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Over The Horizon

Lower Emissions, Save Energy

It is generally assumed that tackling greenhouse gas emissions will restrict economic growth in New Zealand, but a new research programme is challenging that.

"Analysts now believe innovative technology can provide both lower carbon emissions and a more buoyant economy," says Professor Gerry Carrington, director of Otago University's energy management programme.

"The Kyoto Protocol, signed by industrial countries in December 1997, requires that greenhouse emissions be reduced during 2008-2012. The German Government has agreed to cut their emissions by a massive 21% below 1990 levels."

"Sure, they have some easy savings from the former East Germany. But they'll also need to move to quality, higher-value products -- that's where they'll reap the benefits. That's quality profit."

"We too can do likewise by moving towards higher-quality production, but this entails changing attitudes and perceptions in business, technology and science."

The project is concentrating first on the drying of timber and agricultural and horticultural products.

"We believe that well-designed and well-run driers provide process as well as energy benefits, and we need to quantify these gains. The aim is to increase the uptake of energy-efficient technologies -- not because they are energy-efficient, but because they have other important spin-offs."

"Ultimately, we would like to change the belief that energy efficiency is a cost to the economy. Rather, it's quality profit that we should be aiming for," Carrington says.

"New Zealanders use energy less efficiently than Germans or the Japanese, where it is more expensive. Over the past 75 years, New Zealanders' energy use per individual has grown on average 1.4% a year."