Element - - Business - By Andy Ken­wor­thy

Ge­n­e­sis En­ergy is step­ping up to its vi­tal role in se­cur­ing New Zealand's en­ergy fu­ture.

Some might say that Ge­n­e­sis En­ergy got the en­vi­ron­men­tal short straw when it was cre­ated by the break up of the Elec­tric­ity Cor­po­ra­tion of New Zealand back in 1999: it got left hold­ing Huntly Power Sta­tion. With a cur­rent output of 1000 megawatts from coal/gas and 448 megawatts from gas, it is New Zealand’s largest fos­sil­fu­elled power sta­tion and chuffs out more than half of the coun­try’s green­house gas emis­sions from power gen­er­a­tion. Some of its de­trac­tors might even be heart­ened to know that just four years ago Ge­n­e­sis En­ergy was a com­pany that was strug­gling to see its own fu­ture in a busi­ness de­fined by its abil­ity to see into the na­tion’s fu­ture en­ergy needs. For too long it had tended to live up to its ‘grey man’ im­age of a com­pany that re­lated to its cus­tomers mostly with arms-length call cen­tres and en­velopes with win­dows in them and bills too com­pli­cated to un­der­stand. Chief ex­ec­u­tive Al­bert Brant­ley said: “We work in an in­dus­try that has long been dom­i­nated by engi­neers build­ing big­ger and bet­ter ‘toys’ in the form of new and bet­ter power sta­tions, with sup­port­ing as­sets such as trans­mis­sion lines. We have tra­di­tion­ally been con­sumed with man­age­ment of th­ese as­sets and re­cov­ery of the in­vest­ment for this in­fras­truc­ture that is most of­ten mea­sured in the hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars.” The re­sult, ac­cord­ing to Brant­ley, was: “We were not con­nect­ing with cus­tomers. Peo­ple gen­er­ally didn’t want to in­ter­act with their power com­pany. We were not thought of as ‘love­able’ peo­ple, de­spite what our fam­i­lies may think. We kept cus­tomers at arm’s length. We talked to them through call cen­tres, many of which were out­sourced to con­trac­tors, which made es­tab­lish­ing re­la­tion­ships even more dif­fi­cult.” But not any more, be­cause in just a few short years the com­pany has trans­formed its self-im­age, placed its cus­tomers at the cen­tre of its busi­ness and brought cus­tomer con­tact in-house, while re-stat­ing its vi­tal mis­sion for New Zealand. With bil­lions of dol­lars worth of as­sets, and a lot of bright think­ing al­ready inside the com­pany, there was plenty to work with. For ex­am­ple, run­ning Huntly comes with an un­de­ni­ably sig­nif­i­cant en­vi­ron­men­tal re­spon­si­bil­ity. But it can be gen­er­at­ing up to one fifth of the na­tion’s power at any one time, and forms one of the main back­ups to en­sure a sta­ble en­ergy sup­ply while we make the tran­si­tion to more re­new­able sources of en­ergy. New Zealand has an en­vi­able record of nearly 75% re­new­able elec­tric­ity gen­er­a­tion, but we still have a long way to go in man­ag­ing the or­derly re­duc­tion in green­house gas emis­sions re­quired to meet our in­ter­na­tional obli­ga­tions. Huntly has had to be an im­por­tant part of that story, and will re­main so for years to come. But Huntly is by no means the whole of Ge­n­e­sis En­ergy’s story. The com­pany is now push­ing for­ward some of the most for­ward-think­ing in­no­va­tions to in­crease ef­fi­cient, sus­tain­able en­ergy gen­er­a­tion and use through­out the coun­try.

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