Back to top anchor

Brought to you by Te Whatu Ora Southern and WellSouth primary health network

Open main menu Close main menu

Southland Hospital on a path to sustainable solutions

Issue date:
Content is brought to you by:

Southland Hospital is marking a significant milestone this September as its boilers have stopped burning coal.

The hospital’s two 4.5megawatt boilers have been converted to biomass and are now running on wood pellets.  

The conversion is part of the wider Te Whatu Ora Coal Boiler Replacement Project, which is supporting the conversion or replacement of the last 11 coal boilers currently still in service within hospitals across New Zealand to low emission alternatives.  

The boilers at Invercargill run 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year providing steam, which circulates around the hospital site providing heating and sterilisation of equipment. 

The Government’s Carbon Neutral Government Programme (which includes public hospitals) aims to make a number of Government organisations carbon neutral by 2025.  The work is being fully funded at a cost of $12million by the State Sector Decarbonisation Fund (SSDF), which is administered by EECA.   

Te Whatu Ora Southern Facilities and Property general manager David Bainbridge-Zafar said it was pleasing the work was completed well ahead of the original schedule of March 2024. 

“This conversion will help us achieve our goals and help avoid the worst of climate change,” Bainbridge-Zafar says. 

The boilers were already capable of burning different fuels but the past couple of years have been spent investigating how efficiently the boilers would run on a different fuel type and then sourcing a reliable supply. 

About 2600 tonnes of coal was used per year and Bainbridge-Zafar expects a similar amount of wood pellets to be used, which will be supplied from Pioneer Energy, who operate and maintain the hospital’s boilers. 

Pioneer Energy was pleased to be working with Te Whatu Ora on developing this pathway to a more sustainable solution. 

ECCA Public Sector Portfolio Manager Paul Bull says the health sector is gaining great momentum with its decarbonisation projects, which is needed as the country moves towards a low emissions economy. 

“This is a fantastic initiative by the team at Te Whatu Ora in order to make Southland Hospital run as efficiently as possible,” Bull says. 

In May, Climate Minister James Shaw announced that all coal boilers would be removed from hospitals by the end of 2025. 

All conversions or replacements are scheduled for completion by June 2025, and will deliver a reduction in carbon emissions of more than 8100 tonnes per annum with an operational annual cost reduction of about $450,000.    

 The health sector has been one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions from New Zealand’s public sector. 

Did you know? 

  • Replacing a coal boiler with a wood pellet boiler will reduce its overall emissions (CO2 equivalent) by up to 99 per cent. The wood pellets are made from shavings and dust generated by wood processing, which would otherwise be considered a “waste” product. 
  • The combined emissions reduction of the Southland Hospital project is expected to be 5217 tonnes of CO2 each year, which is the equivalent to removing about 2146 cars off the road 
  •  Source: EECA