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July 2021 Issue
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Coal-heating in huts to be ceased

DOC plans to reduce carbon emissions by swapping coal burners for wood fires. Photo: Matthew Cattin

DOC is phasing out the use of coal to heat huts by the end of the year as part of efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

The department’s heritage and visitors director Steve Taylor said there were still 32 visitor huts and 20 hut warden and backcountry staff buildings using coal as a fuel source. These would switch to burning wood.

Taylor said this would significantly reduce carbon emissions from heating huts.

“The burning of coal releases a great deal more carbon into the atmosphere than any alternative form of heating in huts,” Taylor said. “Our calculations show that total carbon emissions from using wood to heat huts and other DOC buildings would be approximately a quarter of those from using coal. This includes the cost of transporting the fuel to the hut.”

He said the change was in line with the government’s plan for the public service to be carbon neutral by 2025.

Long term, Taylor said DOC plans to investigate other ways of harnessing green energy such as passive solar. 

The changes are part of the department’s new Sustainability Strategy. Other policies in the report include purchasing only electric vehicles for on-road use from this year, using only hybrid vehicles for offroad use by 2022 and reducing air travel to 2008 levels.

A case study in the report said DOC mowed about 3.2 million square metres of grass every mowing cycle – about half of which is campgrounds and half reserves and picnic areas – producing emissions equivalent to 16 vehicles. It said the department should ‘reconsider all grassed areas mown’ and either stop mowing, plant areas in a different species, or use electric mowers by 2024.