A new report published by EECA (the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority) today highlights the need for industry to commit to a low-emissions road map to realise the economic benefits.

The Mid-South Canterbury Regional Energy Transition Accelerator (RETA) report, published today by EECA (Energy Efficiency Conservation Authority), has highlighted the regions heavy reliance on fossil fuels and what is needed to transition to a low emissions economy. 

The report’s insights show the potential for many of the region’s decarbonisation projects to be cost neutral in the coming years.

“There is a perception that decarbonisation and investment in low emissions technologies will cost businesses more. While there will be the need for capital investment, over the longer term switching to clean and clever tech is frequently not going to cost more than continuing to emit carbon. Plus, there will also be other wins,” said EECA Group Manager Business, Nicki Sutherland.

“But businesses need to commit now. This will mean they will streamline their efforts, and collectively unlock other supply chains, infrastructure and cost efficiencies for the region. Mid-South Canterbury is such a stunning region, and it is fantastic to see the businesses who use a lot of energy and rely on fossil fuels considering how they can bring forward their move to renewable forms of energy.”

Included in the report is the significant role biomass will play as a renewable fuel into the future, with $75 million (over 15 years) worth of wood residues sitting in Mid-South Canterbury’s forests. RETA shows that up to 40% of the region’s energy needs could be met by biomass as a complement to electricity.

Mid-South Canterbury has some of the largest and most diverse industrial heat users in the South Island and the level of collaboration to enable a full regional energy view has been unprecedented, said Venture Timaru Chief Executive, Nigel Davenport.

“Working together to help address infrastructure, capital and supply chain variables – to support a region wide transition off fossil fuels, is vital to sustaining and growing our regions’ already significant contribution to the New Zealand economy,” said Davenport.

“Ensuring our businesses are run on renewable sources of energy will be invaluable to maintaining our leading business edge and regional reputation.”

The RETA report takes a holistic view of decarbonisation and builds on the lessons learned from energy efficiency and fuel switching work underway in the region. The 33 sites across Mid-South Canterbury covered by RETA collectively use 5,731TJ of energy, and produce 542kt of emissions each year.

The report details various emissions reduction pathways – all of which eliminate more than 90% of these emissions in the region by 2036.

“We are already punching above our weight – several local businesses are doing brilliant work reducing their energy related emissions – with others at varying stages of the journey, so the importance of an aligned and collaborative approach as we step forward cannot be understated,” said Davenport.

“The response of owners and investors to these insights and recommendations will be critical to the clean energy transition.”

One industrial heat user playing their part to lower the region’s carbon footprint is Wool Works. The company has worked with EECA since 2016 to reduce their energy use and received co-funding of $3.63 million through the Government Investment in Decarbonising Industry (GIDI) Fund, to switch from coal to electricity at its Washdyke site near Timaru.

Chief Operating Officer Tony Cunningham says the business has made great progress across their long-term decarbonisation strategy, with the recent commissioning of two projects.

“The benefits both economically and environmentally are significant. We made the strategic decision to reduce not offset emissions. There is a lot of interest in our environmental journey and carbon footprint strategy from international customers and users of New Zealand wool. This has massively accelerated in the last 12 months,” said Cunningham.

Alpine Energy Limited CEO Caroline Ovenstone says the RETA work has highlighted the importance of the scale of change needed in the strongly rural region and the impact it could have on New Zealand achieving its carbon reduction targets. 

“It has further connected key businesses and stakeholders to allow for future collaboration in building the clean energy strategy for our region,” said Ovenstone.

“Our role is ensuring our customers can continue to connect to our network as they choose to transition from fossil fuels to electrification.”

Also central to the recommendations is a focus on businesses choosing the right fuel source for their energy needs.

“The choice is not as simple as biomass or electricity. In both cases, energy efficiency should come first – and there will be savings from this alone. In some cases, a hybrid system (electricity and biomass) could be the best solution for local businesses that use a lot of energy,” said Sutherland.

“Mid-South Canterbury has significant carbon reduction potential – given the current reliance on coal. There is also a budding biomass industry and proactive, engaged process heat users.

"The outlook is positive, with industry in the wider region highly engaged. We look forward to walking alongside the region as it continues its journey."

More information about EECA support options and co-funding is available here

Read the Mid-South Canterbury report

Additional information

RETA centres on how the region can work together, across both the demand and supply side of the energy ecosystem and to support the uptake of renewable energy among local process heat users. Continued work within the region's forestry sector happen to increase the availability of biomass as a fuel source.