The country's first regional wood energy hub has been launched today in Southland.
Wood Energy South is a joint initiative between the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) and Venture Southland that aims to use some of the 300,000 tonnes of wood waste generated in Southland each year for heating.
Venture Southland's enterprise services manager, Alistair Adams, said it would work with larger energy users, such as local businesses, schools and healthcare facilities to help them convert from coal fired boilers to cleaner, renewable wood burning technology.
"One of the biggest challenges with converting any boiler system or changing what your current fuel source is, is understanding what the consequences and benefits of that are, so we have people on the ground who are going to go out and advise and work with companies and industries to understand how the system works, and what the costs will be and the infrastructure required, so it gives people an informed decision about making the change.
"We're also working with a lot of the suppliers just to make sure we've got some consistency in supply, and we've got people on board. It's a supply and demand issue and it's the first in New Zealand so it's going to be the challenge as we build it up.
"Forestry owners, saw mills, those sorts of things, have quite a lot of waste wood, really and a lot of them feed that energy back into their own systems so they often operate wood boilers themselves, but it's really trying to take that a little bit wider and looking at ways to utilise that waste resource to start looking at more efficient ways to run our industries in New Zealand."
Mr Adams said a couple of schools, a local swimming pool and a dry cleaners are among those that have already converted to wood energy.
The Government was putting $1.5 million dollars into the project over three years.