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Universities have a significant opportunity to be at the forefront of energy transitions. In part, this is because we:

  • Practice energy sustainability operationally at scale,
  • conduct research on challenges involved in achieving operational sustainability,
  • and equip students with energy skills that they can take out into the real world.

The new Energy "Living Lab" initiative will enable us to build on the connections between these areas of work, and create opportunities to facilitate constructive collaboration between academic and operational staff and students and between university staff with the wider community.

Our objectives

  • To produce energy related research using University of Otago data and infrastructure and via community projects
  • To improve energy practices to save money and make the campus more environmentally friendly
  • To use the university infrastructure to provide real world applications in teaching
  • To promote the use of University staff expertise to assist the wider community with sustainable energy initiatives

For more information on the Energy Living Lab, contact us:


Current pilot projects

Software to monitor/visualise energy use

Project team:

Dr Mair has been employed on a project in collaboration with Property Services to develop tools to better visualise real-time energy use leading to improved energy management and reduced energy costs. This would provide a platform on which researchers could develop projects such as responsiveness to information campaigns etc. This work was presented at the OERC symposium 2020.

Sustainable Energy for Otago Schools

Project team:

  • Michael Jack (Physics)
  • Summer Campbell (OERC Summer Studentship)
  • Mark Mason (Property Services)
  • Robyn Zink (Enviroschools Regional Manager)
  • Ministry of Education, Dunedin District Councils and Otago Primary and High Schools

In response to school and community concerns in Otago about the use of coal for heating, we are working together to develop holistic energy plans for schools to transition to more sustainable energy. As an initial step towards this goal, the partnership aims to gather base-line data of current school energy use for as many schools as possible across the Otago region.

Improved Access to Weather Station Data

Project team:

Data from the Physics Weather Station is used for teaching and research in renewable energy and also used by University of Otago Property Services to improve energy efficiency and automated control of University buildings. This project aims to modernize the data storage and interface and simplify access to this data. This project is being carried out by a summer student.

Impact of the “Hour of Power” on Aurora's electricty network

Project Team:

This project will examine the electricity retailor ElectricKiwi's offer of a free hour of power to its customers which has led to a significant peak in demand on the local Aurora network causing increased call outs to reset fuses, high peak loadings and lower network reliability. By studying this extreme example, we hope to gain insights into what is required to achieve beneficial outcomes from demand flexibility. A summer studentship in 2021/22 is jointly funded by the OERC and Aurora Energy.

Measuring the energy performance of low-e window films

Project Team:

A promising low-cost approach to improving building energy performance is to retrofit existing windows with low-emissivity (low-e) window films. This project we will use an infrared camera to evaluate the in-situ performance of low-e films that are currently being trailed in University buildings. The results of this work could have wide-reaching impact across most of the University's building stock. A summer studentship in the 2020/2021 year is funded by the University of Otago Sustainability Office.

Real-world performance of shower water heat recovery systems

Project Team:

Commercial products that claim to recover up to 60 per cent of shower wastewater (greywater) heat have entered the NZ market. In this project the real-world effectiveness of shower heat recovery systems currently installed at the University will evaluated. A summer studentship partly funded by the OERC in 2020/2021 will explore this topic.

Completed pilot projects

Avoiding electricity congestion charges

Project team:

The key objective is to save costs and green house gasses through the avoidance of congestion charges.

The tasks:

  1. Estimate greenhouse gas associated with congestion periods
  2. Develop simplified performance indicators that incorporate the time use of electricity for the university and other organisations

Socialising energy Use

Project team:

Approximately 30 per cent of the University of Otago's electricity charges come from congestion charges. The energy team therefore actively manages electric appliances around the University to try and reduce load during these periods. This project looked at whether it is possible to use social media to automatically trigger electricity users to reduce load at the university when we are getting close to peek use and congestion charges.

Details of this project

Optimisation of Solar installation on the St David Lecture Theatre Complex  

Project team:

Optimisation of the orientation of solar panels for commercial solar installations taking into account time of use pricing.

Access the report (PDF)

Conversion of Dunedin Energy Centre from coal to biomass

Project team:

Exploring the wider economic, environmental and social implications of the conversion of Dunedin Energy Centre from Coal to renewable woody Biomass. A summary presentation based on this project was given to the Dunedin Chamber of Commerce Energy Committee.

Summary presentation (PDF)

Improved methodology for investment appraisal of energy efficiency projects

Project team:

  • Ivan Diaz-Rainey (Accounting & Finance)
  • Frederik De Haan (Accounting & Finance)

Bridging the energy efficiency gap on campus – Investment appraisal and organisation procedures

Project team:

Following on from the 2017 investment appraisal project, in 2018, we were fortunate to have had Professor Ulrich Nissen as a visitor to the university based in the Department of Accountancy and Finance and OERC. He allowed us to develop the investment appraisal project further as he has been working on a procedure for the German/EU standards body on how to present and model energy efficiency investments.

Use community-sourced data to determine electric vehicle charging patterns

Project team:

  • Ben Anderson (visiting researcher CSAFE)
  • Rafferty Parker (Student, Physics)
  • Daniel Myall (Flip the Fleet)
  • Henrik Moller (Flip the Fleet)
  • Michael Jack (Physics)

Analysis of community-sourced data on electric vehicle charging to provide insight into how much of an impact large-scale electrification of transport may have on New Zealand's electricity grid.

Access the report “Will flipping the fleet f**k the grid?”

Contact us:

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