Business leads the way with conversion

    McCallum’s Group operations manager Hayden Ellis checks the auger is smoothly feeding wood- waste to the eco- friendly furnace which fuels the company's factory on Otepuni Ave, Invercargill.

    CONVERTING a business heavily reliant on a fossil fuel to power a boiler was a no-brainer, McCallum’s Group managing director Wayne McCallum says.

    The Invercargill dry cleaning and textile company converted its oil and gas-fuelled boilers in 2009 to ones which use a renewable energy source.

    Research revealed there was an untapped and plentiful resource of waste wood available in Southland.

    By 2019, along with additional resource repurposing, the company had won Environment Southland’s 2019 Environmental Leadership and Innovation in Business award for its 85% reduction in its carbon footprint.

    A partial grant from Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) had made the company’s plan to future-proof its fuel source with a viable and reliable option and move
    away from the vulnerabilities of the price fluctuations of the diesel and oil fuel market.

    Boilers on both its Dee St and Otepuni Ave sites were fuelled by wood products.

    The Southland Regional Development Agency announced on February 21, EECA had released a $3.77 million contestable fund to assist Invercargill businesses with similar conversions to low-emission energy with applicants providing a minimum of 50% of the
    project costs themselves.

    Great South, Southland Regional Development Agency’s strategic projects general manager Stephen Canny said the McCallum’s Group were trail blazers and proven pioneers of how
    energy conversions could work for both business and the environment.

    ‘‘They [McCallum’s] would be one of the star performers in this area.’’

    Mr McCallum was a clean energy advocate, and freely shared his knowledge.

    “In Southland alone, on the whole, has some really excellent skills and what is considered really good, clean energy options.’’

    Mr McCallum said others sharing industry knowledge had helped the company through some of the conversion’s initial teething issues.

    “Anybody else doing a similar thing was very open with information and let you go and visit their site to see how they were doing it. And we’ve done the same for others.’’

    During the conversion, the team also discovered a way to use the plant’s wastewater to “scrub chimney emissions’’, Mr McCallum said.

    Mr Canny said many larger operations were already making a change but smaller facilities like big box stores and large accommodation providers needed to adopt similar facilities.

    Today’s economic environment was becoming more difficult to be competitive in because the more expensive fossil-based fuel was already included in purchase prices, Mr Canny said.

    “If a business was able to advance their business without exposure to fossil fuels, then financially this is a very good investment.”

    About 70% of Southland’s GDP was export-related. Exporter market entry could be jeopardised for those who were not mindful of their resources or non-compliant environmentally.

    “As a region or country, we have to be aware of that is the way the world is changing.”

    Mr Canny expected environmentally friendly awareness would eventually play a large part of corporate decisions.

    He hoped the new initiative, which is geared towards large industrial users within the Invercargill boundary, would create a pathway for them to take action that will make a

    ‘‘The more carbon you can take out of an environment, the better it is for them, reducing the respiratory stress on people,’’ Mr Canny said.