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University Of Canterbury To Be Carbon Neutral Sooner With $2.16m Funding Boost

The Minister for Climate Change James Shaw has today announced $2.16 million in additional funding to help the University of Canterbury become carbon net neutral by 2030.

This will help the University of Canterbury (UC) expand the scope of a boiler conversion project at its Ilam campus, eliminating coal use and reducing carbon emissions by a further 20,000 tonnes over 10 years (around 2,000 tonnes per annum on average).

The University is committed to reducing carbon emissions and will invest a further $15.4 million in the current project.

“At the University of Canterbury, we produce world-leading research into sustainability challenges – from airborne microplastics to climate action in the Pacific,” UC’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Sustainability, Professor Jan Evans-Freeman, says.

“We’re embedding sustainability into our programmes, so our students are prepared for a fast-changing world that needs urgent action. Our new Bachelor of Social and Environmental Sustainability degree will empower students to make a difference,” she says.

“And we need to align our campus operations with the future-focused work happening in academic learning and research. We are investing in the future, so our students are learning in facilities that are as efficient and sustainable as possible. Thanks to the Government’s funding we can do that sooner.”

The University received $6.24m in July last year under the Government’s State Sector Decarbonisation Funding project. The funding will contribute to the conversion of the existing boilers on the University’s Ilam campus from coal fuel to wood fuel. These conversions will reduce net carbon emissions from coal by 100%.

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The heat output from wood-fuelled boilers is lower so the University needed to reduce the campus heating load to match. This was achieved by converting four large UC buildings to use sustainable Ground-Source Heat Pumps (GSHPs), which extract natural heat from underground water aquifers. The additional funding will enable the University to progress this work.

New buildings – such as the University of Canterbury Student Association’s Haere-roa and the 504-bed student accommodation complex Tupuānuku – are designed with greater thermal efficiency and GSHP technology.

Long-term, UC plans to upgrade the thermal efficiency of all large campus buildings and convert them to using GSHP heating. When all buildings are converted, UC will have eliminated combustion fuels from its Ilam campus. This work is scheduled to take 15 years.

The University has worked with EECA for many years to measure emissions and plan for investment in new sustainable energy infrastructure. The new workplan, with boiler conversions and GSHPs, is estimated to reduce net carbon emissions by 11,000 tonnes per year. This part of the project is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2023.

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