Waste wood to heat: beyond technology to quality of life in Christchurch, New Zealand
Christchurch has a forty-year history of choking wintertime smog from wood and coal burning for domestic heating. A new methodology for Strategic Analysis of Complex Energy and Environment Systems (SACEES) was employed to provide a sustainable energy solution to a very old and very complex problem. Historical review and characterization of the problem was the first step, including economic, psychological, and cultural factors, as well as technical and environmental factors. A performance-objective design of an optimal form of the energy architecture was generated for the target date of 2008. In order to achieve health standards and fully renewable energy supply, waste wood pellet fire appliances would need to be installed in one half of residences to replace existing solid fuel burners and to heat homes which are presently not heated. An integrated policy, resource, and business strategy for maximizing quality of life over the shortest timeframe was developed, including banning of visible emissions, security of the pellet industry, and subscription-type purchasing arrangements for heating. The SACEES methodology provided a new and viable solution to a very old and untenable problem. The fundamental premise of the approach is to research the social and economic history of the problem, pick a target date for resolution of the problem, define the performance characteristics for high quality of life, and then design an energy architecture within the social, economic, cultural, and environmental context. This study illustrates how, once a relevant solution is visualized and described to all parties, the means to achieving the solution becomes apparent and achievable.