Scheme to take the heat out of environmental change hotting up.

Many businesses want to invest in cutting edge technology to reduce climate change emissions – but are nervous about taking a risk on unfamiliar equipment or processes.

"We often talk to businesses aware of technology already commercialised overseas but not widely used here. They want to know if it will work in our environment," says Dinesh Chand, EECA's funding manager.

Now funding is available through a government programme to overcome that hurdle. The Technology Demonstration programme, run by the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA), is turning its focus to climate-friendly technology in a bid to save carbon emissions as well as energy.

Applications are now open to the programme, which offers co-funding of up to 40 per cent of the project's cost. New criteria encourages projects that tackle process heat – the typically fossil-fuelled steam, hot water and heating systems used in manufacturing and other processes.

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"The new criteria reflect growing concern about climate change," says Chand. Process heat accounts for nearly 40 per cent of New Zealand's energy use, with 72 per cent of that from non-renewable sources such as coal.

Much of this could be replaced with renewable electricity, says Dr Martin Atkins, senior research fellow at University of Waikato's Energy Research Centre: "Replacing coal, diesel and gas heating systems with high temperature industrial heat pumps is a promising area to explore. They use renewable energy, which means less carbon emissions, and use electricity extremely efficiently."

They're suited to processes needing temperatures of 100-120 degrees Celsius.

"Lots of processes fit in this camp – most dairy, meat and food processing can be completely electrified."

Adopting this technology in New Zealand is a significant investment for businesses, he says: "The demonstration fund de-risks these projects, where a company doesn't have a lot of experience. You work through the risks, the benefits - things that are hard to quantify until you actually do something."

Qualifying projects must have replication potential, so the benefits are maximised. "We have about 20-25 live projects on the go, adding about 10 or so every year, some running for two or three years before their implementation and monitoring is completed," says Chand.

Not all meet expectations – but that's still a useful outcome.

"If your target is commercial-ready technology, then a project may prove it's not economic in the New Zealand context – so that's an important learning. Can it be scaled to 100 or 1000 small businesses or, say, 12,000 dairy farms? That's why we have a wide variety of projects."

One recent project demonstrated the commercial viability of a small-scale waste-to-energy unit at Whangarei District Council's waste water treatment plant. Methane gas previously flared off is now used to power a biogas generator; a side benefit is a heat recovery exhaust that takes load off the boiler, resulting in energy savings of some $300 per day.

The project demonstrated the technology can easily be scaled up or down to use the methane produced from waste streams such as dairy effluent ponds and small landfill sites.

In another project, Ports of Auckland accessed the EECA fund to switch floodlights on their city-side wharves to LED. The conversion had never been done in New Zealand ports because of the harsh salt, wind and corrosion environment, huge safety requirements and the challenges of generating working light at ground level from lights on poles 30m high (picture shows the lights with Andrew Caseley, EECA chief executive, Chris Thurston, EECA account manager and Tony Gibson, Ports of Auckland chief executive).

Matt Ball, head of communications for the port, says port engineers had been studying alternatives for a few years, so jumped at the chance to work with EECA to test new technology on one half of the wharves.

"EECA funding gave us the opportunity to report, measure and monitor for other ports around the country," says Ball. "It was really helpful to have support for a more rigorous approach to monitoring, to prove LEDs' effectiveness. We've measured a 50 per cent drop in lighting costs, the equivalent of 147 households' use."


EECA Tech Demo fund

• Offers co-funding support to early adopters of new and under-utilised technologies delivering energy and/or carbon emissions savings.
• Up to a maximum of 40 per cent of the project cost.
• Up to a maximum of $250,000 for process heat projects, and $100,000 for other projects.
• Current funding round is open until 29 March.
• See the Funding and Support page at www.eecabusiness.govt.nz