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Mike Underhill: Opportunities from climate change

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After a career in the energy sector and nearly 10 years leading the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority, you'd think I'd be able to fix a few things before retiring.

Unfortunately, there's still the small matter of international climate change - the most important energy-related issue facing us today.

In fact, the symptoms have become steadily worse with 2016 set to be the hottest year on record. Around the world a concerted and serious effort is needed to tackle climate change and New Zealand has a role to play. I am excited about the opportunities in front of us.

For most of my career, the energy-related issue we worried about most was whether we had enough supply to meet our growing needs.

By 'energy' we generally meant electricity, which has always come mostly from renewable sources. We rested happily on those laurels; meanwhile our industry and transport sectors ran on coal and oil.

Two things happened at around the time I joined EECA as Chief Executive in 2007. The volatility of oil became painfully apparent when petrol prices shot past the $2/litre mark; and evidence linking climate change with the burning of fossil fuels became more widely accepted.

EECA, with its mandate to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy, has a role to play in both these issues.

Making more of our abundant renewable electricity will not only reduce our dependence on imported oil, it will also help us transition to a low emissions economy.

It seems like a big mountain to climb - but so was making New Zealanders realise their homes didn't have to be cold, damp and drafty.

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