Designed to create awareness of wood as a sustainable energy option, the initiative has helped to deliver many health, financial and environmental benefits to the region.
As Southland harvests one million tonnes of logs annually, and in the process produces 200,000 tonnes of wood waste (numbers that are forecasted to increase to 600,000 tonnes per annum over the next 30 years), the region was regarded as an ideal place to pilot a wood energy initiative.
In partnership with The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA), the three-year, Wood Energy South project was launched in 2014 with the aim of utilising waste wood to promote an efficient renewable energy source, lowering energy-related carbon emissions and improving air quality in Southland.
During the three year period of the project, 160 project stakeholders were engaged with and 30 wood energy feasibility studies were completed alongside seven in-depth studies.
A major target of the project to remove carbon from the Southland atmosphere was achieved with 201,300 tonnes of carbon removed - the equivalent to an annual reduction of 3,212 cars on the road across the Southland region!
A sustainable wood energy market was able to be established with the installation of 16 new systems across the region. This encouraged two established wood chipping businesses to increase their operations, one by 100%, and a wood pellet business was able to enter the Southland market with the security of supply ensured until 2050.
The project successfully demonstrated new and emerging technologies that help to reduce carbon emissions and encouraged local business opportunities and capacity building in the region.
The success of the project was nationally recognised when it was awarded the Deloitte Large Energy User Initiative Award in 2017, with a clear consensus to continue to build on the success achieved through Wood Energy South.
This project has continued to inspire businesses and schools around the region to choose the environmentally-friendly biomass heating option, with Ruru Specialist School and McCallums Dry Cleaning just two examples where the initiative has been successfully implemented with long-lasting environmental benefits.