Dr Janet StephensonEnergy makes everything happen. Without electricity and other fuels, the economy wouldn’t produce goods and services, freight and people would stay in one place, and homes would be cold and dark. 

Energy is a big part of the cost of running a house, a business, and a vehicle.  Some households spend over 10% of their income on energy.  But energy is invisible, so its easy to waste it without realising.  And some people cut back on using energy to save costs, and their health suffers.

Using energy also brings its own problems.  Climate change is largely the result of the world’s high levels of using fossil fuels (like coal, diesel and petrol),  And tiny particles from burning these fuels can create smog and lung disease. But if we cut back on fossil fuels, what else can we do?

We can be more efficient with the energy that we do use. We can make sure that any energy we use is not wasted, for example by insulating buildings. We can avoid spending on fuels by walking or cycling.  We can generate more renewable electricity and low-carbon fuels like biofuels. We can adopt new technologies, like electric vehicles or solar photovoltaics.  Over time, we will need to do all of these things and more.

Above all, what is involved is a change in energy culture (click here for Energy Cultures Framework video).  That is, changing the way we think about energy, the sorts of technologies we use, and our everyday practices.  The Energy Cultures research programme is investigating better ways to support changes in energy cultures in New Zealand’s households, transport and businesses.

The result we’re after is a more productive economy, a healthier environment, and warmer homes.

Janet Stephenson