Clean-Powered New Zealand: Not Living In Caves

Most clean energy sites get reader comments like: “You hippies all just want us to live in caves!” As if the only actual usable energy is fossil energy.

Anyone who writes about renewable energy or climate policy soon discovers your fear that if we replace coal and gas electricity, if we switch to wind and solar, hydro and geothermal, biomass and ocean power, that means there will be no more life as we know it.


image via Shutterstock/MattJones

We will descend from the first-world standard of living we are used to — to living in caves.

Well, perhaps I can show you first-hand experience of what it might be like, living in a nation that is 80 percent powered by renewable energy, because I’ve lived in one for almost a year.

I moved from California, with its typical American first world standard of living, to New Zealand — with a pretty much identical standard of living, 80 percent powered by renewable energy.

I can attest that, other than subway train drivers, New Zealanders don’t spend much time in dark caves.

If you live in one of the states in the U.S. that is over 80 percent coal-powered, you might be unable to imagine such a radically different way of keeping the lights on. But you’d find that your actual standard of living will not change if your life is 80 percent clean powered.

People in New Zealand live a normal first world lifestyle, just like people in the eight U.S. states that get over 80 percent of their energy from coal, like Kentucky, Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, Utah, West Virginia or Wyoming.

What New Zealand shows is that you won’t be required to change anything about your life once your power comes from clean energy. You don’t have to become some high-minded hippie.


image via Shutterstock

You can shop in the same kind of banal big box stores that you are used to in America, even when they are powered by clean energy. You can live in a big house, and watch your big screen TV, with all your appliances easily powered by clean energy. Microwaves, vacuum cleaners, computers really work just the same on clean energy as on dirty energy.

You don’t have to make any change to live with 80 percent renewable energy. As they say here: “No worries, mate.”

Susan Kraemer enjoys writing to publicize the many great solutions for climate change that we can find if we just put our minds to it. She covers renewable policy and clean energy for CleanTechnica and GreenProphet and green building at HomeDesignFind. She recently moved home to Waiheke Island where her writing is now powered by the 80% renewable electricity that powers New Zealand.


  • Reply May 4, 2012

    Josh Ward

    Thanks for the article. Maybe you could follow up with an outline of their energy mix, and stability of their grid? It would have been nice to see that in here.

    • Reply May 4, 2012

      Susan Kraemer

      Yes, I am already doing a look back at hydro and geothermal power development which have long provided the base of the NZ mix. I am trying to research what the reactions were to the development of hydroelectric and geothermal back in the 19th-early 20th century when they were developed, to see if they were different from the push-back against – and politicization of – solar and wind we see now. 

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