Advanced Energy Technology platform

Advanced Energy Technology is technology at the frontier of innovation, with the potential to advance and disrupt global energy markets.

We define advanced energy technology as:

engineering, physical and biological sciences research developing technologies at the frontier of transforming the way we produce, use, manage, and store energy.

These technologies will have the potential to radically shift the global energy landscape and develop market opportunities for New Zealand.

The Strategic Science Investment Fund (SSIF) Advanced Energy Technology platform intends to:

  • support and develop world-leading research capability in niche areas of advanced energy science
  • enable New Zealand to contribute to, and benefit from, opportunities in international technology markets
  • deliver on the Government’s advanced energy technology investment goals.

The following programmes are currently funded under the SSIF Advanced Energy Technology platform:

High power electric motors for large-scale transport

The Research Trust of Victoria University of Wellington is receiving $15 million over 7 years to deliver the Advanced Energy Technology research programme 'High power electric motors for large-scale transport'.

The following is the public statement for this programme from our contract with the Research Trust of Victoria University of Wellington.

The world needs to cut its greenhouse gas emissions to limit the impact of global warming. New Zealand has set itself a challenging target, to be net carbon-zero by 2050. Not counting agriculture, transportation is the largest source of our greenhouse gas emissions. Our tourism sector depends on flying; while our exports depend on shipping. To stop using fossil fuels, we need to start using electricity. Fortunately New Zealand has an advantage – over 80% of our energy is generated from renewable sources, and we have plenty of scope to increase it to 100% using wind, solar, and geothermal. 

The biggest technological challenge is to electrify aviation, followed by heavy transport: rail, shipping, and heavy trucks. Electric planes are still in their infancy. But superconducting machines offer 2 advantages for electric aircraft: they are small and light, relative to their power output. New Zealand has been working on superconductors since the 1980s, and NZ is home to some of the world’s leading superconductivity researchers. They have already been working with Airbus and Boeing on superconducting aircraft. In this programme, they will be working with NZ’s leading researchers in power electronics.

The research in this programme looks at how to make superconducting machines for aircraft. We will prove our technologies first for rail, shipping, and trucks, because they are easier targets – weight and size are much less critical. Our research is globally relevant, and we will be working with excellent researchers from around the world, from Cambridge to KAIST and Kyoto. We have some big international names behind us, including Airbus, Boeing, Hypertech, WiTricity, and Kalsi Green Power Systems. We will develop a cohort of engineers to take these new technologies forward, including mentoring young Māori researchers into high-flying careers.

Read more about High power electric motors for large-scale transport(external link) — Research Trust of Victoria University of Wellington

Ahuora: Delivering sustainable industry through smart process heat decarbonisation

University of Waikato is receiving $12.5 million over 7 years to deliver the Advanced Energy Technology programme 'Ahuora: Delivering sustainable industry through smart process heat decarbonisation'.

The following is the public statement for this programme from our contract with University of Waikato.

Our vision is to create a new Adaptive Digital Twin energy-technology platform (Ahuora), underpinned by the next-generation of energy systems science, that will be accessible to engineering researchers, service providers and industrial site-owners and is essential to decarbonise the process heat sector. This sector contributes 28% of NZ’s energy emissions but represents arguably the most complex and challenging of the energy sectors to decarbonise by 2050, as legislated by the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Act 2019.

Research over the past several decades has shown that decarbonisation of the process heat sector cannot be solved sustainably by a single 'silver bullet' energy technology; rather, it demands a range of technologies integrated with an industrial site to form a unified energy system utilising renewable energy. Developing effective solutions involves knowing when, where and how to apply the numerous emerging and mature energy technologies in the most synergistic way, while having a minimum adverse effect on production and managing energy supply and demand volatilities.

A net-zero-carbon process heat sector will require highly integrated, productive and efficient systems that encompass both the industrial site as well as neighbouring industries, renewable resources and communities.

Our team of Waikato, Auckland and Massey University researchers will deliver the energy systems technology and build the Ahuora platform to assist in re-engineering the way we use, convert, provision and store energy for process heat using a smart systems approach. This engineering research programme will transform the underpinning energy systems science, embed the new technology in an advanced digital platform, and produce world-class engineering leaders in energy systems.

The new platform’s name, Ahuora, gifted by Associate Professor Te Taka Keegan of the University of Waikato, combines the Māori words: ‘ahu’ meaning ‘to fashion’ and ‘ora’ meaning ‘healthy’, and represents our goal – sustainable industry for Aotearoa New Zealand.

Read more about Ahuora: Delivering sustainable industry through smart process heat decarbonisation(external link) — University of Waikato

Architecture of the future low-carbon, resilient, electrical power system

University of Canterbury is receiving $13.3 million (GST exclusive) over 7 years for the Advanced Energy Technology Platform research programme 'Architecture of the future low-carbon, resilient, electrical power system.'

The following is the public statement for this programme from our contract with University of Canterbury.

The world is facing a climate crisis. If we do not quickly adapt how we produce, use, transport and manage energy, we and our children will face dire consequences. Changes have begun worldwide: increased renewable and sustainable electricity generation, uptake of electric vehicles, and electrification of industrial processes. All these reduce fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. But it is not enough. We must implement new initiatives to drastically address climate change.

The electrical grid which enables our modern way of life was conceived more than 100 years ago. The industrial and consumer loads and generator technologies of the past were all based on alternating current (AC), leading to today’s AC electrical network. However, new generation technologies like solar and wind power, as well as electric vehicles and battery storage all use direct current (DC). Our appliances, computers, smartphones, heat-pumps and more, as well as common industrial loads are also mostly DC based. Because of this, many converters are needed to interface generation and loads to the AC grid, creating inefficiency and causing compatibility problems.

Conveying electrical power by DC reduces losses and lessens voltage drop. A part transition of our electrical grid to DC has many technological benefits, including more flexible and efficient systems for generation, conveyance, storage and use, as well as easier integration of renewable generation and technologies such as electric vehicles and battery storage.

The changes required to address the climate crisis will make an AC/DC hybrid grid inevitable. This is no simple task; the electrical grid is humanity’s largest 'machine'. Our team comprises of researchers from the Universities of Canterbury, Auckland, AUT, Victoria, Waikato and dozens of overseas collaborators. Together, we will tackle some key challenges of the future grid and build technical capability across our whole system, ultimately benefitting every New Zealander.

For more information contact Professor Neville Watson, University of Canterbury, +6433694542.

Aotearoa: Green hydrogen technology

GNS Science is receiving $9.213 million over 7 years to deliver the Advanced Energy Technology research programme 'Aotearoa: Green hydrogen technology'.

The following is the public statement for this programme from our contract with GNS Science.

New Zealand’s ambitious goal of reducing carbon emissions to net-zero by 2050 requires a progressive phasing out of fossil fuel use in the energy sector. Our Platform aims to deliver transformative technologies that lead to a globally connected ‘green hydrogen’ economy in Aotearoa New Zealand, whereby cleanly produced hydrogen replaces fossil fuels for electricity generation and transportation. This will facilitate NZ’s transition towards 100% renewable energy. Our smaller-scale green hydrogen applications will capture benefits from global R&D advances, while delivering solutions that meet NZ’s needs for distributed generation and storage, and a diversified energy portfolio.

Successful implementation of this Platform’s research outcomes will ultimately enable NZ to shift from being an importer of fossil fuel to becoming an exporter of:

  • green-hydrogen technologies
  • green-hydrogen as a commodity to countries like Japan and South Korea, who aim to decarbonise their energy sectors.

Our research focusses on new, globally transformative green hydrogen generation technologies by tackling significant technological challenges. Our main target is to generate hydrogen-producing technologies that do not depend on high-purity water sources and produce hydrogen directly from sunlight. 

Our Platform aims to create next-generation knowledge-intensive opportunities for New Zealanders. We will develop NZ innovation capability by connecting research and education providers with industry. Connectivity Grants and Innovation Placements will facilitate flexible student movement between research and industry. Experienced researchers will mentor early-career researchers and post-graduate students in becoming scientists, engineers, and technicians in new industries. The ultimate outcome will be new green hydrogen producing industries that employ homegrown engineers and scientists, underpinning New Zealand’s distributed green hydrogen economy and export.

Last updated: 05 October 2023