A relatively small proportion of the population live the bulk of their lives not connected to the national electricity grid. For whatever reasons, and these may range from geographical isolation to environmental ideals, these people generally get by with a much reduced reliance on electricity, and have a much greater awareness of their energy use. Studying the motivations and energy usage behaviour of off-grid families provides a better understanding of the opportunities, incentives, and interventions that might lead to greater energy use efficiency by the bulk of the population (who have access to apparently unlimited energy sources) without significant compromise of their levels of comfort or quality of life.
The Off-the-Grid in NZ project has developed data acquisition hardware and software to provide detailed generation and usage statistics for representative off-grid users and sites, and also to provide for improved monitoring and management of off-grid systems.
The project is also building a database of off-grid installations in New Zealand with three primary purposes: (i) The extent of off-grid installations is not currently documented. The database being constructed is comprehensive, includes technical details of the installations, and will be maintained as a resource for future research; (ii) With the data acquisition and monitoring system mentioned above, we are looking for a varied range of sites to monitor, in order to gain a better detailed understanding of energy usage and limitations at such sites; (iii) We are also surveying a representative sample of off-grid users to establish their motivations, their energy use behaviours, and the impact of this style of living on their lives and lifestyles.