New Zealand Research Expertise Sought at International Renewable Energy Conference

3 March 2008

Dr Tom Richardson, chief executive of Crown Research Institute Scion, is one of a 10-strong New Zealand delegation heading to the United States this week, presenting at the U.S. Government hosted Washington International Renewable Energy Conference (WIREC 2008).

Dr Richardson will address the conference which runs March 4-6. He will present on March 5, before participating in a panel discussion on the role of forestry in renewable energy and the corresponding issues of economics, environment, and sustainability.

The delegation includes New Zealand’s Associate Minister of Energy Harry Duynhoven and representatives from the Ministry of Economic Development, Ministry of Transport, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, and the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology.

The conference comes as Scion and its national and international collaborators release their findings from a major feasibility study into the potential for New Zealand to use biofuels generated from plantation grown feedstocks.

The report by the New Zealand Lignocellulosic Bioethanol Initiative has found that biofuels generated from softwood feedstocks present a feasible, large-scale option for meeting both the low-carbon transport vision of the Government’s 2007 Energy Strategy (NZES) and Biofuels Sales Obligation (BSO).

It also outlines the feasibility of a potential scenario where New Zealand’s entire vehicle fleet could run on nationally grown and manufactured wood-derived biofuels.

Dr Richardson says New Zealand researchers have investigated the real possibility of transforming our economy from a petrochemical-based to a carbohydrate-based one and that this type of research is capturing the attention of the rest of the world.

“The New Zealand Lignocellulosic Bioethanol Initiative first set out to explore options for using existing pulp and paper infrastructure to produce bioethanol from softwood resources.

“Internationally, softwood feedstocks have largely been under valued as a potential source of biofuels as they are considered technically too difficult and too expensive.

“Our work in the area of using forests for biofuels is in contrast to the majority of international activity which is focused on using grains, sugarcane or grasses, which are often part of the world’s current food supply, or grown on land following deforestation.

“In contrast to recent concerns raised regarding the production of biofuels from food crops, the New Zealand study indicates biofuels produced from wood are a sustainable and environmentally beneficial option.”

Whilst at the WIREC 2008 conference, Dr Richardson will discuss the findings from a number of Scion-led studies that illustrate how New Zealand can provide renewable and sustainable energy alternatives from environmentally sound resources, including sustainably managed plantation forests.