Ara Ake: NZ’s New Energy Centre – Expert Reaction

Taranaki’s New Energy Centre has been officially opened.

Named Ara Ake, the centre was promised in May last year to help New Zealand transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

The SMC asked experts to comment on the opening.

Professor Alan Brent, Chair in Sustainable Energy Systems, School of Engineering and Computer Science, Victoria University of Wellington, comments:

“Ara Ake is aimed at carrying new clean energy technologies over what is called ‘the valley of death’ – by demonstrating near-commercial technologies for wider uptake. Mere demonstration alone, however, will not necessarily realise the uptake, which means that the effective collaboration of Ara Ake with the wider energy stakeholders will be crucial for its success. Nevertheless, this is positive initiative for our just transition in the energy sector.”

No conflict of interest declared.

Paul Bennett, Science Leader – Clean Technologies, Scion, comments:

“I believe this is a great step for New Zealand with Ara Ake able to take an unbiased view on how a range of new renewable energy options fit together, and what their role is. There will be no single silver bullet to replace the fossil industry.

“Ara Ake will also help identify which technologies are critical to NZ’s net zero carbon plan, and need to be accelerated through demonstration to become commercially viable.”

Conflict of interest: Scion is a stakeholder in Ara Ake.

Professor Justin Hodgkiss, Co-Director of the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology, Victoria University of Wellington, comments:

“I very much welcome the new centre, Ara Ake. Here at the MacDiarmid Institute, we see decarbonization and sustainability technologies as a real economic opportunity for New Zealand. We’re keen to see New Zealand’s world-leading R&D capabilities create a pipeline of valuable IP that is connected to an ecosystem of clean energy focused companies exporting new technologies. We see a valuable role for Ara Ake in strengthening connections between research/innovation, and the commercialisation of new energy technology.

“As a research institute that develops new sustainability-focused technologies, we see ourselves working directly with Ara Ake in a number of ways. The main way will be pitching our new and emerging renewable energy technologies (printable solar photovoltaics, innovative battery technologies and materials for efficient green hydrogen generation etc.) to the right audience – looking for early partnerships, investors, or critical feedback, and being nurtured in a pipeline of future opportunities. At the next stage, I anticipate us working through Ara Ake to facilitate prototyping or pilot projects – the scale and scope of such projects in the energy sector generally exceed our resources. And thirdly, we will offer our technical expertise and advice to other existing projects – helping government and industry understand the technical constraints and future trajectories of emerging energy technologies.”

Conflict of interest statement:  Professor Justin Hodgkiss has been a member of the NNEDC Steering Group in 2020 and his MacDiarmid Institute colleague, Associate Professor Geoff Willmott, has been a member of the Advisory Group. The MacDiarmid Institute is one of the three initial shareholders for the new centre.