A drive to improve the air in Southland has seen businesses and councils switch from coal to renewable fuel sources which is delivering health, financial and environmental benefits to the Southland region.

The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) partnered with Venture Southland (VS) to deliver the Wood Energy South project in 2014.

The project funded over three years and aimed to lower energy-related carbon emissions in Southland, improve air quality and demonstrate the benefits of converting to wood-fueled boilers that utilise local waste wood. Venture Southland is continuing to provide support to businesses interested in exploring Wood Energy options and is driving the Wood Energy project. The project is currently seeing an increase in businesses seeking to convert to biomass boilers as well as wood fuel suppliers increasing the amount of wood chips and pellets available for use in biomass boilers. 

Southland was regarded as an ideal place for the initiative as the region harvests one million tonnes of logs annually, and in the process produces 200,000 tonnes of wood waste. These figures are also forecasted to increase to 600,000 tonnes per annum over the next 30 years.

A major goal of the project was to establish a regional cluster of wood energy users to reduce emissions, utilise an abundant waste wood resource and to promote an efficient renewable energy source. 

Wood Energy South Objectives

  • Create awareness of wood as a sustainable option for boiler heat plants in Southland
  • Remove barriers for consumers considering switching to wood-fuelled heat plants in Southland
  • Build confidence in the supply chain
  • Provide a low Greenhouse Gas emissions energy source that is compliant with clean air emissions in the Southland region
  • Provide advice and technical support for business cases to establish systems
  • Provide opportunities for funding towards feasibility studies, capital grants and crown loans

Project Outcomes

During the project, 160 project stakeholders were engaged with and 30 wood energy feasibility studies were completed alongside seven in-depth studies.

The major target of the project to remove 200,000 tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere has already been achieved with lifetime emissions from built and committed to systems removing 201,300 tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere.  This is equivalent to an annual reduction of 3,212 cars on the road in the Southland region.

Outcomes of the Wood Energy South Initiative

The existence of a sustainable wood energy market has also been established with the installation of 16 new systems in the region. Two established wood chipping businesses have increased their operations, one by 100%, and a wood pellet business is entering the market with security of supply ensured until 2050.

Working closely with key industry stakeholders the project demonstrated new and emerging technologies and encouraged local employment capacity building and business opportunities. 

The success of the project was also nationally recognised when it was awarded the Large Energy User Initiative Award of the Year for 2017. 

Project Partners

Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) 
The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) promotes energy efficiency, energy conservation and the use of energy from renewable sources. EECA focuses on actions that will deliver the greatest net benefits to all of New Zealand.

Project Governance

Steering Group Members

  • Grant Smith - Pioneer and BANZ rep (Chairman)
  • Damian McNaught - Craigpine
  • Christine Henderson - Community
  • Owen West - Environment Southland
  • Bill Brander - EECA
  • Llody McGinty - Ahika Consulting

Advisory Group Members

  • Graeme Manley - South Wood Export Ltd
  • David Blue – Niagara
  • Wayne McCallum – McCallums Group
  • Iain Macdonald – Forest Management
  • John Faul – CH Faul & Company Ltd
  • Wayne Harpur – Rayners Ltd
  • Nathan Surendran – Schema Consulting
  • Cameron Smellie - EIS

Final Wood Energy Symposium June 2017

A very successful symposium was held in Invercargill with almost 100 people attending from across the country. Speakers included the CEO of EECA and representatives from forestry, boiler retailers and heat plant users, as well as policy representatives from MBIE, the Bio-Energy Association and local government. Scion, the forestry Crown Research Institute presented research into a nationwide assessment of supply and demand for wood energy, showing regions where wood energy can be further utilised. Feedback was extremely positive with a clear consensus on the need to build on the success achieved through Wood Energy South.

Going Forward

A peer review will be undertaken into the financial impact of the project, with a view to definitively measuring the impact on future carbon pricing and targets. Initial calculations show a $4.16 a tonne carbon price against current market levels of almost $20 a tonne which is forecast to rise considerably.

This information, along with research undertaken during the project, will be used to continue to encourage Southland businesses to take up this technology and to promote the development of the adjacent wood energy markets in Otago and Canterbury. Guidance for businesses will continue to be provided by Venture Southland alongside other energy efficiency and productivity initiatives.

For further information contact
Steve Canny - Venture Southland

Steve Canny

Group Manager Business and Strategic Projects