OnTheJob interview – Dr. Sea Rotmann

1. Where do you currently work? After 7 years in the New Zealand public service, I started my own ‘Behaviour Change Consultancy’ called SEA – Sustainable Energy Advice. My main project is as the lead Operating Agent on Task 24 of the International Energy Agency’s Demand Side Management Implementing Agreement (www.ieadsm.org). I am also regularly involved in energy research evaluation and priority setting, in New Zealand and internationally.

2. What are you working on this and next week? I am currently writing a lot of blogs, reports, and the ECEEE summer study paper. I am also organising the NZ workshop for our Task 24, which will take place in Wellington on February 15. In addition, we are currently finalising our templates to collect models of understanding behaviour change and examples where they have been applied in policies and practice in the countries participating in our Task.

3. What is the biggest challenge in your job? Making sure we can build an international expert community in behaviour change theory and practice, breaking down silos and ‘matchmaking’ the many talented and knowledgeable individuals and groups in this hugely important, yet largely overlooked field. Sometimes, it is a little hard to organise everything whilst living on the beach in New Zealand, but thanks to modern communication tools it does become easier all the time. I also still struggle with fostering online social media engagement with energy professionals – even on our invite-only expert platform the communication is decidedly one-way, although I can see from the stats that people are using the site and looking at what is posted…

4. What do you like most of working in the energy field? Aside from water and biodiversity, energy is the single most important resource for us on this planet, it literally ‘makes the world go round’ as we know it. The way we are currently using it has put us firmly on a path towards massive, global environmental, economic and social destruction, so I feel it is imperative to transition the energy system to become sustainable. I believe that understanding human behaviour as well as energy practices and big notions like ‘consumption’ are the only way to get us out of the current mess. Technology has a part to play, but is still entirely dependent on human understanding, use, uptake and acceptability and I feel that too much emphasis is put on ‘technological silver bullets’, which either don’t eventuate (like the ‘hydrogen economy’) or get us into different messes, like nuclear. There simply is no more exciting and important field to work in towards achieving much-needed change, than energy.

5. With whom (in or outside the energy field) would you like to have dinner? Hmm, I think in the energy field, Vaclav Smil would be a great dinner companion – I can recommend everyone to read his ‘Energy at the Crossroads’ for a historical and systemic understanding of how humans use/d energy. Outside of energy, my great heroes are Desmond Morris, the behaviourist; Sylvia Earle, one of the greatest ocean explorers of all time and a lovely, inspiring woman (I am a marine biologist by training) and Ian McKay, who is simply the most outstanding man and musician. That group should make for some very lively and interesting discussions at a dinner party!

Dr Sea Rotmann, Operating Agent of IEA DSM Implementing Agreement Task XXIV: ‘Closing the Loop – Behaviour Change in DSM: From Theory to Practice’

drsea@orcon.net.nz     http://www.ieadsm.org/ViewTask.aspx?ID=16&Task=24&Sort=0