Time’s Up For Schools To Move On Emissions
Last Friday around 17,000 school students from Northland to Southland walked out of school to protest government inaction over climate change. They formed part of an international movement, Schools Strike 4 Climate, which saw 1.6 million take part across the globe. A central tenet of the students’ demands is for governments to invest in renewable energy alternatives now. So why are most schools still burning fossil fuels like coal?
Life-cycle emissions from wood energy are only 2-to-4 percent of those from coal or gas-fired operations. Schools should be making the environmentally-conscious choice to transition their boilers from fossil fuels to using sustainable, clean wood energy. Doing so will reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions, improve air quality and save schools money.
Although they have no power in the decision-making process, the students have made their concerns clear. It is up to teacher, school principals and administration staff to push for change in the way their classrooms are heated – and commit to using a renewable, carbon neutral energy source, like wood energy.
One school that has carried out this transition is Golden Bay High School. Their ethos of sustainability and environmental awareness drove their decision to operate a carbon neutral boiler system to heat their school and pool. The school believes that modelling care for the environment reflects what is expected from their community and provides a context for learning that will shape the values of their students into the future.
Nayland College, in Nelson, were committed to setting an example to their students of the importance of environmental sustainability, so they also chose to invest in a carbon neutral, renewable energy resource for their fuel requirements. Watch the Golden Bay and Nayland College clean energy stories.
In general, the education sector could play an important role in conversion to wood fuel, given the Ministry of Education’s 2017 policy update which encourages conversions. It states “Boilers can be fuelled with a variety of fuels, including natural gas and biomass such as wood chip or wood pellet. Carbon emissions from fossil fuel use are an important issue and high greenhouse emission fuels such as coal, LPG and fuel oil boilers should be avoided.”
Converting boilers running on high-emitting fuel, such as coal, to renewable, carbon neutral wood energy, such as wood pellets, takes a relatively-small capital investment. It usually requires physical changes to fuel delivery systems. The resultant savings can prove great, however, given the current volatility of coal and diesel prices.
The recent Productivity Commission Low-Emissions Economy report noted that:
“Wood Energy is the most cost-effective technology over the lifecycle of the boiler in comparison to other fuels, with the exception of lignite coal. ...the quality of lignite has significantly declined over the past few years to the point of causing coal boilers to pre-mature fail. In addition, various consumers of coal have recently noted the increase in coal price… Biomass boilers have significantly lower maintenance cost and on-going servicing requirements”.
Other lifecycle benefits of transitioning to wood fuel include lower operating costs associated with ash removal, compared with coal, given pellets produce minimal ash.
In choosing wood energy, local schools are supporting local industry and enabling environmental clean-up. In producing its wood fuel, Azwood Energy utilises residues from sustainable forestry, removing slash and waste wood from forestry skid sites. This diminishes fuel for forest fires, reduces the incidence and impact of erosion events during extreme weather, protects waterways from residues and erosion and assists with plant regrowth.
Azwood Energy also repurposes waste products from the wood manufacturing process reducing landfill, preventing leachate in waterways and creating unique technical media for growing trees and crops, land enhancement, stormwater management and pollution control in a sustainable, closed loop circular economy.
Schools should follow the lead of their students and take action to reduce emissions by ceasing burning fossil fuels. In this way, they can demonstrate the environmental care they teach, improve the air their students breathe and move New Zealand towards a better climate future.
Azwood Energy, New Zealand’s leading wood fuel supplier, have registered wood energy advisors who will complete a free basic feasibility study to assess if fuel switching is an option for your school.
Read more at Azwood.co.nz/ourstories