AWARDS FINALIST: EECA – Regional energy transition accelerator programme

10 Jul 2024

The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority’s Regional Energy Transition Accelerator – or Reta – is a groundbreaking initiative to decarbonise process-heat systems across the country.

The programme aims to identify and share what is needed to decarbonise process heat in any given region.

It takes a bottom-up approach to determine regional fossil fuel demand and demonstrate the pathways for decarbonisation and the required investment in the supply-side – primarily electricity or biomass – to enable that transition.

In doing so, it gives suppliers the confidence to invest in new infrastructure and provides clarity to processors on low carbon options and their costs.

Regional focus

Reta’s approach is regional, encouraging local solutions and stakeholder engagement.

This has been critical to giving key players more certainty about costs, supply and demand, more information from electricity distributors and a better understanding of the opportunities.

Workshops are held in each region, bringing processors together with electricity distributors, Transpower, energy retailers, forest owners, wood processors, economic development agencies, councils, iwi, and other key stakeholders.

Stakeholders are all presented with the same robust information. All non-commercially sensitive information gathered through the programme is shared publicly through workshop presentations, online reports, and an online map.

This transparency helps create efficient and effective outcomes by making critical data available to decision-makers.


A pilot programme began in Southland in early 2022, developed in collaboration with Transpower, local network company PowerNet, and regional development agency Great South. It published its report late that year.

The pilot’s success saw the programme expanded to other parts of the South Island, and now to the North Island, demonstrating the scalability and adaptability of the Reta methodology.

The programme’s three workstreams – demand assessment, electricity availability and cost, and biomass availability and cost – feed into the creation of decarbonisation pathways and draw on experts in their respective fields.

Initial energy efficiency assessments are key. Reducing demand and using heat pumps to meet low temperature needs reduced fossil fuel use by about 25 per cent on average. Across all South Island projects, that would reduce fuel-switching capex by about $500 million, EECA says.


Reta has also employed innovative methods like integrating desktop analysis with field data for the biomass workstream, providing a realistic estimate of how much biomass is already contracted and how much is sustainably available long term – essential for investment in long-lived process plant.

The electricity availability workstream, added to accelerate the programme, assists timely and efficient delivery by pre-assessing connection options, costs, and supply security requirements for new loads on the network.

Once completed nationwide, EECA says the programme will have assessed more than 700 industrial sites emitting about six million tonnes of CO2 a year.

The agency says it is not aware of any other programme in the world that addresses decarbonisation of process heat in such a detailed, robust, bottom-up and commercial way.

The Innovation in Energy Award category is sponsored by Ara Ake.