World-class energy research recognised

29 May 2011


As further testimony to the outstanding quality of its work, the Business School's Energy Centre has been ranked among the top 10 institutions worldwide in the field of energy economics.

The rankings, compiled by RePEC, are based on published papers by 1,219 researchers affiliated with 1,419 institutions. The Energy Centre was placed ninth, in prestigious company that includes the economics departments of Harvard, Yale, Cambridge and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The accolade came as the Energy Education Trust of New Zealand, which had already gifted more than $3 million towards the Centre, gifted a further $2 million which, with the original matched funding from the New Zealand Government and the subsequent matching by the Hutton Wilson Trust of one dollar-for-two dollar, has brought the total raised to more than $9 million. The fund supports the Chair, postgraduate and postdoctoral scholarships and the Centre.

In recognition of the Trust's continued support, the chair held by the Energy Centre's director, Professor Basil Sharp, has been named the Energy Education Trust Chair in Energy and Resource Economics.

The mission of the Energy Centre is to help business and Government confront energy issues of national significance by providing independent applied research and education programmes.

The need for undertaking high-quality research and analysis to inform energy policy has once again become critical, Professor Sharp says.

"Energy economics was a hot subject during the oil shocks of the late 1970s and 1980s as people wrestled with the cost of energy and the reliability of supply. Then for a time it went off the boil. Now, with the rise of environmental concerns and renewed price spikes, it is once more on the agenda," he says.

Sharp believes energy economics is set to gain even more traction as interest in developing low-carbon economies broadens and the repercussions of policy decisions become more complex.

"New Zealand depends on its primary sector for growth. Remove liquid fuels from the sector and it would grind to a halt. Even the nitrogen spread on the land to grow grass is a product of the petrochemical industry."

Competition for increasingly scarce resources will also intensify, he says.

"Agriculturalists are beginning to put a 'stake in the ground' and claim the need for more water. In many catchments any increase in irrigation would come at the expense of hydro-generation."

Sharp says one of the Centre's strengths is its cross-disciplinary linkages, with graduate and undergraduate programmes spanning business, science, engineering and geography.

An Advisory Group, which includes senior Government and business representatives, plays a key role in focusing the Centre's research programme on relevant contemporary policy issues.