Taranaki is uniquely positioned to lead New Zealand’s transition to a low-emissions energy future. The region is New Zealand’s largest exporter of energy; and energy contributes a quarter of the region’s economic output.

When combined with the region’s world-class energy infrastructure assets, well-developed global networks, and progressive local authority leadership, Taranaki has quality, well-established features that new energy investment can quickly and easily leverage. It also has more than 7,000 highly skilled people working in the energy and supply chain sector, holding a wealth of expertise and knowledge.

The Government has allocated $7 million per year to establish Ara Ake (formerly the National New Energy Development Centre) in Taranaki. The mission of Ara Ake is to facilitate New Zealand’s energy transition to a low-emissions future through fostering a new energy eco-system, leveraging national and global knowledge and expertise to reduce the time, cost and risk associated with the development and commercialisation of new energy innovation.

The Government has also allocated a further $50 million for research into cutting-edge energy technology, including organic photovoltaics, super conductors, nanotechnologies and inductive power. In addition, there is ongoing government support for initiatives to leverage Taranaki’s existing infrastructure assets; for example, re-purposing the gas pipeline owned by First Gas for hydrogen distribution. 

The investment from central government and the support of Taranaki’s local authorities provides the private and research sectors with assurance of the commitment and intent to develop commercially viable new energy solutions for New Zealand and export. The energy sector will not be immune to the effects of COVID-19 and the global oil price reductions, but there are significant opportunities to accelerate the pursuit of innovation in this field, with renewables and energy innovation and diversification a key focus, cementing Taranaki as a global leader in new energy development. 

Further information about New Zealand’s current energy prices is available on the Energy Market Overview website and the Wholesale Information Trading System (WITS) website.

Hiringa Energy

Working from a beautiful villa on a quiet New Plymouth street, a group of energy professionals are busy helping to shape New Zealand’s energy future.

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Husband and wife Andrew and Cathy Clennett chose Taranaki – the heart of New Zealand’s traditional energy sector – to establish Hiringa Energy, the first company in New Zealand dedicated to the supply and development of green hydrogen energy. The company is focused on establishing the nation’s first commercially viable hydrogen refuelling network.

Green hydrogen uses renewable electricity to split water into oxygen and hydrogen through electrolysis. Hiringa aim to provide fuel solutions for industry, the public sector, and transport operators nationwide. Their work has already received local and national governmental support, strong international interest, and attracted commercial and investor backing.

In July 2018, the New Zealand Government announced a $950,000 Provincial Growth Fund investment in Hiringa to scope the design and engineering of hydrogen production facilities, mobile storage and distribution infrastructure, and hydrogen refuelling stations.

In May 2019, Hiringa and Ballance Agri-Nutrients joined forces in a $50-million project to produce hydrogen fuel using wind power at the ammonia urea producer’s South Taranaki plant. The process is expected to produce enough hydrogen to power 6000 cars, or 300 trucks or buses. In March 2020, the Government announced a $19.9 million investment to support the establishment of the world-first hydrogen energy facility in Taranaki.

“It’s a real solution – hydrogen helps make it possible to decarbonise our economy – and it’s a high growth industry globally. There’s a real opportunity right now to create jobs, increase productivity and have better, more sustainable, outcomes,” Andrew says.

In Andrew’s opinion, Taranaki has all the attributes to be the centre of New Zealand’s new energy future, and not just limited to hydrogen energy production.

“We could have done this overseas, but we decided early on Taranaki was a good place to base the company,” Andrew continues.

“Taranaki is a region of doers – we know how to get from the idea to a plan and then do it – and there’s a reliable workforce that can deliver to schedule and deliver to cost.

“Taranaki also has important strengths with the infrastructure, resources and technical skillsets already here through the oil and gas and broader energy sectors. This combines with the innovative commercial environment, established partnerships, and excellent connectivity.

“These strengths can also be used across other energy solutions, such as synthetic fuel, other gas-related projects, and even onshore and offshore wind and wave energy.”

“And Taranaki also has very good natural renewable resources to utilise, such as wind, wave and run-of-the-river hydro. At the moment we don’t harness our natural renewable resource, so I think there’s an opportunity for a number of different energy types to be developed in the region.”

Andrew says the region’s local authorities have been energetic enablers of Hiringa’s progress. Hiringa partnered with regional development agency Venture Taranaki and the New Plymouth District Council to produce the H2 Taranaki Roadmap, launched in March 2019, which focused on Taranaki’s potential to become a global leader in hydrogen production and utilisation.

While COVID-19 has been a challenge, Hiringa Energy have been very fortunate to have already built their business around a more cloud-based model, utilising the high-speed connectivity available in the region to continue their planning and grow their partnerships. They have seen strong momentum building from their partners around the desire to come out of the crisis with more sustainable businesses and ambitious plans.

Tilt Renewables

On coastal South Taranaki farmland, a New Zealand company is making a long-term commitment to New Zealand’s new energy future.

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Tilt Renewables (NZX: TLT), a developer, owner and manager of renewable energy generation assets in Australia and New Zealand, is building the 133-megawatt (MW) Waipipi Wind Farm.

Placed along 980 hectares of coastal land between Waverley and Pātea, the wind farm will comprise 31 Siemens Gamesa turbines, each with a capacity of 4.3 MW and a 130m rotor diameter – the largest ever installed in New Zealand.

Once complete and operational in February 2021, the wind farm will generate an annual average of 455 gigawatt hours of green electricity – enough to power about 65,000 homes and save the emission of 250,000 tonnes of carbon.

With a 30-year operating design life and at a cost of $277 million, the wind farm is a significant investment in the region’s future, and is among the first physical signs that Taranaki is leading New Zealand’s shift to a low-emissions economy.

“There’s been a real lull in wind farm development in the past six or seven years, but the market has changed in New Zealand now,” explains Tilt Renewables project manager Jim Pearson.

“There’s more demand and desire for renewable energy and it’s a positive statement to move into renewables.

“Wind farm sites are chosen first and foremost on wind resource and the second important thing is the transmission connection – how close you are to connecting into either a local network or national grid. Both are ideal here.”

Jim says the desire by Taranaki landowners, iwi, and local and regional councils to engage constructively during the consenting phase had impressed Tilt Renewables.

“We have worked very closely with the stakeholders and they have been very supportive and pragmatic to get it under way. As we are a member of the community for the next 25–50 years, we take a long-term view on relationships and want to build that as best we can.”

Taranaki’s depth of experience across engineering, civil works, and electricity will play a significant role in the 18-month project.

“Taranaki has a good skills base, good technical support services and infrastructure to support the operating phase and life of the wind farm. We are very focused on using local contractors as much as possible, which supports the community and lowers our own cost base,” Jim says.

In fact, the project will be a contributing factor in Taranaki’s swift economic recovery from the impacts of COVID-19, with Tilt Renewable already employing 80 onsite workers, with another 80 to be onsite when the turbines are erected, as well as an emphasis on utilising local contractors.
“This will be huge for getting the economy moving post-COVID-19,” Jim says.

“One of the advantages of South Taranaki is it’s a rural district and there is an appreciation of working the land. Building something like a wind farm is a positive development and you are using a natural resource to provide a local and national benefit.”

During construction, it’s expected the project will inject $70 million of expenditure into the Taranaki economy and employ 80–100 people. Once completed, up to 10 people will be directly and indirectly employed for the wind farm’s operation.
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