Business North August 2022

10 | ENERGY Contact Energy Decarbonisation goal for Gentailer Virginia Wright The Contact Energy team accept the Energy Retailer of the Year award at this year’s New Zealand Energy Excellence Awards. “We firmly believe that we’re the generation who need to make some really key decisions.” Warner Construction is proud to be associated with Contact Energy General Engineering • Pipeline Construction • Geothermal • Bolt Tensioning • Blast & Paint • Transport Services Waitara (Head Office) 06 754 8602 36 Norman St, Waitara, New Plymouth 4320 Taupo 07 376 5753 32 Manuka St, Tauhara, Taupo 3330 Bell Block 06 755 4504 65 De Havilland Drive, Bell Block, New Plymouth 4312 When you hear about the various initiatives power generation and supply company Contact Energy have taken with their consumers in mind it’s easy to understand why they have recently been awarded Energy Retailer of the Year at this year’s New Zealand Energy Excellence Awards 2022. The shorthand description for Contact Energy is ‘gentailer’, which is to say they generate and retail electricity, but as Chief Retail Officer Matt Bolton says, there’s more to it than that. “ We’re trying to lead New Zealand to a better energy future and so our focus is our Contact26 strategy which is all about leading the way to decarbonise New Zealand. We firmly believe that we’re the generation who need to make some really key decisions.” The decisions he’s talking about are on two levels. One is at the level of their investment in large scale power generation using renewable energy, the other is what Contact is doing to encourage New Zealanders to change the way they use the electricity. Contact Energy has thirteen power stations across New Zealand producing around one fifth of the electricity New Zealanders consume. One decision recently announced in alignment with their decarbonisation goal is the closure of their gas-fuelled power station in Hamilton. “The analogy there is with running your car on fossil fuel as opposed to running an electric vehicle,” says Matt. “We’ll be closing the Te Rapa power station in Hamilton next year and we’re focused on building a new geothermal power station in Taupo which will produce far less carbon than gas-fuelled power stations. “When it’s in operation in late 2023, Tauhara will produce enough power for 195,000 households. It’ll still have a small carbon emission but nowhere near that of a power station burning gas or diesel to generate electricity.” The other side of Contact Energy’s carbon conscience can be seen in their retail initiatives aimed at changing how and when we consume power. Their new “Good Nights” electricity plan is on trial until October but already looking likely to continue. Consumers get three hours of free power from 9pm until 12 midnight seven days a week. “Our customers can choose to move non-essential power use to later in the evening helping to balance peak power use and even better, it will save our customers money too.” explains Matt. Peak power usage in winter happens twice a day, morning and night, when kettles and heaters go on, showers and baths are run, and so on. The spike in electricity use is more than New Zealand’s renewable energy fuelled power stations can handle so for around three hours the so-called “gas-fired, fast-start generator” power stations are pressed into use to meet the needs of consumers. The “Good Nights” plan aims, for example, to encourage consumers to use the delay start button on appliances such as dishwashers. In a new social initiative Contact Energy has recently partnered with the National Collective of Independent Women’s Refuges and are offering free power to the 40 affiliated refuges and 40 safe houses across New Zealand; and their recent launch of the “Fourth Trimester” initiative invited 1,000 customers with, or soon to have, a newborn in the house to apply for three months of free power. All of these initiatives combined with a determination to reshape themselves as a customer driven business are what won them this year’s award as the top retailer of not only electricity but gas and broadband, but as far as Matt’s concerned it’s all kudos to the team. “The only reason I could stand on stage and accept the award is because we have an amazing bunch of people who really care about doing the right thing for their customers.” Contact Energy seem equally determined to reshape as a net-zero business, leading the way both locally and globally. “The world wants to get there and New Zealand is great at being world-leaders so why would we not want to lead the world in this regard,” says Matt.