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Emphasis on innovation in low-emissions economy welcome

Emphasis on innovation in low-emissions economy report welcome

“The National Energy Research Institute (NERI) welcomes the Productivity Commission draft report ‘Low-emissions economy’ released today”, says Associate Professor Janet Stephenson, Chair of NERI and Director of the Centre of Sustainability, University of Otago.

“It reinforces our own analysis that increased investment in innovation will be key to lowering the cost of adapting to the changes required.

“The Commission notes much of this will be by adapting and adopting international technologies, and recommends enhancing New Zealand’s technology scanning, evaluation and absorptive capability.

“But the Commission also recognises there are areas that will be beyond business-as-usual and are relatively unique to New Zealand or of strategic importance. We agree that New Zealand will have to build its own capability in those areas.

“NERI has identified many of these areas for the energy sector in its recently released Energy Research Strategy for New Zealand: The Key Issues.”

The Commission’s draft Report is a seeking submissions prior to a final release later this year. Two areas NERI considers would benefit from more attention are:

1. Behaviour change

As the Commission points out, there are substantial opportunities to reduce emissions through behaviour change. The Commission calls for investments in technology innovations, but NERI considers there is also significant potential in innovative behavioural solutions which are potentially much faster and lower cost to implement. Research is needed to underpin the change to lower-emissions behaviours in households and businesses. Examples include shared use of autonomous vehicles, and greater use of virtual meetings and conferences.

2. Including emissions from international transport

The Report almost exclusively focuses on domestic emissions. However New Zealand’s economy is heavily reliant on international long-distance transport for trade and tourism, currently powered by fossil fuels. International regulatory bodies are moving to regulate emissions from international shipping and aviation, and international consumer preferences will potentially move against high emissions offerings. This area is pressing for New Zealand as it is a risk to our future wellbeing. It may take decades to develop low-emissions alternatives, so the sooner we start to address it the better.

As the Commission notes, including our domestic supply of fuels to international aviation and shipping significantly increases the importance of transport in our overall emissions. NERI considers international transport needs to be in scope.


1. Associate Professor Janet Stephenson is Director of the Centre of Sustainability at the University of Otago as well as Chair of NERI.

2. NERI’s members are research organisations and industry associations with a particular interest in energy research and education, www.neri.org.nz/members.

3. A downloadable copy and an overview of NERI’s Energy Research Strategy for New Zealand: The Key Issues are available at www.neri.org.nz/strategy.


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