Accelerating energy transition focus of workshop

The key insights from EECA’s Regional Energy Transition Accelerator (RETA) programme were shared at a workshop hosted by Bay of Connections and the Government agency in Rotorua on Tuesday 7th November.

The two-stage RETA programme kicked off earlier this year, with the initial planning stage nearing completion. This has involved work into four research workstreams, outlined below.

Ultimately, the workstreams have been designed to help process heat users and other stakeholders collectively see the bigger picture, and start developing and implementing decarbonisation pathways.

Demand Assessment: Undertaken by DETA Global who were tasked with creating a picture of regional heat demand, and the opportunities for lower emissions alternatives.

DETA gathered information from 29 sites across the region, covering a range of different sectors.

The key takeaways from the mahi are that while a few sites already utilise renewable fuels, there is an opportunity for greater uptake of local resources, including geothermal and local waste products.

Their view is that biomass and geothermal will be key to decarbonising Bay of Plenty process heat, and caution that the decarbonisation process is a long journey – so the time to start is now.

Electricity Availability: For this workstream, Ergo Consulting developed a system-wide, regional view of the capacity and constraints of the electricity network, with consideration of demand growth.

Some of the regional challenges impacting demand growth include various assets reaching thermal limits, high network loading, and geography and land use restricting the ability to build new assets.

Due to significant lead times required to install greater capacity, a key message was to start discussions early to allow for informed and timely investment decisions to respond to increased demand.

Biomass Availability: Indufor Group  explored gross biomass availability for the wider Bay of Plenty region, including Taupo, as well as net availability – biomass not currently contracted (contestable, open to approaches from customers) or unutilised – and delivered cost.

The Indufor team talked to multiple industry stakeholders, including wood processors, forest owners, contractors, associations, district and regional councils, and specialists.

They found a significant portion of the ‘available’ biomass is currently exported or sold domestically to well established markets, so competition can be expected to be vigorous.

Geothermal Availability: Led by GNS Science, this workstream included several case studies to highlight geothermal heat solutions.

Energy requirements and site location will dictate if and how a site can access geothermal energy, and what technology is right for the facility and applications.

Lower temperature geothermal applications have broad application across the Bay of Plenty Region.

The models indicate that if geothermal sites are managed properly and use is within sustainable limits, the resource will deliver over the long-term.

GNS Science shared a great emissions story to demonstrate the benefit of geothermal; since 1957, the use of geothermal energy at Kawerau has reduced emissions (relative to natural gas) by 13 million tonnes.

Outcomes and Next Steps

This stage of the RETA programme has confirmed that the Bay of Plenty has some unique decarbonisation opportunities, with a challenge issued that we need to do more to achieve net zero emissions ahead of 2050.

This latest workshop has been essential in bringing key people together to consider and progress the next steps toward making the region’s decarbonised future a reality, as well as exploring how organisations can better collaborate to reach their low carbon goals.

The initial planning stage of the programme is nearing completion. A comprehensive report will be released by EECA, scheduled for March 2024, outlining the findings and pathways for implementation. This will:

  • Identify the regionally supported barriers or opportunities that could be addressed through government funding (for example the Government Investment in Decarbonising Industry Fund), and
  • Commit to and identify opportunities to fast-track decarbonisation projects, using the information from the planning stage.

Find out more about the RETA programme here.

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