NZ Energy Excellence Awards winners announced

30 Jun 2022

Christchurch’s new state-of-the art Te Pae Convention Centre hosted a record turnout for the New Zealand Energy Excellence Awards on Wednesday night – the first time the event had been held in the South Island.

Around 670 guests were at the event's 12th edition to see trophies presented to Simply Energy, McCain Foods, Aurora Energy (twice), Unison Networks, ERANZ, Z Energy, Orion, and Contact Energy.

Yuyin Kueh’s Orion colleagues came out in force to celebrate her winning the Young Energy Professional of the Year category – the Central Canterbury distributor booked eight tables to support the event’s first trip to Christchurch. Kueh impressed the judging panel with her achievements in just seven years in the industry, becoming someone to “rely on to solve any challenge”.

Aurora Energy’s Dunedin harbour crossing project took two awards – Network Initiative of the Year and Community Initiative of the Year. Aurora impressed the judges by incorporating community feedback while also delivering on economic, technical and safety outcomes and unlocking tourism, commercial and environmental benefits for the broader Otago region.

The Large Energy User Initiative of the Year​ was won by McCain Foods for a project that demonstrated the power of experienced engineering and process optimisation in eliminating emissions from complex manufacturing processes without affecting product quality or, ultimately, the economics of the operation

Simply Energy’s Demand Flex programme saw it take the Innovation in Energy Award for its sophisticated technology platform, developed in-house. This system now provides 15 megawatts of dispatchable demand, and the award entry offered good evidence on the value of the benefits and the size of the business that Simply Energy has built from this innovation.

The Green Building Council says the built environment accounts for about 20 per cent of New Zealand's carbon emissions. When Unison Networks had to renew its Windsor substation, it built a state-of-the-art switch-room – low-carbon, relocatable, modular, scalable, sustainable and unique – which saw it awarded the Low Carbon Future Award.

ERANZ moved from finalist in last year’s Outcomes Award category to winner in this year’s, using the time to clearly demonstrate the impact of EnergyMate after a successful pilot. EnergyMate’s reach involves community and budgeting organisations to provide a full wrap-around service. Testimonials of those in and around the programme were also compelling as it addresses the sensitive and complex issue of energy hardship.

The Well-being Award went to Z Energy, which impressed the judges with the evidence it provided on the support it gave its staff through the Covid-19 pandemic and the effectiveness of these initiatives. Its entry was also the only one to benchmark itself globally.

The Energy Retailer of the Year category proved difficult to judge. Each finalist showed great customer focus and outstanding performance in very distinct areas of the market. 

Contact launched its Good Nights plan and its Fourth Trimester for new-borns campaign. But it was the rapid and strong results from using new AI technology to improve the customer service experience that tipped the balance and saw it take the award.

The final award of the evening – the Editor’s Award – recognises a significant and long-term contribution to the New Zealand energy sector.

It was given to Dr Brent Layton who chaired the Brownlee Review of the Electricity Market in 2009 and spent a decade as chair of the Electricity Authority, retiring in 2020. The award recognises his major contributions to regulatory economics and to the structure and regulation of New Zealand’s electricity markets.

The winners

Innovation in Energy Award – sponsored by Ara Ake

  • Simply Energy – Demand Flex – rewarding businesses for their power flexibility

Large Energy User Initiative of the Year – sponsored by EECA

  • McCain Foods – Pulse electrified field – McCain Foods Timaru

Network Initiative of the Year – sponsored by Worley

  • Aurora Energy – Harbour crossing project, a network upgrade innovation

Low Carbon Future Award – sponsored by BusinessNZ Energy Council

  • Unison Networks – Windsor Substation: Powering a sustainable energy future

Outcomes Award – sponsored by Electricity Authority

  • ERANZ – Achieving energy well-being across Aotearoa with EnergyMate

Community Initiative of the Year – sponsored by Eagle Technology

  • Aurora Energy – Harbour crossing project

Well-being Award – sponsored by nib

  • Z Energy – Supporting our people through Covid-19

Young Energy Professional of the Year – sponsored by Downer

  • Orion – Yuyin Kueh, Network Planning Engineer

Energy Retailer of the Year – sponsored by EDMI

  • Contact Energy

Editor's Award for outstanding contribution to the sector – sponsored by Utilities Disputes

  • Dr Brent Layton

The awards programme is further supported by ERANZ, GasNZ, NZWEA, CEP, MEUG, the EEA and Kordia.

Other sponsors included VIP Function sponsor BlueFloat Energy and After-party sponsor Anderson Lloyd.