Green momentum builds as Lincoln University powers towards coal-free future

04 December 2019

Photo supplied by Lincoln University

Lincoln University is ditching coal, becoming the first New Zealand University to adopt commercial-scale solar energy. It’s an exciting step away from fossil fuels as it works to be coal-free by 2025.

The university has already taken the first steps toward their goal, partnering with Meridian Energy to install a 102-kWh solar array. The set up is the first major solar installation at a New Zealand university and will directly supply it with renewable energy.

“The solar array, which is installed on the roof of our Te Kete Ika Dining Hall, is part of a wider campus project that will help us achieve best practice sustainability outcomes and cease the use of coal by 2025, with a focus on diversifying energy systems,” Lincoln University’s Acting Vice-Chancellor, Professor Bruce McKenzie says.

Bruce McKenzie says the university has a strong sustainability ethic so eliminating coal is very important

“We have a responsibility to ensure that future generations are given the opportunity to grow and thrive. This means using our resources sustainably.”

Half the university’s energy needs are currently met by an on-site coal boiler

In the South Island there are still many buildings, including public buildings such as schools and hospitals, that are still using coal. As outlined in NZGBC’s Zero Carbon Road Map for Aotearoa’s Buildings, around a third of the operational carbon emissions from New Zealand’s buildings come from fossil fuels used for space and hot water heating. 

If New Zealand is to achieve its zero carbon goals by 2050 major changes are needed. Technologies are already available to replace things like fossil fuel boilers with low or zero carbon heat sources. That change  would save more than one million tonnes of CO 2 equivalent a year; nearly 3% of New Zealand’s carbon dioxide emissions.

It’s promising to see large institutions like universities taking action to reduce their carbon footprint. In October, Otago University announced it is aiming for a 5 Green Star rating for its 450-bed Te Rangi Hiroa residential college as part of ongoing sustainability efforts.

For a healthier, greener future, all our universities and major institutions will have to consider their emissions and how they can tackle them. Ditching coal is a great first step.