Fonterra Co-operative Group Limited has announced it is looking at ways to reduce its use of coal at nine of its 29 sites as part of a commitment to transition to renewable energy.
Chief Operating Officer Fraser Whineray said there’s been a lot of progress over the last few years to get the Co-op to a position where it can make this commitment.
“With customers in more than 140 countries we have global insights and long-term trends supporting these actions, which have been in progress for some time,” said Fraser.
“Last year we achieved our target of a 20 per cent reduction in energy intensity from a 2003 baseline after making thousands of improvements across sites here in New Zealand.”
Recently the company was able to reduce its use of coal by 10 per cent after converting its Te Awamutu site to burn wood pellets instead.
Conversion or replacement of existing coal boilers to renewable energy is a significant, logistical, technical and financial undertaking.
“We’ve built a lot of capability in-house and with partners in New Zealand and internationally and this provides us with comfort that solutions are sustainable,” said Fraser.
“We already have the lowest carbon footprint among major milk producers around the world and we want to continue to build on this competitive advantage.”
Fonterra says the Climate Change Commission’s recommendations are broadly in line with the steps the Co-op is taking to put sustainability at the core of everything it does.
Other key aspects to Fonterra’s submission include supporting the increased use of electric vehicles and use of low carbon fuels along with a new policy that will see a third of its light fleet transition to EVs and more charging stations installed at its sites.
A recent roll out of the Milk Vat Monitoring systems on dairy farms has also created opportunities to optimise tanker pick-up schedules which allows Fonterra to budget for five less tankers from 2022.
“We’ll also need to make sure we can get the right specialist skills and equipment into the country at the right time, beyond the extensive local capabilities,” said Fraser.
“And we’ll need to have a secure gas supply for our existing gas-fired boilers.”
Fraser said the conversions would be conducted in a way that impacts on customers as little as possible.
“While we’re working on this transition, we need to make sure we can deliver on our customers’ needs and process our farmer owners’ milk,” he said.
“There is only a small window between each milking season when we can undertake the necessary engineering work to make key changes on the remaining sites.”