Pioneer Energy, owned by the Central Lakes Trust in Cromwell, will soon have a new client, following dairy giant Fonterra’s announcement this week that its South Otago site will be ditching coal for wood biomass fuel by August next year.

The Fonterra cheese plant in Stirling near Balclutha will be Fonterra’s first 100% renewable thermal energy site dairy co-operative’s goal of getting out of coal completely by 2037.

Pioneer Energy chief executive Fraser Jonker said Pioneer Energy would be providing the wood biomass from its forestry suppliers.

“Pioneer Energy is very proud to be involved with, and to support, Fonterra’s move across from coal to biomass at their facility in Stirling.”

The company was engaged in converting many energy systems throughout Otago and Southland and elsewhere in New Zealand, including the DB brewery in Timaru. The company had developed its own wood fuel division and secured local supply for the fuel, to ensure the transition to a low-carbon future, he said.

“It’s also a return on investment for the [Central Lakes] trust. The trust is quite progressive, and we’re part of its investment portfolio. They’ve been great supporters and helped us grow.”

The company returned a $12million dividend to the trust this year.

“It’s nice to see it go back into the community,” he said

By switching to biomass, the Stirling plant’s annual emissions would reduce by 18,500 tonnes of COequivalent of taking more than 7000 cars off the road, in a “huge decarbonisation milestone for the co-op”, Fonterra general manager of operations for the lower South Island Richard Gray said.

additional benefits included reduction in wastewater, noise, solid waste to landfill and air discharge emissions.