Linda Thompson

Energy Manager, Fonterra

Linda Thompson became Fonterra’s energy manager in July 2012. Completely new to the energy industry, she has spent four years at the helm of the company’s energy portfolio, which represents one of its largest manufacturing costs in New Zealand, at more than $300 million a year.

Within the role, Thompson sets the strategic direction of Fonterra’s energy portfolio. She is responsible for reviewing and assessing any regulatory changes that impact the portfolio and developing strategies to respond.

During her first months in the role, she initiated a thorough review of the portfolio, so as to understand the main drivers behind increases in energy costs, and set a clear strategic direction.

This was formalised under three objectives: to implement an economic strategy that reduces usage costs, to ensure secure and reliable energy supply, and to reduce emissions by using resources efficiently.

Historically, Fonterra purchased electricity through fixed-price variable volume contracts. Thompson’s review of the strategy between 2012 and 2014 saw a change towards spot market prices for most Fonterra sites. The company uses its internal trading capability to manage the risks and so far this has recorded a large - and growing - financial benefit for the company.

Thompson’s role includes leading the negotiation of large energy contracts and a bi-annual review of major risks to energy supply for Fonterra’s largest sites. She undertook a next-best alternative project to ensure energy supplies would be secure if those contracts couldn’t be met, and has led the strategy to dual-fuel select sites to minimise any exposure to disruptions in gas supply.

Thompson has also been an advocate for new energy initiatives within Fonterra’s portfolio. Much of this concerns future supply options for Fonterra sites, and Thompson keeps a keen eye on international energy developments. She assists with business case development to secure funding for new projects, and has executed an energy communications plan to improve visibility and understanding of her energy portfolio across Fonterra.

Thompson secured capital in the 2015 financial year to initiate an ‘energy target plant’ approach at two Fonterra plants, aimed at highlighting the importance of energy use at the sites. Both achieved notable energy savings.

She keeps aware of what consumers will expect of Fonterra and its energy use in the future. The energy strategy is aligned to the commitments of Fonterra’s Group Environmental Policy, for which Thompson was a contributor.

She has enduring positive outlook, and this translates to her key touch points within the business. Her activities are executed in accordance with Fonterra’s overarching values: co-operative spirit, do what’s right, challenge boundaries and make it happen.

The Young Energy Professional of the Year award category is sponsored by ABB