Welcome to the twelfth post in the Sustainable Energy without the Hot Air – A New Zealand Perspective series. We’ll be changing gears here from our previous posts on hydro power, geothermal and wind (and a summary on the big three), solar, biofuels, marine and waste energy. From here on out we’ll be attempting to answer the question:
How can we achieve a BIG reduction in our personal and national energy consumption?
It’s a very important topic – and one prone to greenwashing and hype. Like McKay, we want to have informed discussion about the options available to us here in NZ, so we’ll be going through topic by topic and looking at energy use in each sector of our lives: transport, residential energy, the things we buy, and so on. We hope that you find it interesting and informative.
A few notes before we begin: as before, the units are in kWh/day/person – ie. if you ran a 40W lightbulb for 24 hours, it’d take ~1 kWh over the space of a day. We then divide it by person to give you a sense of the scale of the resource proportionate to the size of the population. Be sure to check out the methodology. For reference – we’re looking to replace around 55 kWh/d/p of energy currently generated by fossil fuels.
The 2.6kWh/d/p spend on aviation fuel, from the Energy Data File, is a very poor indicator of what New Zealanders actually spend on planes, because of airline fuelling regimes. For example, the return flight from London is included in the UK statistics. Data from the UN [o96d7t] and the International Civil Aviation Authority [8cc3859] gives an estimate of NZ passenger kilometres in 2004. Dividing by 2004 population converts to 18kWh/d/p using MacKay’s estimate for fuel use. This includes energy spent overseas, and is a better indicator of New Zealanders’ actual energy use on air travel.
To put long distance air travel in perspective:
|Return trip to:||Energy cost (kWh/d/p)|
|USA||30 (LA, San Francisco) – 40 (New York)|
|Fiji or Vanuatu||8|
From an efficiency point of view, a full airliner is as efficient at per person/km as a car with 2 occupants. There is very little room to improve airline efficiency but assuming economic drivers push this to the limit, then perhaps the 2.6kWh/d/p figure, for airline fuel sourced in NZ, could be reduced to 2kWh/d/p.
We should note here that jet travel is one of the ‘big ticket’ items we have control over. One trip to Europe is the equivalent of nearly two thirds of a year of equivalent energy used elsewhere in your life (assuming an overall figure of 88kWh/d/p). The best efficiency option is don’t travel by jet — use videoconferencing instead or get excited about sailing to nearby Pacific islands.
Summary: Air travel is one of the most energy energy intensive activities we Kiwi’s undertake because when we leave our shores, we tend to travel big distances. There isn’t much we can do about it other than reduce our plane travel or consider using alternatives.
McKay’s chapter on planes is a great read for understanding that there are basic physics to how much energy is needed to fly a plane.