The cooperative announced the Te Awamutu site’s move to renewable energy at the beginning of the year, with the site previously using a mix of coal, gas and electricity to process milk.
Fonterra chief operating officer Fraser Whineray said sustainability is core to the cooperative’s long-term strategy and while COVID-19 has presented some challenges, they have still managed to complete the decarbonization project at Te Awamutu before the spring milk arrived.
“We did have some delivery delays with certain offshore components, and I’m pleased with the outcome thanks to our team and suppliers,” Whineray said.
“It’s really important sustainability investments like this are maintained despite the pandemic challenges.”
The move away from coal at Te Awamutu is part of Fonterra’s plans to have net zero emissions at its manufacturing sites by 2050. Once completed, the transition at Te Awamutu will reduce the cooperative’s national coal consumption by almost 10%, saving more than 84,000 tonnes of carbon emissions per year.
“It’s a positive step towards meeting our interim target of achieving a 30% reduction in emissions by 2030 and shows us what can be achieved by using wood biomass to decarbonise our manufacturing sites.”
Whineray said partnering has been important in reaching the sustainability milestone.
“We value our partnerships with Natures Flame and Energy Efficiency Conservation Authority (EECA) – they are integral to major projects like this.”
Natures Flame, which produces the wood pellets, said its pellets are made from renewable, plantation-based fiber residues from local sawmills in the form of sawdust and shavings.
“We use renewable geothermal energy to transform the residues into a premium and reliable fuel, which customers like Fonterra can then use to reduce their greenhouse emissions,” John Goodwin, operations manager at Natures Flame, said.
“We welcome Fonterra as a customer and look forward to working together on this and other future opportunities.”
EECA CEO Andrew Caseley said industrial process heat makes up a little over a quarter of the country’s energy-related emissions.
“There’s enormous potential in New Zealand to bring those emissions down significantly by moving away from coal, as Fonterra is doing,” Caseley said.
“This the largest boiler conversion project to biofuels to date, so our funding via the technology demonstration program will help to derisk it. It also has the added benefit of establishing a more viable and large-scale wood pellet supply chain.”