NZ’S energy efficiency champions
The annual EECA awards are a treasure trove of good ideas to save energy and improve the bottom line.
People respond to stories far better than they respond to dry explanations or the government telling them to do things. That’s why Energy Efficiency and Conservation Agency chief Mike Underhill is so keen on the stories thrown up by EECA’S annual awards.
“You can stand up in government and say ‘this is good’ but it’s more powerful to say ‘look what Air New Zealand is doing, look what Pak ‘n’ Save is doing,” he says.
“These people make a buck, so why are they doing this?”
Air New Zealand’s story, which won it this year’s supreme award, is about its big vision to be the world’s most environmentally sustainable airline by 2020.
Since 2005 the airline has reduced fuel consumption by 15 percent and reduced annual CO2 emissions by 142,000 tonnes.
That not only reflects positively on New Zealand’s tourism industry but gives it a competitive edge.
Innovations included retrofitting aerodynamic “winglets” to the Boeing 767s to improve fuel efficiency; introducing ‘just-in-time’ fuelling to adjust fuel load to the exact on-board passenger and cargo weight; and using zonal dryers in aircraft to reduce weight by eliminating condensation.
The dryers alone are predicted to save more than 1700 tonnes of fuel and 5000 tonnes of CO2 a year.
The $2 billion Air New Zealand is spending on modernising its fleet means it is getting more fuel-efficient planes, and it is pushing the industry towards shorter, more efficient international routes.
“It’s not just the planes but all its ground vehicles around the airport are also on biodiesel,” Underhill says.
That created the scale for other companies working around the airports to also switch to biodiesel.
One of the companies making the fuel, Biodiesel New Zealand, was commended for its move into canola production, which cuts across “food versus fuel” arguments.
Farmers are contracted to grow oil seed as a break crop, which is used to produce canola oil for the food industry.
The used oil is collected and turned into Biogold fuel. The 2 million litres sold last year meant 4000 tonnes less CO2 going into the atmosphere than if those customers had used mineral diesel.
The farmers not only benefit from growing a useful water-efficient soil conditioner between other crops, but the protein-rich cake which is a byproduct of canola oil production is fed to livestock, replacing imported food sources such as palm oil.
Underhill says wood waste also stands out as a renewable energy source that is zero rated in carbon terms.
“Wood biomass is New Zealand’s big energy secret. Wood waste can meet half the country’s energy needs, including transport fuel. We rely so much on imported oil, so the potential is enormous,” he says.
The renewable energy category winner, Golden Bay Cement, is gradually switching the boilers at its Whangarei plant from coal to wood, using locally-sourced construction and demolition waste.
It now accounts for a third of the fuel used, delivering $3 million a year in savings. Working with pellet supplier Nature’s Flame, the New Zealand Defence Force has built the country’s largest wood-fired boiler at Waiouru Army Base, consuming up to 27 tonnes of wood pellets a day at the height of winter and displacing a massive 5300 tonnes of coal a year.
“If you want to buy a home heater, you can now buy pellet burners. A huge amount of the energy we use in New Zealand goes on making heat. Anything we can do to promote renewables has a huge impact,” Underhill says.
As for Pak ‘n’ Save, Whanganui supermarket owner Gareth Jones responded to a question from his five-yearold about what he was doing to save energy by adding skylights to bring in natural light, installing lighting sensors and controls, and putting double glazed doors on all fridges and freezers.
That cut energy use by 40 percent and won Pak ‘n’ Save and design firm Ecosytems the award for the small to medium business category.
Left: Biodiesel New Zealand were commended at the recent EECA awards.
Below: Air New Zealand aims to be the world’s most sustainable airline by 2020.