Otago research to seek energy efficiency in NZ’s transport sector

Monday, 27 August, 2012

How to create an energy-efficient transport sector is a question about to be tackled by University of Otago researchers in a multimillion dollar, multiyear project. The university’s Centre for Sustainability has won a bid to run a national project looking at energy uses in New Zealand’s homes, small businesses and transport sector.

The Energy Cultures 2 team, headed by Centre Director Dr Janet Stephenson and consumer psychologist Professor Rob Lawson, has been funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment to look at energy efficiency, particularly in transport. The team has been awarded more than $3 million over four years in the Ministry’s 2012 science investment round.

Dr Stephenson says the project hopes to answer the questions ‘What energy efficiencies can be achieved with new transport technologies and practices? How can markets be encouraged to deliver them, and consumers to adopt them?’

“We will be looking into the future of transport, at what technologies are becoming available, what new fuels are likely, and how households and businesses might adopt these or change their behaviour in other ways. And then, how can we help make this road to the future a smooth one rather than full of bumps and diversions?” she said.

The project, which has been funded for four years initially, also includes co-funding from EECA for national household/transport surveys and Z Energy for research on fuel customers.

Dr Stephenson says the project will involve researchers from many disciplines at Otago and additional expertise from Waikato University and two specialist consultancies. International collaborators include Oxford and Durham universities in England, and universities in Sweden, Australia and America.

“This project leads on from our original three-year Energy Cultures project, which looked at energy efficiency in homes and what were the barriers to uptake of efficiency measures,” she said.

“We created a framework for that project which involved looking at the interactions between the energy technologies in people’s homes, their energy practices, and their beliefs and understandings.

“The results have given us lots of insights into what prompts behaviour change, and we’ve been able to suggest practical solutions to overcoming barriers and improving our homes as a result.

“The team will now use that same framework in this new project, but extend that to small businesses and transport.

“There are huge cost savings and productivity gains to be made. We hope that our work will support a faster and more effective uptake of energy efficiency in all these areas.”

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