School coal boilers to go up in smoke

By James Perry

Coal-powered school boilers will be phased out by 2025 and replaced by renewable energy boilers as part of the government's effort to modernise its infrastructure.

They will be replaced with woody biomass or electricity-powered boilers instead.

The Post-Primary Teachers Association is welcoming the $10 million released by the government today to help disestablish the estimated 180 remaining boilers across the country but says the sooner they go the better.

"This is something that PPTA has been pushing for, through our involvement in the Fossil Free State Sector coalition," President Melanie Webber says.

“Learning environments need to reflect the future we want for our young people and everyone in Aotearoa. However, we would love to see this happen sooner than 2025, given the urgency of the climate crisis."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said coal-powered energy has no place in the modernised Aotearoa. 

"I think it's incredibly important that we as a government do our bit by removing fossil fuels from the state sector, and what better place to make sure we're doing that than in the education facilities where young people are driving us to take climate action."

36,00 tonnes of emissions cut

Climate Change Minister James Shaw says the end of coal burning in schools will cut carbon emissions by almost 36,000 tonnes over 10 years, the equivalent of taking 1400 cars off the road.

“In tackling climate change we can also change our lives, and the places we live and spend time like schools for the better – and that’s what this government is committed to," he says.

Energy and Resources Minister Megan Woods says today’s announcement is an indication the government is serious about cutting emissions.

“Our young people have been backing climate action for a long time and it makes sense that our classrooms not only act as conduits to inspire change but are also exemplars of sustainability," she said.

The decommissioning of coal-powered boilers will still leave 700 schools powered by oil, gas or diesel, which the PPTA hopes will come to an end with coal.

"There are still hundreds of school boilers fuelled by oil, gas and diesel. We challenge all parties to commit to the next step of funding all schools to run on 100% renewable energy by 2025.”

The announcement of the end of coal-powered boilers is part of a wider package of more than $20 million, 19 new decarbonisation projects across the state sSector, including fleet electrification, lighting upgrades, boiler replacements and heat recovery projects, involving the Ministry of Social Development, Police, Kāinga Ora and a number of district health boards.