Local Government Magazine

Electrifying sustainable cities

Five years ago Pioneer Generation was a small hydro-generation business. Now it provides energy services to multiple clients, including local authorities, ensuring renewable electricity is better utilised for almost all day-to-day energy use requirements.

Pioneer’s general manager of strategy and business development Grant Smith says New Zealand is struggling to keep up with international obligations to reduce climate change emissions. “We can do our bit,” he says, “by making emerging technology options more accessible and cost effective for our customers.”

For Pioneer this has meant balancing future investment in energy generation with downstream investments in capabilities, products and services.

Chris Dawson, the company’s energy solutions manager, says Pioneer has developed an offering that will reach beyond a customer’s monthly bill with a wider range of services.

By helping customers find end-use efficiencies, the company can utilise any savings to help fund greener and more environmentally-friendly supply options, such as solar panels, wood fuel heating and – very soon – electric vehicle charging systems.

Chris says Pioneer is also prepared to finance new technology solutions over the term of a bundled electricity supply contract.

Pioneer team ECOsystems works as an advisor to councils, hospitals and commercial building owners and can achieve savings in excess of 20 percent on most customer sites through a process it calls continuous energy optimisation.

Another team, Energy for Industry (EFI), specialises in higher-end processes and heating systems using onsite waste fuels to lower overall site emissions.

Pioneer provides plant funding to both ECOsystems and EFI, owning and operating some $50 million of onsite heating plants around New Zealand.

The company is working through a number of local government partnerships, running landfill gas, wood fuel boilers and, in Christchurch, has just completed a development, designed with international partners Cofely, for the new district energy scheme.

ECOsystems founder and development manager Frans Plugge works with councils to implement new central management systems to control LED street lighting.

When Auckland Transport street lighting manager David Dick commissioned independent research, it showed that installing a central management system could make savings of 18 percent over and above the reduction in energy consumption by moving to LEDs.

Finally, local renewable generation is also supporting the development of more sustainable cities as part of the community’s buy-in to a better energy future. Pioneer is community-owned and recently formed joint ventures with two separate city-based organisations to develop and own smaller local windfarms and landfill gas generation facilities that can connect directly into local area networks.

Pioneer CEO Fraser Jonker is a strong supporter of these local investment partnerships, where the community takes responsibility for meeting its own future energy needs from lower emission options and reduces development risks through working with expert partners.

This article was first published in the September 2015 issue of NZ Local Government Magazine.

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