Vector CEO Simon Mackenzie says technology can provide the win-win scenario needed to get most New Zealanders onto a low carbon lifestyle.
Today's Ministry for the Environment report 'Our Atmosphere and Climate' highlights just how far New Zealand has to go in turning sustainability ambitions into reality, and demonstrates that increasing emissions is already impacting New Zealand.
Amongst other findings, the report notes carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have increased 23 per cent since 1972, New Zealand gross greenhouse gas emissions have risen 24 per cent from 1990 to 2015, New Zealand has experienced a 1°C temperature increase since 1909 and sea levels have risen 14-22cm at four New Zealand ports since 1916.
As a country, like nearly all others, we have followed what scientists might refer to as a business as usual, or an incremental improvement, scenario. Ironically however, failing to adequately address climate change will result in anything but business as usual.
New Zealand is already facing an increase in extreme weather, inundation from sea level rise and increasing temperatures. This will only accelerate if emissions continue at the current rate.
Vector is not immune. Auckland's energy network and everyone who relies on them is already directly exposed to the effects of climate change, through the increase in extreme weather events. And I'm not saying the energy sector is carbon or emission free. But we know we - and all other businesses - must play a role in accelerating towards a low carbon economy.
We cannot assume that our good fortune as a nation in having a relatively high proportion of renewable energy means we can pat ourselves on the back and think, we're alright.
Businesses like Vector must make ourselves accountable for emissions through measurement and public reporting, otherwise there will never be the necessary drivers to make a change.
Vector is committed to achieving net zero emissions by 2030 and we will be reporting on our progress towards this.
This is not the just "the right thing to do". From a business perspective, it's a way of minimising the future impacts of climate change which will make our jobs a lot harder, add enormous cost and disrupt the power we all depend on.
Being a problem of such mind-blowing magnitude, it can be easy to view it as just too big and too complex to make any difference.
However, in the same way that a household budget can be met by making small changes over the long term, adopting a carbon budget can be a useful way to see the problem using a framework where concrete action is useful and worthwhile.
A carbon budget works by assuming the world can only emit a finite amount of greenhouse gas emissions before a global temperature rise of two degrees becomes a reality. Viewed in that way, every action which reduces the emissions of a business or an individual - no matter how small - buys the planet more time.
But for bigger, structural steps that entire industries can take, we also need new, disruptive technologies to accelerate the decarbonising of our economy.
Vector is already seeing a significant shift to distributed energy, which incentivises home solar energy generation and storage, and helps enable the growing popularity of EV's.
We are actively trialling peer-to-peer technology that will enable energy trading and significant efficiency improvements in energy use.
We're investing in "internet of energy" capability to allow us to manage complex networks in a much more sophisticated way, allowing customers to easily access low cost energy and automate their assets to optimise energy use and cost.
We have also installed over a million smart meters in New Zealand homes to help consumers understand and adapt their energy use to improve efficiency, and the more we can use data analytics to understand energy consumption patterns, the more we can spread network load and optimise energy networks and platforms for customers.
In the EV space, we've been expanding our rapid charger network, and pioneering new "Vehicle to Grid" and "Vehicle to Home" solutions to assess what role EVs can play as mobile energy sources.
This is on top of efforts to introduce more large battery storage to our network, and exploring carbon capture technology to reduce emissions from gas processing.
Of course, climate change knows no borders, so we are also taking the energy tech revolution offshore, installing clean energy solutions and thousands of smart meters in Australia, and supporting a transition to renewable energy in the Pacific Islands, with solar and battery.
From Vector's perspective, all these technologies deliver the sorts of win-win scenarios which I believe is central to transitioning New Zealand to a zero-carbon economy.
They incentivise smarter and more efficient use of resources by making the end user's life easier, cheaper, or both. They allow businesses to get more out of their assets, and ultimately, they put more power in the hands of consumers.
Adopting energy technology also addresses the need for a more resilient economy as the effects of emissions from years past continue to make their presence felt.
A distributed energy network, for instance, doesn't just put more choice in the hands of individual consumers, it helps them be less reliant on a national grid susceptible to what were once seen as 1-in-100 year events. And that busts the biggest myth about climate change mitigation - that a zero-carbon economy is one that rejects technology and goes into terminal decline.
That attitude is truer of those who continue to insist that New Zealand can't or shouldn't do more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the face of all available evidence.
Every industry is facing climate change. And every industry is working to a greater or lesser degree on technology-driven solutions to address it.
Here's hoping the next tally of our national emissions shows a growing number of New Zealand businesses and consumers have started to successfully transition to a low carbon economy.