Overview

The overarching theme of our research is to utilise information technology to improve overall energy-use efficiency; that is, a combination of (i) exploiting energy when and where it is available, (ii) energy conservation, and (iii) end-use efficiency. At the present time the focus is on: electricity demand-side load management and storage mechanisms, which provide a means of improving the integration of renewable energy sources such as wind and tide; electric vehicles as an alternative to fossil fuel usage; and mitigation of energy expended on personal transport.

This theme aligns with New Zealand's energy strategy1 to achieve a level of 90% of electricity generated from renewables by 2025. Although in 2010 the total production from renewables was 74%, to achieve the 90% target just from wind would require a 400% increase in wind contribution, and although a proportion of this increase could be achieved by better integration of the existing wind fleet, growth in wind capacity will also be required. The need to grow renewable electricity generation capacity is further exacerbated by increasing demands for electricity driven by population growth, quality of life expectations, potential growth in electricity use for transport, and the switch from other energy sources to electricity to reduce dependency on fossil fuels. Reduced fossil fuel dependency, both indigenous and imported, is also linked to goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 80% of 1990 levels by 20201. Electricity generation produces about 19% of the country's greenhouse gases, and transport accounts for 44%, and represents approximately 35% of our total energy consumption. Transport is the primary user of oil, which currently provides 51% of total consumer energy1. Most of this oil is imported, exposing the New Zealand economy to volatile international energy prices. The Governments stated position is to encourage the entry of alternative transport fuels and electric vehicles (EVs) in the NZ market. Although some energy efficiency gains are implicit in switching to EVs, their uptake will only significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions if the increased generation capacity required to support the vehicles is based on renewable resources. While acknowledging demand-side growth, the Government's energy efficiency target is for the country to continue to improve its energy intensity2 by 1.3% per annum. This requires that we become more efficient (and less wasteful) in the way in which we use energy from any source.


1Ministry of Economic Development (2011): Developing our energy potential: New Zealand energy strategy 2011-2021. Available from www.med.govt.nz/energystrategy
2Energy intensity is a measure of Gigajoules of energy per $1000 GDP.