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Repositioning . . . MainPower, North Canterbury’s electricity distribution company, is changing to meet the challenges of the future. FILE PHOTO

 

By ROBYN BRISTOW

MainPower is positioning itself to meet the challenges of the future and is not being prepared for “sale”, says MainPower chief executive officer Bruce Emson.

Mr Emson says with the support of the board and the MainPower Trust which owns the business on behalf of the community, the electricity distribution company which supplies electricity to the North Canterbury and Kaikoura regions, is re-positioning its business to meet a challenging and changing electricity environment.

“The industry is experiencing enormous change, change it has not experienced for 50 years,” he says.

Mr Emson’s comments follow emails and phone calls to the North Canterbury News from people concerned about redundancies at MainPower, the closing of its garage, leasing its vehicle fleet and MainPower workers working outside the North Canterbury lines company’s area for other companies.

A concerned shareholder in the MainPower Trust, says shareholders needed to know there was an “unbelievable amount of asset stripping going on in Mainpower. The redundancies since Christmas and over the next few weeks in particular are of concern.”

The shareholder questioned if the company was up for sale or a merger was planned.

Mr Emson says to date there have been five redundancies.

“In positioning the business for the future, I announced to staff a few weeks ago a re-organisation of the administration. The net affect was the loss of three jobs,” he said. There had been one redundancy in the garage which was closed and one other.

However, he admits this number does not include people who took redundancy after declining to apply for positions within the company that were offered to them when their position was up for review.

The North Canterbury News understands there has been around 19 redundancies with several of those long term MainPower employees who were unhappy with the positions and remuneration offered.

Mr Emson said the garage had been closed after the MainPower fleet was sold and leased back.

“So we now lease our vehicles and don’t have the capital cost of buying them – which can cost up to $500,000 – just the operating costs.

A maintenance contract, service and extended warranty came with those vehicles,” Mr Emson says.

He says he inherited a robust business when he was appointed two and half years ago but the industry was now facing enormous change, driven by competition.

He says since technology had been developed in the form of batteries to store electricity it had opened up “any number of options” to put batteries in homes and on farm to store energy.

“Customers are looking at innovative ways to address energy – solar, wind and battery storage – which has introduced profound change in the industry” which impacted on the bottom line of the company which is was now trying to address.

With a declining use of electricity per capita due to energy saving techniques, insulation and other forms of energy generation available to customers, the company had to find other ways of increasing revenue.

“It is my objective to see price reductions to our community. We are about preparing the business for efficiency, effectiveness in a changing environment,” he said.

Mr Emson says he puts the “customer” at the centre of “everything we do”.

“All MainPower does is provide the poles, wires and cables for the electrons to flow down. TransPower is the motorway, we are the highways and byways,” said Mr Emson.

“MainPower will continue to be owned by the MainPower Trust on behalf of its beneficiaries.

“The business will remain in the hands of the Trust and is not being prepared for sale or striving to become the single lines company for the South Island,” he said.

This was in spite of industry talk of there being too many lines companies – 27 – in New Zealand.

“There is a view there should be fewer lines companies. I am determined, and we are determined, we will be one of those lines companies. We are one of 11 in the South Island and we are now working on ensuring we are ahead of the curve.

“Are we looking for synergies and efficiencies. Yes.

“So today we have a couple of guys working for Connectix and two crews working in Central Otago for Aurora Delta in a pole replacement programme where they have a big issue.

“Right now we have excess capacity and we are looking at any way we can to get more efficiency and effectiveness in preparation for a bold new world. It is about positioning ourselves for the future,” said Mr Emson.