The Blog

How your power use can impact NZ’s emissions

The way you use your power matters - here’s why

On the global stage, NZ does a good job in producing clean, green energy. In 2023 over 87% of our energy was from renewable sources, like hydro, wind, geothermal and solar energy, putting us in third place in the OECD.

But we still have work to do, with electricity generation responsible for approximately 5.7% of Aotearoa’s total greenhouse gas emissions. That’s largely down to the dirtier and more expensive forms of generation, including coal, gas and diesel (read more about these forms of generation here).

Sometimes we need to use these non-renewable energy sources to make sure there’s enough electricity to meet demand. That’s because renewables are less reliable than fossil fuels: while we can burn coal whenever we need to, it’s much harder to turn on the wind or top-up low hydro lake levels.

So while we’re doing much better than most countries, the national grid still relies on fossil fuels for stability, making sure there’s enough supply to meet demand – and that, Flick whānau, is where you come in!

How does supply and demand affect our carbon emissions?

When our supply of clean and green generation keeps up with the demand for electricity across Aotearoa, carbon emissions from electricity generation are low. When demand for power exceeds the available supply of renewables, dirtier generation sources are fired up to cover the gaps, producing lots of carbon emissions - and they also happen to be more expensive to run.

Electricity demand has both daily and seasonal trends. The mad rush hours of breakfast and dinner are known as ‘peak’ times when electricity demand is high, and it’s often during the peak hours that our infrastructure is stretched, and backup (dirtier) generation is fired up.

Likewise, the demand for electricity increases over the colder, darker months. However, winter tends to bring with it wind and rain, which usually means there’s more cheaper, renewable energy available.

Can I choose what power I use from the national grid?

Nope, it doesn’t work like that. No matter where those electrons are generated, they all flow into the national grid. And what’s fed into the national grid at any one time is dependent on supply and demand, as we talked about above.

Once it’s part of the national grid, it’s blended together like a big pot of vege soup. And just like said vege soup, you can’t pick out the bits you want, like the type of generation you prefer to use.

There’s some misconception out there that if you’ve signed up with a retailer that generates renewable electricity, you’re using the renewable stuff when you flip the switch. This simply isn’t the case.

Some retailers have a generation arm as well as a retail arm of their business, like Meridian, Mercury, Contact and Genesis. These companies are called gentailers, and if they talk about being 100% renewable, they’re referring to the generation arm of their business. The power you’re using is the same stuff the rest of Aotearoa is using – a blend of what’s available.

Can I influence the mix we’re using?

That you can, e hoa! As consumers, we have a lot more power and control over our electricity generation – its cleanliness, its dirtiness, and its related environmental effects – than most of us realise. By shifting the times that you use appliances like your washing machine, dryer, or heat pump to off-peak hours, you’re making the most of that nice, clean generation.

That’s what off-peak (AKA Time Of Use) power is all about: encouraging you to use electricity when demand is lower, cleaner and cheaper. So you’re helping Māmā Earth by reducing our reliance on non-renewable, emissions-heavy energy and making the most of cheaper power prices too. Win-win!

If you’d like to test out off-peak power, give our Off Peak plan a try – it’s an easy way to shift your appliance use to cheaper, cleaner, off-peak hours. Through the Flick app, you’ll be able to track your off-peak hours during the day, at night and all weekend long to save when power is cheaper and kinder on the environment, too.

Is there a way to see the emissions NZ’s electricity is generating?

Sure is – it’s all in Carbon Tracker on the Flick app. Whether you’re a Flick customer or not, you can see the real-time carbon emissions that our electricity generation is producing, thanks to some detailed data from Energy Market Services by Transpower.

It’ll let you know when’s an environmentally better, or worse, time to use your power and help you to avoid those peak times of day when supply is low and demand is high. It’s an easy way to reduce your household’s electricity carbon emissions and making a difference - flick yeah!