29 Jan 2020

School, hospital upgrades part of $200m fund to reduce state sector's carbon footprint

9:31 am on 29 January 2020

The government is this morning announcing money for upgrades at schools and hospitals so they can move to cleaner energy.

No caption

Climate Change Minister James Shaw says the money for a cleaner public sector is leading by example when it comes to climate change. Photo: RNZ /Dom Thomas

Up to $4.8 million will be available for eight schools to upgrade their old coal-fired boilers, and up to $5.2m for upgrades at two hospitals. It is the first confirmed spending from a $200m fund aimed at reducing the carbon footprint of the state sector.

Climate Change Minister James Shaw said the money would go towards installing more environmentally friendly biomass boilers.

"As part of the government's $12 billion infrastructure stimulus spend that Grant (Robertson) is announcing today, $200m of that has been set aside for a clean-powered public service. Today what we're announcing is that the first projects under that are eight schools and two hospitals."

The schools are: Wallacetown primary, Waverly Park primary, Te Anau primary, Catlins, Opoho, Fiordland College, James Hargest College and Ruapehu College.

Shaw said it was believed there were about 200 schools still running on coal. The eight schools represented 4 percent of those.

"We do have a way to go. It's a good start. The boilers have to get replaced at some time but everyone knows that schools don't have a lot of money and so for a lot of them they've been putting it off and putting it off. And we can't afford to wait when it comes to climate change any more so we're basically giving them a helping hand."

The hospitals are Ashburton and Hillmorton.

Shaw said the public sector had to lead by example when it came to climate change.

Asked if a tougher line needed to be taken - perhaps in the form of a ban on coal - Shaw said: "We sort of already have in the sense that as ... public organisations are replacing their plant in the normal business cycle we've already said you cannot replace that with a new coal boiler".

He advocated for biomass - wood - boilers as they had lower emissions profiles.

Greenpeace climate campaigner Amanda Larsson said plans to upgrade the old coal-fired boilers was a step in the right direction.

The shift away from coal was essential but more could be done, she said.

"We have the technology that we need to make this transition, it's just a question of vision and leadership and investment. We haven't seen what else is in the government's infrastructure package."

The government is set to announce a $12 billion spend on infrastructure this morning, with more than half of that earmarked for transport projects.

The announcement will be made at 11am.