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The public's not hearing about the bioenergy market, it's rare to see commercialisation thinking around it and the sector's more like an enthusiasts club.

In opening a mini conference in Wellington about how to implement the Bioenergy Association's strategy (see here), executive officer Brian Cox says thing need to change if New Zealand wants to derive 30% of the country's transport fuels by 2040.

"People tend to be technology focused rather than commercially focused," he says. "We're tending to the supply side rather than the demand."

The following points notable points struck sticK at the bioenergy event, which reckons that the use of wood and its wastes, as well as short rotation crops, for their direct heat, liquid and gas components can help make New Zealand much less dependent on imported fossil fuels.

Chris Boalch - NZTE - Strategic Initiatives

• Given that crude oil prices could easily double in the next five years, getting bioenergy right is considered one of NZ's critical areas
• Canada has a very comprehensive bioenergy strategy, and for some declining industries such as its forestry sector, asked itself some hairy questions and have developed a Canada Inc approach

Stephen Schuck - Bioenergy Australia (via videoconference)

• More than 200 power stations worldwide co-fire wood pellets with coal
• Flagship bioenergy projects in Australia are few and far between

Kevin Snowden - Vertichem

• Growing short rotation salix willows, extracting valuable products through a patented process. At pilot stage for production of green chemicals
• Parent company about to list on the Toronto stock exchange
• Have joint venture partnered with the Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry (Boston)
• Able to extract lignin, and xylose and cellulose (to make ethanol) from willows. Has the potential to extract 80% of the trees total value from lignin (to produce superior phenols among other things), and xylose (sweetner). Ethanol almost a by-product
• Biotechnology drives its conversion technology and its market ready products. Green chemistry adds value for NZ

Michael Jack - Scion

• From a science symposium held late last year the research community has agreed to work together to:
• Need to hear from industry on what research this centre should provide
• Need to adopt and adapt overseas biofuel examples that are the best fit for NZ

  • o Co-ordinate research and development through a research centre (virtual)

  • o Develop a clear and specific value proposition for NZ biofuels

  • o Actively engage with industry to develop public-private partnerships

Murray Cowan - Wood EnergyNZ

• Less than 1% of NZ boilers have been converted to wood chip or pellet use
• Opportunities for the use of wood as a heat source can be very regionally specific
• Ideally, would like a large, non-wood processing industry to use wood for their own requirements. This would allow a fuel supplier to have sufficient economies of scale to get established and hence, supply smaller customers. In other words, remove some of the supply risk by providing longer term contracts

Brian Cox - BANZ executive director (& director of East Harbour Energy)

• The bioenergy industry needs to take ownership of its future and show:
• There's a disconnect between global observers who come to New Zealand and recognise the country's bioenergy value, and local participants. This country has an excellent bioenergy resource, and an ease of doing business
• But, there's little appreciation of investor risk within the wider bioenergy community

  • o Benefits can accrue to resource owners (forest and land) and suppliers

  • o Need to focus on selling the benefits to investors

NZ bioenergy is currently too much like an "enthusiasts club"

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