Energy use

Describes changes in New Zealand's energy use over time. Emissions from the energy sector contribute to climate change and affect air quality, which has negative impacts on public health.

Increase in energy use since 1990

1 petajoule (PJ) contains enough energy in regular petrol to drive 30,000 cars for a year [1].

In 2018, New Zealand consumed almost 589.4 PJ of total energy (Table 1 and Figure 1). This had increased from 406.0 PJ in 1990.

Energy consumption per one million people increased between 1990 and 2018. In 1990, New Zealand consumed 119.1 PJ per one million people and in 2018 New Zealand consumed 120.7 PJ per one million people.

Oil is the main type of fuel consumed in New Zealand

By fuel type, oil has remained the main type of fuel consumed in New Zealand since 1990 (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Total energy consumption (PJ), by fuel type, 1990-2018

In 2018 almost half of all energy consumed was from oil (48.0%), an increase from 40.4% in 1990 (Table 1). The amount of oil used per capita had also increased from 1990 (48.1 PJ per million people) to 2018 (57.9 PJ per million people).

Table 1: Total energy consumption (PJ), by fuel type, 1990 and 2018 

Domestic transport sector was the biggest consumer of energy in 2018

Fuel types are providing energy, which is consumed across five sectors: the domestic transport, industrial, residential, commercial and public services, and the agriculture, forestry, and fishing sector.

From 1990 to 2018, the domestic transport and industrial sectors were the main energy consumers in New Zealand (Figure 2). Together, these two sectors contribute to three quarters of the total energy consumption in New Zealand. Domestic transport has been the biggest consumer of energy since 2013, when it overtook the industrial sector.

Figure 2: Total energy consumption (PJ), by sector, 1990-2018

The domestic transport sector was the biggest consumer of energy in 2018, with a large increase in the percentage of total energy used from 1990 to 2018 (31.8% to 40.6% of total energy consumed) (Table 2). The amount of energy used in the domestic transport sector had also increased per capita, from 38.8 PJ per million people in 1990, to 49.4 PJ per million people in 2018.

Table 2: Total energy consumed, by sector, 1990 and 2018

Oil is the major fuel type in the domestic transport sector

Oil was the major type of fuel consumed in the domestic transport as well as the agriculture, forestry and fishing sector in 2018 (Figure 3). Electricity was the major type of fuel consumed in the residential as well as the commercial and public services sector.

Almost all energy in the biggest consuming sector, the domestic transport sector, comes from burning the fossil fuel oil (eg, diesel or petrol for motor vehicles). This dependency on oil produces harmful emissions and greenhouse gases affecting air quality, the climate and public health.

Figure 3: Total energy consumption (%), by sector and fuel type, 2018

Information about the data

Total energy consumed, by fuel type and sector

Source: Ministry for Business, Innovation & Employment. Energy in New Zealand

Definition: Total energy (in petajoules, PJ) consumed in New Zealand, by sector (i.e agriculture, forestry and fishing; industrial; commercial and public services; domestic transport; residential) and by fuel type (i.e. oil, electricity, gas, renewables, coal). Energy consumed includes all energy used by final consumers. It does not include energy used for transformation, or non-energy use (use of fuels to produce non-energy products).


  1. Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment. 2019. Energy in New Zealand 201. URL:  (accessed 30 June 2020).

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Carolin Haenfling

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