13 Apr 2021

Climate Change Minister James Shaw announces clean energy projects

6:06 pm on 13 April 2021

Another 10 schools will have their coal boilers replaced as part of the government's latest round of investment to decarbonise the public sector.

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Minister for Climate Change James Shaw making the announcement today. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

The Minister for Climate Change was in Porirua this afternoon to announce a range of new clean energy projects in schools, tertiary institutions, and hospitals.

The government pledged last year that it would be carbon neutral by 2025.

Projects announced today are part of that effort, and will remove around 26,000 tonnes of carbon emissions over the next 10 years.

Today's announcement brings the total number of schools receiving money from the government to replace their coal boiler to 36, along with several universities and hospitals, after announcements in October, and September and January last year.

Of the entire fund, $55m has been set aside to replace coal boilers for up to 90 schools, but it is estimated 200 schools across the country use a coal boiler.

Climate Change Minister James Shaw announced the new projects at Pukerua Bay School - one of the schools benefiting from a boiler replacement.

Shaw said replacing those as well as on the agenda.

"If we're going to do all of the schools, we'll need to get some more money," he said. "But what we've done is we've said, we'll start with the dirtiest, the oldest, the least efficient, around the country.

"What we've said is we'll do 90 of the schools with the pot of money that we've got."

Other initiatives being unveiled are boiler replacements at the Southern Institute of Technology, and Taranaki DHB.

Funding is also being given to facilities at Auckland, Waikato and Hawke's Bay DHBs, as well as Massey and Victoria Universities to improve their energy efficiency.

"Our government has committed to achieving carbon neutrality in the public sector within five years," said Shaw.

"Today's announcement takes us a step closer towards delivering on that promise.

"It also helps ensure more of the places our kids go to learn and our loved ones go to be cared for are contributing towards meeting the emission reduction targets this government has put in place."

The money for the projects is coming from the $200 million State Sector Decarbonisation Fund, which was announced in 2019.

It comes after the the government announced industries would have to stop using coal-fired boilers by 2037.

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Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

The nine other schools to have their coal boilers replaced are:

  • Raglan Area School
  • Hillcrest High School
  • Paeroa Central School
  • Feilding Intermediate
  • Marton Junction School
  • Raetihi Primary School
  • Northern Southland College
  • Reefton Area School
  • Buller High School
  • Westport North School

Will it make a difference?

Pukerua Bay School principal Chris Els said the funding would make a huge difference.

Beyond the coal boiler's environmental impact and the health impacts for the children and teachers, Els said it also was not a very good system.

"It was very ineffective. As it goes along the line, there's good heat at the start of where the coal room is, and then it peters out as it goes along.

"As little people are, they will tend to go to the radiator and sit. So it might have heated 10 kids, but the rest of the classes probably weren't getting the heat they should have been getting."

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Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Board member Ben Christie said he had a particular reason to be happy about it.

"It was a big concern for me personally, because my partner is also the caretaker here at the school, so she was directly impacted by having to feed the coal into the boiler on a regular basis during the winter.

"You could see it had a direct impact on her health."

National Party Climate Change spokesperson Stuart Smith said while it would bring obvious benefits to the schools and communities, it should not be presented as a policy which actually reduced the country's emissions profile.

He said that because there had to be a certificate for each carbon emission, the fact that schools would no longer be using those certificates would mean it would be available for someone else to purchase.

"I'm not against it, I'm just saying that packaging it as doing something for New Zealand's emissions is incorrect.

"It's laudable in some respects, but let's call it what it is: a policy which is helping schools out, which is great, but it's being packaged as New Zealand's emissions reduction plan. It's not.

"It just makes it cheaper for other emitters, because there's less price pressure on the emissions certificates."

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