Renewable energy. Two buzzwords that seem to encapsulate the discussion the world is having about energy in the future. But the world we live in in the years ahead will still need traditional energy sources, including oil and gas.
As you read this, oil accounts for about one-third of the world’s primary energy supply. That jumps to over half when you include natural gas. By 2035, it is estimated that oil and gas will still make up about half of the global energy supply, so anyone thinking we’ll be “all renewable” any time soon should think again.
In New Zealand, we’re still hugely reliant on traditional energy sources. Right now, 60% of our energy supply comes from old school sources: coal, oil and gas. We’re embracing renewable energy at the same time, with 40% of our energy needs being met by renewables. This is the highest proportion since we started keeping records, and places us near the top of the list in global terms. This figure will only increase as renewable energy becomes a more reliable and consistent component of our overall energy supply.
For now, though, New Zealand is still very much an oil and gas nation. We consume around 49 million barrels of oil every year – this is quite minuscule when you consider that global consumption is some 36 billion barrels every year! As for natural gas, we go through 4.7 billion cubic metres every year. Kiwis love gas. It meets 21% of New Zealand’s primary energy requirements, and 250,000 homes rely on gas for heating, cooking and hot water. In the commercial sector, gas is used by over 10,000 businesses and organisations including hotels, hospitals and restaurants, where gas is pretty much the only thing any self-respecting chef will cook with. Even homes and businesses using electricity as their primary energy source still need gas to a great degree: it supports 16% of our electricity generation, which is second only to hydro.
In terms of global gas consumption, it is interesting to see how it is used in comparison with New Zealand. 37.4% is used in the industrial sector, with 30% being channelled into residential buildings. 7.1% is used for transportation purposes, and 11.7% for non-energy use.
No one would argue that renewable energy is the way of the future, particularly as we become more conscious of the need to be sustainable in pretty much everything we do. But traditional energy sources like oil and gas are, for now, seen as more reliable and consistent parts of the world’s overall primary energy supply, and will be for many years to come. So that gas fitter in Auckland need not worry about ending up on the unemployment queue any time soon. With our ongoing reliance on gas, we’re going to be needing their services for a long time yet.