Interview with NERI's Chief Executive

“The challenges we are facing as a nation right now are interrelated with issues of global proportions and have long-term and immediate impacts. These challenges cannot be treated in isolation. Issues related to health and well-being, security of energy, food and water, housing, transport and productivity are all part of that mix.

NERI’s Chief Executive Paul Atkins, considers that ensuring a sustainable future is a ‘wicked problem’. Wicked problems are highly complex with interdependent issues that result in the problem-definition shifting frequently. This  makes it very difficult to identify solutions, and solving one part of the problem may reveal or create greater problems.

“Energy issues are at the heart of the health of our global ecosystem. To address the wicked problem requires economic, social and political factors to work together, at global, national and local levels.

“The decisions we make today will have a significant impact on the shape of our future. It is essential to have a range of carefully researched and well debated options with considered trade-offs and drawbacks on the table for good decision making.

“I see a great need for cross-disciplinary discussion, debate and sharing of knowledge, says Paul.

“NERI is becoming an essential hub to connect people and organisations, so a network of knowledge is built to inform the technical and policy decisions needed for long term future planning.

NERI has refreshed its vision. “We have built on the resources we already had and added to what we did in the past, but now have a clear endorsement from the energy community to engage more in strategic thinking at a national level.

“I went out and asked people if they thought NERI should exist and if so, what it should do. I spoke to over 70 individuals who are significant contributors in the energy sector - researchers, and those in industry, government and other organisations. More than 95% said they wanted NERI to take on a big picture role and lead thinking in terms of influencing the national strategy for New Zealand’s energy future.

From mid-2011, NERI will incorporate the Energy Federation of New Zealand (EFNZ). Bringing these two organisations together will strengthen our unique overview of the sector. Through this alliance with Energy Federation, NERI is increasingly well connected internationally and maintains relationships with many other energy-related organisations overseas. In particular it represents New Zealand on the World Energy Council.   

Paul is aware of the difficulties that must be overcome. “The energy sector is currently diverse and disconnected, and research funding is scarce and highly contested. Despite that, research is essential to make sure our approach will serve us well for the next 50 years and beyond.

“Joining NERI presents an opportunity for its members to get behind an organisation that has a mandate through a strong research base, to challenge business as usual and to start to articulate alternatives.

“This is an opportunity to confront the status quo. If we carry on doing what we’ve always done, we will continue to get what we’ve always got. That will not deliver the options, let alone the solutions, that we need for the future.

“And we need to work together. NERI is New Zealand’s energy research organisation and joining is an ideal way to make a serious contribution to our nation’s energy future.”

Read more about joining NERI.


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