NERI was the brainchild of a group of people passionate about furthering energy research for the benefit of all New Zealanders. The goal was to create an organisation where experts from across the energy sector could collaborate, share knowledge, debate and discuss.

In 2004, the now late Professor Alan MacDiarmid, a Nobel Prize winning New Zealand chemist joined forces with Professor Gerry Carrington, business consultant Andy Cunningham, and engineer Dr Eric Scharpf. With the support of University of Otago Deputy Vice Chancellor (research), Professor Geoff White, they launched a pilot study.

Following a gathering of energy researchers from University of Otago, Dr Janet Stephenson was inspired to bring her ideas to the NERI development team. The core team also expanded to include organisations from around New Zealand including universities, Crown Research Institutes and other energy research agencies. Within a few months an Innovation and Development Fund (IDF) proposal was submitted to the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC). After a successful application in 2007, the National Energy Research Institute became a functional entity.

Working with the Centre of Research Excellence (CoRE) the NERI team established a business development and energy education arm, funded through the IDF.

Shortly after, Dr Steve Batstone was appointed Director, and Dr Pip Lynch Education and Outreach Manager. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed by NERI partners:

  • CRL Energy Limited
  • Plant & Food Research
  • Industrial Research Limited
  • GNS Science
  • Landcare Research
  • Lincoln University
  • Massey University
  • New Zealand Centre for Advanced Engineering
  • The University of Auckland
  • The University of Canterbury
  •  The University of Otago
  • The University of Waikato
  • Victoria University of Wellington.

The IDF contract was closely followed by one from TEC under its Encouraging and Supporting Innovation scheme and one awarded by FRST, amongst many others. NERI has been focused on delivering on these contracts by building New Zealand’s research capability, enhancing understanding of energy issues, and brokering research between industry and researchers.

Over the following two years, NERI pioneered more than 30 projects, all aimed at furthering the future of New Zealand’s energy. We ran four professional development courses, funded seven post-graduate internships, scholarships and conferences, helped establish four energy-related courses at partner universities and ran a number of awareness-building events, seminars and conferences. By facilitating partnerships between the energy industry and research institution, we helped increase the amount of private sector investment in New Zealand energy research.

Read a detailed list of projects.

In 2009, to secure NERI’s financial future, we were made an independent charitable trust by the University of Otago, with Gerry Carrington and Janet Stephenson as the first Trustees. Later, Dr Sea Rotman and Dr Morgan Williams joined the Board of Trustees, and Paul Atkins was appointed Chief Executive.

NERI is now establishing itself as New Zealand’s ‘go-to’ organisation for all research-informed solutions, advice and debate across the entire energy sector. 

NERI's membership base is growing and new members are welcome. Read more about joining NERI here.