Thursday, 21 December 2023 16:25

Decarbonising Wine: Wineries seek 'clean and clever' energy solutions

Written by  Sophie Preece

New Zealand’s wine industry is just 26 vintages away from 2050, when it’s pledged to be carbon neutral.

EECA (The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority) is helping form “concrete steps” towards that goal, including co-funding energy transition plans (ETPs) for three wine companies. In the past year the government agency, a cheerleader for “clean and clever” energy use, has collaborated with Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand (SWNZ), along with Indevin, Framingham, and Wakatū, to further develop the Wine Decarbonisation Programme.

EECA Sector Decarbonisation Lead Insa Errey says the three companies successfully applied for co-funding for an ETP, using an external energy consultant to establish the best ways to reduce energy demand and move away from fossil fuels, where there’s a feasible option, “and to come up with a bit of a pathway as to how you would get there”.

Sandy O’Connell, Indevin General Manager Capital Developments, says EECA’s focus on energy efficiency and decarbonisation aligns well with the company’s environmental and sustainable business goals. The process of increasing efficiency and reducing reliance on fossil fuels can be daunting, with companies wondering what to do first, what options are available, and what processes exist to analyse those options. The EECA support meant Indevin could seek expert advice from engineering and energy consultant Deta in planning for their emissions reductions.

Their report has only recently been completed, but has highlighted a lower emissions path that will allow the decarbonisation of the winery’s process heat, with the elimination of LPG and diesel for the heating requirement of the winemaking processes, Sandy says. “Our intention is to incorporate this into our winery master planning going forward.” They’re still crunching the economic analysis, but if fully deployed across the company’s 15 Valley winery in Marlborough, they would see a 300tCO2e/yr (carbon dioxide equivalent per year) reduction in winery emissions, Sandy says.

At the other end of the scale, small producer Framingham has also welcomed the EECA partnership, which has shone a light on the smartest gains to be made, with benefits for the environment and the bottom line.

Framingham Viticulturist James Bowskill says the single biggest change they are likely to make from the process is addressing heating and cooling in the winery, which is mostly from the original build. The addition of solar would also be an “easy win”, with benefits to the environment and accountants. “The way that I get it approved is by showing that it’s good for the bottom line as well as sustainability,” he says. “Hopefully it goes both ways.”

Framingham had already gone some way in its plan to reduce its carbon emissions, with an external certifier measuring the company’s footprint in 2021, providing a general benchmark. But reporting from EMSOL (Energy Management Solutions Ltd), the consultant contracted for their EECA project, is giving them detailed analysis of their machinery and a guide for prioritising changes. The ETP offers “concrete steps”, he says. “Rather than just looking at freight and knowing that it uses a lot of fossil fuels, it is a measured approach that might say, ‘this glycol system is massively inefficient – improve this first’; or they say, ‘you guys have no solar panels and they are a quick easy win – it will reduce your electricity use by this much, and you’ll pay off your panels in this many years’; or ‘you guys don’t actually need an LPG forklift, you can use an electric one for all of your work – here’s the payback on that’. My feeling is that this is saving us quite a lot of legwork.”

James says small companies like Framingham don’t have people in dedicated sustainability roles, and without EECA’s assistance the job of growing efficiency and reducing emissions would fall to him. “And the time that I have to spend on it at this time of year is zero, so it would have to wait until winter.” Even then it’s not core to his job. “It’s really, really important, but it’s more important for me to get grapes to the winery.

Insa says the companies involved in the decarbonisation pathway provide a good cross section of the industry, from Indevin, the largest winegrower in the country, to small player Framingham, and iwi-owned Wakatū, “which has an amazing ethos around how they work and their culture and how that embeds in what they do”. She says it has been interesting to see the different styles of operations, and how they pick up the information and work with it.

Reports from energy consultants are “quite comprehensive but not overwhelming”, she adds, “It’s about trying to break down the component parts and look at what you can control in Scope 1 [direct emissions controlled by a company] and Scope 2 [including purchased energy] before you look at Scope 3 [emissions related to but not controlled by the company] which is a lot harder. Let’s pull that back and look at what’s in your domain.”

EECA’s website, which has five steps for emissions reduction, has links to calculators to help companies get a handle on where they are at now, as a benchmark for future change, Insa says. “We try and make sure it’s embedded within their systems so it’s not bigger than Ben Hur; which, if you leave it for too long, it can be.”

Carbon Zero Road Map

New Zealand Winegrowers has announced a partnership with the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) to develop a Carbon Zero Road Map for the New Zealand wine industry. General Manager Sustainability Dr Edwin Massey says the work will start immediately, with a plan being developed to fit the challenges and opportunities the industry is likely to face “from 2024 to 2050, and beyond”. To read more about the Carbon Zero Road Map go to Winegrower Magazine’s new Sustainability Update.

EECA and New Zealand Winegrowers have developed a five-step pathway with tools and resources to help winemakers and growers lower their emissions and unlock business benefits. Go to

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