Capital grants of up to $150,000 could be offered to large industry in Southland as an incentive to switch to woodchip boilers.
The Wood Energy South project was formally launched yesterday with about 70 people from businesses, schools and local and central government gathered at SIT Centrestage to be convinced about the benefits of wood energy.
The three-year, $1.5 million project is funded by the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) in partnership with Venture Southland.
Wood Energy South technical advisor Lloyd McGinty said the three-year target was to remove 150,000 gigajoules of industry and commercial emissions. As an example, he said a large Southland meat plant could emit about 400,000 gigajoules annually.
"They're hefty targets, which suggest we need to be going after these large, industrial clients."
A meat plant of this size could potentially access a Wood Energy South capital grant of about $150,000, McGinty said.
Grants to cover up to 50 per cent of a wood boiler feasibility study were also available up to a maximum of $15,000, he said.
EECA chairman Tom Campbell said Southland was ideally placed to play a leadership role and if successful, the wood energy initiative was likely to be rolled out nationwide.
Reducing reliance on fossil fuels was an important environmental goal but "when you do the math" wood energy stacked up financially too, he said.
Schools were an important part of the wood energy mix and Ministry of Education national portfolio manager Mark Stallman said the technical advisory service offered through the project would help schools which needed a lot of help around big infrastructure decisions.
"I want to see more wood boilers in schools," he said.
Splash Palace aquatic services manager Peter Thompson said the $650,000 capital cost of installing a wood chip boiler in 2012 was proving a wise investment, with lower running costs and maintenance, reduced emissions and drastically lower waste bills among the benefits.
"It's safe to say our expectations have been vastly exceeded," he said.
Jason Domigan from Environment Southland told the audience that commercial and industrial emissions would be included in stage two of its air plan, a two to three-year process which would begin mid-way through next year.
McGinty said the project website, woodenergysouth.co.nz, went live yesterday.