Momentum is building to push more fossil fuels out of the energy system with new recommendations, published today by EECA (the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority), aimed at helping Otago industry quickly thrive in a low-emissions economy. 

The Otago Regional Energy Transition Accelerator (RETA) report is the result of months of collaboration between government, Business South, Transpower, Aurora, OtagoNet, local biomass suppliers and forest owners, energy solutions businesses and medium to large industrial energy users.    

The report looks at how the region can work collectively and share information across both the demand and supply sides of energy, to support the uptake of renewable energy among local process heat users for things like food and beverage production, laundries and concrete manufacturers.   

“Building on the success of its neighbouring regions, Otago is in a great position when it comes to adopting clean energy and clever technologies. It’s well placed to be the first region in the country to completely decarbonise industrial process heat,” said EECA Group Manager Business, Nicki Sutherland. 

“The region has a small carbon emission profile, and businesses are encouraged to commit now. Streamlining efforts will make a number of steps easier – particularly unlocking supply chains to meet the demand for biomass raw material and electricity infrastructure. 

“We also know there is a growing demand from both New Zealanders and export markets for lower-carbon products and services, and programmes like RETA will help map a pathway.”  

Also central to the recommendations is a focus on businesses choosing the optimal fuel source for their industrial process; considerations should include boiler age; location; and regional characteristics.    

“Demand reduction and thermal efficiency are key parts of the RETA process and enable and help fuel switching decisions,” said Sutherland.  

“There will be savings from this alone, which will make fuel switching easier and cheaper later. But the Otago RETA has a greater level of focus on the fuel switching decision, due to the higher capital and fuel intensity of this decision.”  

Otago is a forestry-rich region and biomass will play a role as a renewable fuel with RETA modelling suggesting about 86% of the region’s energy supply could be met by biomass alongside electricity.  

One Dunedin business leaning into decarbonisation is Preens Apparelmaster and Linenmaster. The company recently received co-funding of $1.1 million through round 5 of the Government Investment in Decarbonising Industry (GIDI) Fund, to switch from diesel to electricity at its Dunedin site. 

Managing Director at Preens Apparelmaster and Linenmaster Rick Wellington said the opportunity to collaborate across the region has already been valuable.  

“Networking opportunities and hearing from some industry experts have provided a clearer picture of how, as a region, we can work together to make the transition to decarbonise as smooth as possible,” said Wellington. 

Aurora Energy General Manager Asset Management and Planning Glenn Coates said RETA increases transparency and enables energy users and suppliers to have a more coordinated and efficient plan. 

“There are trade-offs between biomass and electricity and the RETA report has been helpful from that perspective. It’s lifting knowledge between key stakeholders, feasibility and finding out what customers want early,” said Coates.  

Mike Collins, Chief Executive of Business South said support and initiatives like RETA that are available to businesses encourage working together, and highlight the power of collaboration.  

“We can continue to make strides to our sustainable and regenerative goals and are keen to direct Otago businesses to available evidence and insight – like what is in RETA and sector leaders who can help,” said Collins.   

Read the full Otago RETA

Notes to editors:  

Process heat is the energy used as heat mainly by the industrial and commercial sectors for industrial processes, manufacturing, and warming spaces. Some process heat emissions can be reduced by redesigning the underlying processes, but decarbonising the remaining heat demand will require switching from fossil fuels to low-emission fuels, such as wood fuels in boilers or electricity in electric boilers or heat pumps.