Top Energy, the local lines company, and electricity generator in the Far North, has won the Outcomes Award at the 2023 New Zealand Energy Excellence Awards in Christchurch.
Chief Executive Russell Shaw says the award recognises the company’s efforts to deliver affordable electricity to its energy consumers may of whom experience energy poverty.
In 2017, Top Energy set a goal of reducing distribution lines charges from the upper quartile for cost per connection to the lower quartile by 2030 to benefit electricity consumers connected to the network.
Mr Shaw says prior to the expansion of the Ngāwhā geothermal power station the region relied heavily on electricity coming from the Waikato, up through Auckland to get to the Far North.
“The cost of delivery, combined with a decade of investment in an aging network placed us as one of the most expensive lines companies in the country,”
The expansion of Ngāwhā power station was identified as the key strategic initiative that could provide new cashflows to achieve this goal.
“It was believed it would also protect consumers from ongoing transmission price increases and interruptions to electricity supply’” Mr Shaw said.
Since the commissioning the new power station, Top Energy has reduced distribution lines charges year-on-year to a total of 23%. The latest reduction is such that consumers will not bear any impact from the 205% transmission line charge increase that came into effect on April 1, 2023.
Mr Shaw says by 2024, Top Energy aims to move its income per connection to the lowest quartile for lines tariffs, achieving its strategic goal seven years ahead of plan.
“The company has already increased consumer discount payments by 25% ($50 per consumer) and plans to raise it by an additional $50 per consumer in 2024 and every three years thereafter.”
The company's commitment to delivering affordable electricity has been evident during national power shortages in 2022 when Top Energy requested NGL to increase generation output to assist in maintaining the integrity of the national grid and ensuring continuity of supply for Far North consumers.
With the expansion of Ngāwhā, 125% of the Far North’s electricity needs are now met locally, reducing reliance on imported energy. This has led to energy independence, improved affordability, protection from electricity market fluctuations, and a more reliable supply for critical facilities like hospitals and schools. The electricity generated is also net carbon zero meaning that ever household and business in the far north receives carbon free electricity.
Top Energy is owned by the Top Energy Consumer Trust, on behalf of 34,000 power consumers in the Far North connected the electricity network.
Receiving the Outcomes Award is validation of the company's commitment to providing affordable electricity and improving the lives of the people who live and work in our community.
Top Energy remains committed to its mission of creating long-term value for its shareholders while delivering tangible benefits to its consumers.
“We have an important role to play in the sustainability journey of the Far North and New Zealand.”
Outcomes Award Speech
Energy Excellence Awards - 2023
31 August 2023
Te Pae Christchurch
Top Energy Chief Executive Russell Shaw
Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa. Nga mihi nui ki a koutou katoa.
It is with great pride that I accept the Outcomes Award on behalf of Top Energy.
While the Far North is renowned for its natural beauty and history, it also has the complexity of long standing social and economic issues. And the unfortunate distinction of having some of the most expensive power in New Zealand.
As the Chief Executive of the local lines company which is fully owned by the people of the Far North, I am acutely aware of the existence and impact of energy poverty on our community. It is an issue we are fully committed to addressing.
This award recognises our commitment to delivering affordable electricity to help alleviate the financial hardship of people struggling to pay their bills.
In 2017, we set a goal of reducing distribution lines charges per connection to the lower quartile by 2030, excluding transmission cost pass-through.
At the time we set our goal, Ngāwhā was the only generator in the Far North, producing 70% of the region’s electricity needs. And our lines charges were in the highest quartile, following a period of rebuilding and reinforcing an aging network to modern design and security standards.
We identified the expansion of the Ngāwhā geothermal power station as the strategic initiative to achieve our goal. It would help protect our consumers from price increases, as well as provide new cashflows. It proved to be the right call.
Since commissioning the new station at Ngawha in 2020, Top Energy has reduced distribution lines charges by 23%. In the current market it is very unusual to be holding or reducing prices. Over the past five years, our cost per customer has decreased from the upper quartile to lowest quartile, achieving our 2030 goal. We have also now transitioned from being one of the dirtiest geothermal emitters of greenhouse gases to the cleanest with Net Carbon Zero for our generation business.
We will continue to focus on decarbonisation and affordability with our investment in the Ngāwhā geothermal power station and our move to 200% locally generated electricity, delivering the energy required for the decarbonisation challenge.
Thank you to the Electricity Authority for sponsoring this award and to the other finalists. This award is a testament to the dedication and hard work of the teams at Top Energy and Ngāwhā Generation, and they are the driving force behind our success.
Last but by no means least, I want to thank the community we serve—the people of the Far North—for their trust, support, and resilience. They have been our greatest motivation.
Nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.
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