Momentum builds for ambitious decarbonisation plan

29 October 2021

The University of Waikato is one step closer to its goal of being carbon neutral by 2030, buoyed by new funding announced by Climate Change Minister James Shaw this week as part of the $220 million State Sector Decarbonisation Fund.

The University of Waikato received $254,000 which will go towards two projects - replacing a chiller at the Hamilton campus with a low emissions alternative and a campus-wide upgrade of lighting which will see a switch to more efficient LEDs. These projects will reduce emissions by an estimated 340 tonnes over the next ten years.

This follows $25,000 of co-funding from the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) to undertake an Energy Transition Accelerator (ETA) at the Hamilton campus to help identify further options for reducing energy-related emissions.

“It’s great to see the momentum build with our ambitious programme of work and for our staff and students to see some really visible examples of our commitment to being carbon neutral by 2030, says Chief Operating Officer, Jim Mercer.

“While sustainability principles are firmly embedded within our new developments - including The Pā which is set to open in 2022 and transform the campus experience as the new hub of student activity - our big challenge lies with our older infrastructure. This requires us to be innovative and attentive and continue to prioritise this work in everything we do.”

The University is poised to deliver a raft of initiatives at its Hamilton campus within the next six months which will see a significant reduction to emissions. Over summer they will replace gas hot water boilers in a section of student accommodation with a biomass boiler and CO² heat pump as part of a trial which will inform how they tackle the issue campus-wide.

When lockdown restrictions ease, 50 smart meters will be installed in the Waikato Management School. These will be linked to an energy management system which will provide real-time insights about energy usage for a period of six months, to inform future steps across the campus. The focus will then shift to smart metering for water, exploration of a large-scale solar power installation, new provisions for e-bike storage and charging, and bold steps towards laying sustainable foundations for an exciting new development within the School of Engineering.

Professor Lynda Johnston
Professor Lynda Johnston

Assistant Vice-Chancellor Sustainability, Professor Lynda Johnston, is encouraged by the programme of work underway and what lies ahead.

“We’re proud to be on this journey, walking the talk at a time when our world-first Bachelor of Climate Change (launching in 2022) is making ripples across the globe,” she says.

“Our students especially want warm, energy-efficient buildings powered by clean energy. They also want to see us tackling sustainability issues holistically and meaningfully, setting an example as to how a university can contribute to the regeneration of the social, economic, cultural and environmental wellbeing of the region. This means setting ambitious targets, being transparent about how we’re tracking and constantly innovating in areas like travel, waste and water.”

“We’ve learned a lot over the last two years about how we can get smarter with events, for instance, embracing digital technologies and changing our expectations about in-person attendance. Our challenge will be to maintain a hybrid offering as we establish our new normal, which will reduce the reliance on resource-intensive in-person events.”

“We’re also very fortunate to have some world-leading expertise inhouse helping to guide our thinking and implementation along the journey.”

The Waikato School of Engineering is currently leading a groundbreaking programme of research, Ahuora, supporting big industry in Aotearoa to transition to renewable energy for process heat, with the help of $12.5m MBIE Endeavour funding. Āmiomio Aotearoa, a multi-disciplinary team of researchers, is also providing an inspiring example in their work to advance a circular economy concept for New Zealand backed by $10.9m MBIE Endeavour funding.

“It is a really exciting time for the University of Waikato and while we have some hard mahi ahead of us, we’re well on the path and taking our responsibilities seriously, inspired in large part by the expertise we have within our own institution,” says Professor Johnston.


Latest stories

Related stories

Waikato ranked in top 100 universities globally for sustainability

The University of Waikato has been recognised in the top 100 universities worldwide in the…

Professor Chris Battershill

Renowned scientist honoured for dedication to marine conservation

World-renowned marine scientist Professor Chris Battershill has been honoured for his significant contributions to marine…

Image of Dr Chris Eames

How can we prepare young people to save the world when we haven’t?

Young people today are facing a future of complex environmental challenges. But a new framework…

The winning team

Transforming waste into eco-friendly gold

A 300-litre compost bin using plywood offcuts from vehicle manufacturing has won a sustainable design…

Assistant Vice-Chancellor Sustainability Professor Lynda Johnston

Waikato ranks in top 100 of universities globally

The University of Waikato has been recognised in the top 100 of educational institutions worldwide…

Students from the University of Waikato met with Action Manufacturing to talk about their ideas

Driving sustainability: University students and Hamilton manufacturer tackle eco-challenges

A group of University of Waikato students are helping solve sustainability challenges for the largest…

Joel, Kyle and Akshay

University of Waikato students gain work experience and solve sustainability problems through Impact Lab

Year three students shared their findings at an Impact Lab presentation event this week, as…

University’s decarbonisation plans get a boost

The University of Waikato is closer to its goal of being carbon neutral by 2030,…

Kiri Reihana

Ocean scientist awarded L’Oréal Fellowship

A University of Waikato PhD student has won a L’Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science mentoring…

Elise Legarth

Predicting climate change events

Bachelor of Science graduate Elise Legarth hopes her PhD in flood forecasting and hydrometeorology in…


Engineering for Samoa's renewable energy efforts

Before he had even started university study, Tiotio Lockington knew he wanted to contribute to…

Waikato event connects to COP26 and climate change crisis

The climate change crisis is something that keeps Associate Professor Tom Roa awake at night.