Mighty River Power has had another remarkable year, expanding its domestic and international generation interests and performing strongly in its New Zealand retail business.
The company, already one of the world's 10-biggest geothermal generators, acquired a stake in the USD $400 million Hudson Ranch project in the Imperial Valley, Southern California through its development venture with US-based GeoGlobal Energy.
Construction of the first 49.9 MW stage of the development is underway and the project, located in one of the world's largest and hottest steam fields, is due for commissioning in 2012. It has considerable scope for expansion.
It is the type of project Mighty River is pursuing to capitalise on its expertise in developing geothermal projects domestically. Through GeoGlobal the company last year acquired concessions to explore low-temperature geothermal resources in Bavaria, Germany. It has also commenced production drilling at Tolhuaca, one of four geothermal fields in Chile on which GeoGlobal holds exploration or development concessions.
Mighty River's ability to pursue those opportunities is built on its success building a $1 billion fleet of domestic geothermal plants that now account for more than a third of its generation output.
The Nga Awa Purua power station, commissioned in April 2010, achieved first-year availability of more than 95 per cent - a world leading performance for a new geothermal generator - and a reflection of the rigorous design and testing of the plant, followed by a seamless commissioning handover.
Mighty River is now progressing the 82MW Ngatamariki geothermal project after acquiring resource consents in a record seven months.
Increased generation capacity, and the greater flexibility Mighty River has developed across its portfolio, helped boost the company's operating earnings by 22 per cent to $233.6 million in the six months ended December 31.
A new dispatch system for the company's dams on the Waikato River optimised plant running order and is delivering efficiency gains worth $6 million a year.
And the company's retail arm has also innovated to maintain market share and expand into new regions amid intense competition.
Its main Mercury brand was ranked a close second in the Consumer New Zealand survey of electricity supplier's performance in 2010, with the brand showing a 2 per cent increase in satisfaction year on year.
The company increased use of its prepay GLO-BUG units to manage credit risk and is trialling its TIMEWISE smart meter product to give residential customers greater control of their demand.
It also expanded its Bosco Connect and Tiny Mighty Power brands to broaden its customer base by targeting niche markets. The two brands increased revenue by 93 per cent and more than doubled gross profits.
While Mighty River already has an excellent health and safety track record, it recognises that there is always room for improvement. In the past year it has implemented an audit programme for contractors, a heavy traffic management plan at operating sites and a monitoring and improvement programme for health and safety procedures at the Aratiatia Rapids.
The company is proud to have achieved and maintained an Enviro-Mark Diamond certification for exacting environmental management.
In 2011 the Overall Energy Company of the Year category was sponsored by Port Taranaki.