Renewable Energy Award - sponsored by Right House

The Renewable Energy Award recognises a project or technology designed to increase the production or use of renewable energy.

Winner – Government of Tokelau

The Pacific territory of Tokelau has been named winner of the 2014 EECA Renewable Energy Award for its switch from diesel-generated electricity to clean, renewable solar energy.

Until last year, Tokelau's three atolls relied on diesel generation for their electricity supply. As well as being costly and polluting, this left the islanders' electricity supply at the mercy of bad weather when fuel shipments couldn't make it to the islands.

The Tokelau Renewable Energy Project, launched in 2010 and completed last year, involved the installation of three large photo-voltaic (solar) arrays on each of the three atolls. These are now supplying 90% of Tokelau's electricity needs - making it one of the world's top nations in renewably-sourced electricity - and the first to run almost exclusively on solar-generated power.

Tokelau is a non-self governing territory of New Zealand. Assisted by New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the project is saving NZ$900,000 in diesel costs every year and has cut annual CO2 emissions by more than 1,300 tonnes. It's also inspired others, with the Cook Islands and Tuvalu set to embark on similar projects.

Judges praised the leadership shown by the project - which has both raised the profile of climate change and energy use in the Pacific, and offered a positive solution.

EECA Chief Executive Mike Underhill said Tokelau's project was bringing numerous social and economic benefits to the small state.

"Island communities such as Tokelau, with few energy alternatives, are ideal sites for solar-generated electricity. This project showed immense vision and drive from the leaders and communities of Tokelau. They are showing other Pacific nations the way - as well as highlighting to the world the need for more renewable energy and less carbon-intensive fossil fuels."

Tokelau's Minister of Energy Hon. Foua Toloa accepted the award at a ceremony in Auckland.

Highly Commended – Wood Energy New Zealand

Nearly 6,600 tonnes of CO2 emissions are avoided each year thanks to efforts to demolish market barriers.

Wood Energy NZ has tackled both ends of the market to champion renewable bioenergy. With a well-organised system of regional hubs in Canterbury and Otago and a strong focus on chip quality, it's boosted the perception of wood as a reliable, high-quality fuel choice. Thanks to its efforts, wood chip is increasingly being taken up as a carbon neutral, renewable substitute for coal. Sales grew to more than 116,000 GJ last year, avoiding nearly 6,600 tonnes in CO2 emissions from displaced fossil fuels. Large heat users get reliable, good value fuel supply via long-term contracts, while forest owners get an additional revenue stream out of wood that would otherwise be discarded as waste. Even more commendably, it's achieved this growth in a period of tough market conditions, low carbon prices and cheap coal.

The judges said: "An excellent demonstration of the creation of a growing market of significant scale. It's exciting to see wood energy making progress in a difficult market, bringing economic and other benefits."

Commended – Honeywell / Southern DHB

Otago's Wakari Hospital is guaranteed savings of $300,000 a year with a switch from LPG to wood chips.

When Southern DHB was looking into heating options for Wakari Hospital, it contracted Honeywell to do the feasibility study. Not only did the consultants recommend a new 950kW wood chip-fired boiler to replace the old LPG plant, but they were so confident of the benefits they guaranteed annual cost savings of $302,000. All project works had to be managed without interrupting hot water supply, which involved modifying existing systems and building a new bunker and conveyor belt for fuel storage and handling. The new set-up also has a system that enables remote monitoring to ensure energy savings are on track. The switch from fossil fuels to wood has reduced CO2 emissions by 880 tonnes a year - a drop of 96% - while boiler efficiency has improved by 16%. 

The judges said: "A state of the art project and good solid commercial approach."