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Otago transitions from coal to wood fuel

The Bioenergy Association says that Otago is well placed to transition from using coal for heating.

Association Executive Officer Brian Cox says that a recent study undertaken for the Otago Mayoral Forum shows that around 70 MW of heating plant currently using coal could transition to using wood fuel. This could be at around 50 schools and 26 larger heating plant at the hospital, dairy and meat processors and other heat users.

“The region already has a lot of wood fuel being used but the opportunity to fully replace coal for process heat will provide an opportunity for forest owners and farmers to get additional revenue by providing forest harvest residues to these new heat facilities. Increasing the amount of wood fuel produced and used will also create new employment and improve the resilience of some rural communities.”

“Farmers currently produce food, wood and wool fibre. The increased demand for wood fuel will provide an opportunity for them to be food + wood + wool + energy fuel producers. Having an additional revenue stream from their farm will improve their business resilience.”

The study has recommended that Otago work with Southland and extend the Wood Energy South Projects which has already assisted around 19 heat plant owners to transition to wood fuel. A workshop will be held next week in Dunedin to bring together the potential heat plant owners, fuel suppliers and the region’s council staff to identify how they can work together to realise the opportunity to get away from coal.

Lloyd McGinty, the author of the report and a Dunedin wood energy expert said that “ He wasn’t surprised at how much coal could be replaced by wood fuel as Otago already has a large number of heating plant using wood fuel. He recognised that there is a lot of wood residues available as a fuel. What the study showed was the importance of leadership to make it happen and he was pleased that the Mayoral Forum had taken up this leadership role.”

Mr Cox said that “to achieve the transition from coal to wood fuel for process heating as quick as possible will require all the people involved to work collaboratively and to partner fuel buyers and sellers. If we sit around talking about it the pace of transition will be slow. However by working together we can bring the transition about much faster. The technology is proven, the wood residues are available and the region already has enough role models on which to build this transition. We just need to roll up our sleeves and do it.”

Ends

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