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Govt should clean up its own its own fossil fuel burning

Govt should clean up its own its own fossil fuel burning says Transpower

First published in Energy and Environment on August 1 2019.

Transpower’s report on electrification of the economy calls on the Government to lead the way in the areas it funds and owns.

“The technology exists, the economics increasingly stack up and there are some easy gains to be made. For example, with more than 350 separate public sector facilities consuming 6 PJ of gas or coal for process heat today (including at least 60 schools), the public sector could lead the way to a cleaner, more climate friendly and economically sustainable future.”

This is a delicate area for the Government with the state sector and notably the District Health Boards a major user of industrial heat processes and many using coal and other fossil fuels for the heating.

The Government has been encouraging changes, but there has been very little funding to back up the intention. This will mean schools and hospitals will have to find ways to make changes within their normal budgets. This will not be easy and progress is likely to be slow as the health and education sectors dealing with more pressing financial issues.

The Transpower report uses Northland District Health Board as a case study for what is possible. It runs several small hospitals that have historically used fossil fuel-fired central boiler systems to provide heat and hot water.

Over the past five years the DHB has been progressively converting these to electric heat pumps. Kawakawa hospital was the first and was replicated at Kaitaia and Dargaville Hospitals. The $700,000 investment in making the switch across all three hospitals was funded through a loan from EECA and generated target cost savings of $300,000 per annum.

“Kaitaia and Dargaville Hospitals provide a clear example of the value of the change. Each hospital’s central boiler was run on diesel (burning a combined 127,000 litres of diesel per annum) while the new electric heat pump system is 3.5 times more efficient and enables superior levels of control.... Overall, the DHB has cited “clear financial benefits” and “reducing our carbon footprint” as the core reasons behind the change.”

The issues would be larger, more complex and expensive at large hospitals. However, the Government also launched a new guide ‘Sustainability and the Health Sector’ this week.

It looks at wider issues such as waste and transport, but does include heating and energy with it estimating the health sector is responsible for between three and eight percent of carbon emissions in NZ.

It points to the Canterbury DHB establishing the new Christchurch Hospital Energy Centre, and deciding to use woody biomass instead of coal as a way forward

“Around the country people are making great strides to tackle to biggest challenge of our time, climate change. I look forward to seeing more progress on reducing our health sector emissions and delivering those health co-benefits to improve equity,” says Julie Anne Genter.

The guide says to meet the objectives of the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill, all buildings will need to operate at or near net zero carbon. “For DHBs the most important opportunity to contribute to sustainable energy use is getting things right when new facilities are built. Health care facilities, especially hospitals, have high occupancy rates and strict temperature requirements, making heating and cooling them very energy intensive.”

The guide though it not backed up by any extra funding. It says “EECA provides capital funding through Crown loans and technology demonstration funding. It can also provide funding to organisations with large energy spends, and currently partners with several DHBs. Even if your organisation is not eligible for direct EECA funding support, see EECA’s website for more on the other kinds of information and support that are available”.

First published in Energy and Environment on August 1, 2019.

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