Energy Minister Simon Bridges says the abundance of renewable electricity has made New Zealand complacent about energy productivity.
Speaking after the EECA Awards, Bridges said the challenge for New Zealand was "to bottle some of that excitment and innovation" from the ceremony and spread it into businesses that weren't thinking about it.
It is estimated that collectively, the 2016 awards entries will save or generate 1.1 petajoules (PJ) of energy, equivalent to the annual energy use of all households in New Plymouth, and avoid 120,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, about one-fifth of the annual emissions of all households in New Zealand.
The country has a target of making electricity 90 per cent renewable by 2025 and he said that while experts had questioned how achievable this was, it was important to use it efficiently.
"It's not easy but one of the things we do is have an energy target around productivity," he said.
"In New Zealand we're a bit behind the curve, perhaps because we do have this history in renewables and we don't place a premium on it," he said.
Countries with a high proportion of thermal generation were more likely to concentrate on energy productivity.
"With renewables the trick is not to stay stuck in the electricity sector but to move it sideways into transport and into industry. We'll be doing stuff that is good for business and have a bottom-line effect and secondly lowering our carbon emissions."
Bridges, who is also Transport Minister, said it was essential to do that to meet Paris climate targets and live up to the country's clean, green image around the world.
Earlier this month he released a package of measures, including a contestable fund and encouraging the uptake of electric vehicles.
"From a New Zealand Inc perspective we're lowering our balance of payments by having less fossil fuels imported - even at current prices that's worth $9 billion and we're substituting that with our own clean, green energy."
EECA estimates that businesses could collectively save up to $1.6 billion in costs every year through technology upgrades and process-improvement.
A typical individual business could save up to 20 per cent of its energy use cost-effectively.
The authority gets funding from the Government of $16.5 million each year. A further $2 million is also provided to fund the Crown loan scheme.
This year it got $25 million for the Warm Up New Zealand insulation programme, which is scheduled to end next month.
An announcement on the future of Warm Up New Zealand will be made in due course.
EECA also receives an appropriation specifically for electricity efficiency programmes collected from consumers through the electricity levy.
Bridges said that given the authority's wider remit, consultation was under way to investigate broadening ways of funding it.
"There's a change away from just electricity efficiency to that wider energy picture."
That could mean levies on petrol and potentially gas.
"It's not necessarily the case that will result in more funding but it may do so," said Bridges.
Supreme winner: Project Litefoot Trust
Business Service Excellence: Energy Solution Providers
Community Award: Project Litefoot Trust
Energy Leadership: Dr Viv Heslop, Panuku Development Auckland
Energy Management: ANZCO
Innovation Award: Hellers and Active Refrigeration
Large Energy User: Orora Beverage Cans
Public Sector: Te Puni Kokiri and Argosy Property
Renewable Energy: Antarctica New Zealand
Small to Medium Energy User: Ceres Organics
Transport: Charge Net NZ
The EECA Awards attracted more than 100 entries in 10 categories. Here are some of the winners' stories:
Supreme Award: Project Litefoot Trust
For every dollar invested in Project Litefoot Trust, they are saving $2.53 for rugby, cricket, tennis and a host of other community-level sports. So far it has achieved $3.9 million worth of energy savings which can be put towards kit, coaching and facilities.
The sports personalities compete with each other to achieve the lowest environmental impact. An online league table shows their progress as environmental champions and this is used to promote energy, water and waste efficiency to community sports clubs through Project Litefoot Trust's lead initiative: LiteClub.
The mobile LiteClub team visits local clubs to talk about their environmental impact.They install LED light bulbs, pipe lagging and insulation on hot water cylinders, along with water-saving devices and recycling stations. The money saved on energy can then be invested in sport. Over 710 community sports clubs have signed up to LiteClub's free service and 20 new clubs are visited each month.
LiteClub taps into sport's unique capacity to provoke the human spirit to achieve greatness and activate a competitive resilience in participants to do better at every attempt.
Project Lightfoot Trust is the brainchild of marketing expert Hamish Reid, who was inspired by his friend, golfer Michael Campbell.
Energy Leadership: Viv Heslop
Dr Viv Heslop at Panuku Development Auckland is in charge of energy efficiency and sustainability at Wynyard Quarter on Auckland's waterfront.
Environmental expectations are high in this multi-faceted, high-profile project and Dr Heslop has developed numerous vital partnerships and a detailed strategy, incorporating New Zealand-first technologies, which are set to turn the Wynyard Quarter into an all-round sustainability icon.
Having trained as an accredited professional with the Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia (ISCA), when she took on the Wynyard Quarter, Dr Heslop became the first New Zealand practitioner to get a project rated under the ISCA for the Madden and Pakenham St upgrade, which received an "excellent" rating for the design phase. She created the scope and championed the concept of a "smart precinct", displaying real-time water and energy use for the Wynyard Quarter. This data can be monitored, captured and reported for all residential, commercial and public areas, which is a ground-breaking smart energy project for New Zealand and internationally.
She believed in long-term sustainable outcomes and sets clear energy-reduction targets for developers along with practical steps for their achievement using tools such as NABERSNZ for the $1 billion property holdings overseen by Panuku. She is also a personal advocate of PV solar panels and a champion of public transport.
Transport Winner: Charge Net NZ
The company is on a mission to change the way New Zealanders think about electric vehicles (EV).
It is taking a methodical approach to charging stations by placing them in areas of high population, near EV users and organisations such as councils who own EV fleets. The spacing of stations is optimised so that an EV with a 120km range can reliably reach the next station with an 80 per cent charge.
It has opened six rapid charge stations and two are in construction. By the end of 2016, it plans to open 30 more and by 2017 its ambition is to have 100 up and running.
A credit card pre-pay charging system supported by cloud-based technology is in place. EV users register on Charge Net NZ's website and charging stations are activated by the member's key fob or smart phone app.
The project aims to accelerate the uptake of EVs in New Zealand. Charge Net NZ is supplied by Ecotricity, a zero carbon certified electricity provider.
At the end of January Charge Net NZ had 154 registered customers using the zero carbon charging facilities.
Renewable Energy: Antarctica New Zealand
In partnership with Meridian Energy, Antarctica New Zealand commissioned the Ross Island Wind Farm, consisting of three 333-kilowatt turbines erected on Crater Hill above Scott Base.The southernmost wind farm in the world has significantly reduced the amount of diesel required to power the research station and lessened the risks associated with transporting and storing fuel in the fragile region.
The practical and innovative development of renewable energy technology in the tough environment required the highest degree of environmental leadership. Special consideration was paid to the turbines' construction, and unique steel and concrete foundations had to be developed to ensure the structures could hold fast in permafrost and withstand unforgiving weather conditions.
The installation has a lifespan of 20 years and the electricity being generated is estimated to be saving between $1.3 million and $1.9 million in fuel costs each year. Since 2011 it has displaced 15.7 million kilowatt-hours of fuel or 3.8 million litres of diesel, to the tune of $8 million in total fuel cost savings including delivery to the remote site.
Antarctica New Zealand shares its wind energy with United States McMurdo Station, which last year imported 76 per cent of the generated electricity.