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99% of Northland’s energy could be met through biomass

31 March 2024

A new report, published by EECA (the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority), shows the significant role currently unutilised, forestry residues could play – as the region reduces its reliance on fossil fuels in favour of renewable energy. Up to 99% of Northland’s energy needed for heat used in manufacturing has the potential to be met by locally sourced biomass (wood fuel made from residue).

The Northland Regional Energy Transition Accelerator (RETA) report provides insight and recommendations that will help streamline technology and infrastructure investments, for local businesses and energy suppliers, and cut carbon at the same time.

Forestry owners and biomass suppliers in Northland can expect significant demand for wood residues locally as the region looks toward new, lower-emissions energy solutions for industrial processing,” said EECA Group Manager Business, Nicki Sutherland. “On the energy user side, the tech we need – like biomass boilers that use wood residues for fuel – has been proven and available for a number of years now. When you combine this with the fact there is a lot of unutilised wood residue in the region’s forest that is not being exported – it is clear there is significant commercial opportunity for wood processors.”

The region also has a relatively high amount of spare electrical capacity to accommodate higher anticipated demand from fuel-switching projects. “Because of this capacity, capital connection costs are relatively low,” said Sutherland.

The Northland RETA covers 18 sites which consume 4,471 TJ (3,646TJ is fossil fuel) of energy and produce 262,000 tonnes of CO2 per annum. The majority (147,000 tonnes) of emissions are coal.

Energy efficiency and demand reduction are key parts of the process – which can lead to significant costs and energy savings and make fuel switching cheaper and easier in the long term.

For businesses on the demand side, Sutherland noted programmes like RETA help with an increasing expectation domestically and within export markets for lower-carbon products and services.

The report includes input from the Northland Inc Regional Economic Development Agency, Transpower, Top Energy and Northpower, local biomass suppliers and forest owners, electricity generators and retailers, and medium to large industrial energy users.

Head of Investment and Infrastructure at Northland Inc – the region’s economic development agency, Vaughan Cooper, said the RETA gives the local energy users and suppliers confidence to move forward and find opportunities to work together.

“It can be a bit daunting trying to work out where to start with your approach to clean energy use, renewable choices and carbon implications and how these can be built into your business operations,” said Cooper.

“It highlights opportunities to create greater resilience amongst some of Northland’s key sectors, such as forestry, through identifying areas for potential diversification. We look forward to continuing to implement the opportunities identified in this report in partnership with EECA and our business community.”

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Source: EECA