weather reduced water levels in lakes that feed its hydropower generators. To keep the lights on and homes heated, New Zealand burned more thermal coal, despite its contribution to air pollution. Some industrial users mothballed plants or curbed production to ease stress on the system. New Zealand gets more than half of its electricity from hydropower, an energy source that has grown in popularity around the world in recent years as countries look to phase out fossil fuels, especially coal. Hydropower accounts for around 16% of the global electricity mix, and more than half of power production in countries including Canada, Brazil and Norway, according to Our World in Data, a nonprofit research project at the University of Oxford. In the U.S., hydropower plants produce 7% of the nation’s electricity.
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