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Renewable biomass given a major boost

8 May 2023

All coal boilers to be removed from NZ schools

Thanks to a NZ$10million dollar investment, all remaining coal boilers in New Zealand schools will be replaced with renewable woody biomass or electric heating sources by 2025 reducing carbon emissions by around 35,400 tonnes over 10 years, Climate Change Minister James Shaw has announced.

The move is part of the latest allocation from the Government’s NZ$220 million State Sector Decarbonisation Fund which supports the Carbon Neutral Government Programme, which has already achieved an emissions reduction of 422,981 tonnes of carbon over ten years – the equivalent of taking 17,400 cars off the road.

“To date, the School Coal Boiler Replacement Programme has prioritised schools with the oldest and least efficient boilers, but today’s commitment is a major expansion of the programme, and means that around 180 schools with coal boilers will be in a position to prioritise the transition to clean energy,” said James Shaw.

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In response to the announcement, 350 Aotearoa has just released a map of state sector buildings across Aotearoa, which outlines the status of fossil-fuelled public buildings – ‘unfunded’, ‘funded’, or ‘transitioned’. It shows that over 750 public buildings still have no funding to transition away from burning fossil fuels – predominantly gas.

“The end of dirty coal in hospitals was a people-powered win – a campaign made up of more than 18,000 New Zealanders. But there was a gas-sized hole in the announcement – over 750 gas-powered public buildings did not receive funding to transition. We require much bigger investments to replace all fossil fuel boilers in schools, and in the wider state sector,” says 350 Aotearoa executive director Alva Feldmeier.

The map shows that roughly 60 fossil-fuel powered hospitals remain unfunded – as do around 600 schools.

NOTE: Recent boiler conversions of schools and public buildings switching from coal to renewables such as biofuels has led to a huge push by forest owners across the country to extract and better utilise residues from harvest operations. Large industrial heat and energy users likewise continue to convert their boilers, as detailed in a story last week.

At a regional level, discussions are underway on how best forest owners and suppliers of wood residues can aggregate and coordinate the collection, transport and processing of woody biomass. As well as providing surety to those looking to convert from burning fossil fuels, there’s a growing recognition that the prevailing supply model needs to change to progressively drive scale and supply chain reliability.

As detailed, the wood residues event being planned with industry for this year, Residues2Revenues 2023, has been set up for the wider forestry industry to provide more detailed information on technologies being used to extract, process and transport biofuels along with more recent case studies on forest companies already heading down this path to co-ordinate supplies on a regional basis. The event runs on 25-26 July 2023. Event details along with the programme information can be seen on the event website, www.woodresidues.events

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