Marlborough Lines says the long life of its assets means it has to look for benign environmental solutions for all that it does.
The company's policy objectives include not only meeting minimum legislative compliance but exceeding environmental care expectations. It works to promote environmental awareness amongst staff, adopts strategies to minimise negative effects on the environment, and considers the environment when planning network maintenance and upgrades.
That focus has put Marlborough Lines among the leaders in a series of initiatives.
In 2002, it was one of the first New Zealand lines companies to receive accreditation under the internationally recognised ISO 14001 environmental standard - a standard it has maintained ever since, as attested by six-monthly audits.
It is also believed to be the first lines company in New Zealand to construct all of its urban zone substations to emit zero noise. Low-noise transformers - 35 dba rather than the more usual 45 dba - were chosen and housed inside commercial or residential-style concrete buildings with sound-proofed doors. Below-ground level sealed concrete floors act as a containment bund. Oil flow for transformers and external radiators is by convection, eliminating the need for pumps, while the transformers are fully sealed to prevent oil venting to the atmosphere.
Those features, coupled with their indoor housing, should ensure a virtual maintenance-free life span of more than 50 years for the assets, the company says.
Marlborough Lines recycles all metals from old assets and the company has also developed a technique with a local contractor to shatter old or damaged concrete poles and recycle the steel reinforcing within. The concrete is used for hard-fill or crushed for roading aggregate.
The company also assesses its less-visible impacts. It believes it was the first network to determine its carbon footprint in 2008, and is now working to drive down that impact by reducing its petrol fleet and moving diesel vehicles to bio-diesel.
Excluding emissions directly due to transmission and distribution losses, the company in the year to March produced only 1,473 tonnes of carbon dioxide, which were more than balanced by 1,926 tonnes of carbon offsets from its forestry assets.
Marlborough Lines owns 300 hectares of forestry, including 240 hectares of natives in the lower Clarence Valley and 60 hectares that have been prepared for the planting of 60,000 eucalypt seedlings in Spring 2011.
The eucalypt initiative, believed to be the first in New Zealand, will allow the company to earn carbon credits while building up a sustainable supply of timber for hardwood cross arms. It will also eliminate emissions related to imports from Australia, and reduce demand on indigenous timber there.
In 2011 the Environmental Excellence category was sponsored by PEPANZ.