$3 million grant for NZ transport study
As petrol prices reach record highs, the Government has announced it will be spending more than $3 million on a study looking at transport energy efficiency.
Today's announcement that the Otago University-run study is to receive $3.2 million over four years in the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's 2012 science investment round came just days after 91-octane petrol reached an all time high near $2.23 a litre.
The funding is part of $133 million - $32.8 million of it to be spent this financial year - for 47 research projects in the biological industries, energy and minerals, the environment, hazards and infrastructure, and health and society funding categories. Funding for research in the high-value manufacturing and services sector is to be announced in the next few weeks.
The battle against kiwifruit disease Psa will be fought with $6 million over six years to Plant & Food Research.
Psa was described as the "most significant economic threat faced by New Zealand's horticulture industries in the last hundred years". Losses in gold kiwifruit export earnings could reach hundreds of millions of dollars within the next three years.
At Otago University, Centre for Sustainability director Dr Janet Stephenson said the aim of the energy efficiency study was to find out what efficiencies could be achieved with new transport technologies and practices, how markets could be encouraged to deliver them, and consumers to adopt them.
“We will be looking into the future of transport, at what technologies are becoming available, what new fuels are likely, and how households and businesses might adopt these or change their behaviour in other ways," she said.
The project would involve researchers from many disciplines at Otago, and additional expertise from Waikato University and two specialist consultancies. International collaborators included Oxford and Durham Universities in England, and universities in Sweden, Australia and America.
“There are huge cost savings and productivity gains to be made," Dr Stephenson said.
Another energy project being funded is a Canterbury University study into renewable energy and smart grids. Led by Dr Allan Miller, director of the university's Electric Power Engineering Centre, the project is receiving $6.38 million over six years.
The project would provide methods for managing and balancing supply and demand variability in a network in which intermittent renewable generation was a growing part of the energy supply, Canterbury said.
Dr Miller was also doing research into electric cars.
The problems posed by intermittent renewable energy is also being tackled in one of the projects funded under the so-called Smart Ideas category.
Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce said Smart Ideas was aimed at encouraging promising new ideas that could deliver commercial results.
One of the 11 applicants receiving funding through that category was a project, led by a young IRL researcher, to develop a novel clean-energy storage technology designed to overcome problems with integrating renewable wind energy into the national grid.
That project is receiving $700,000 over two years.
“Ideas like this energy storage system can have significant commercial potential in New Zealand and globally - but they have to get to the point of being commercially viable,” Joyce said.
Smart Ideas had two phases. The first phase allowed researchers to develop their novel idea, then they would have to apply for further funding aimed at commercialising the work.
GNS Science received $3.2 million to study gas hydrates, a frozen form of natural gas abundant in deepwater offshore basins. It is thought the hydrates may provide an indigenous source of natural gas for decades to come, and the goal is to have commercial production of natural gas from gas hydrates offshore starting in 2025.
The project with the largest amount of funding is the Bioresource Processing Alliance, involving four crown research institutes, which is receiving $15 million over six years. The goal is to develop high value co-products from primary industry biological raw materials.
Next is the Agribusiness Development Group, with $10.28 million over six years for the Sustainability Dashboard, which is a tool being developed to help farmers and growers manage large amounts of information, and help them with management decisions. The goal is to help optimise overall farm performance, while protecting environmental and social values.
AgResearch is receiving $7.5 million over five years for a "co-learning and co-innovation" project. It will involve "webs of participants" in the biological industries forming innovation networks to develop solutions to pressing problems.
Otago University is receiving $9.24 million over four years for its resilient urban futures project, which will compare the broad costs and benefits and qualitative features of two types of urban development. One emphasises more compact development, and the other more greenfield development.
The impacts of ultrafast broadband will also be studied, and possible efficiencies from transport links between the ports of Auckland, Tauranga and Whangarei, and the proposed inland port at Hamilton will be analysed.
Niwa gets $7.2 million over four years for research into the impacts and implications of climate change.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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