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Power to the people

Kawerau power plant bought by Eastland Generation for $83m.

Eastland Group's generation business has bought a Kawerau geothermal power station from Ngati Tuwharetoa Geothermal Assets (NTGA) for $83 million.

Eastland Generation will take over ownership of the 26MW Kawerau TOPP1 on June 30.

The parties have entered into long-term geothermal fuel supply agreements they say will underpin plant performance and provide options to collectively develop new power stations in the future.

The sale also furthers the ambitions of both for expansion into the renewable energy space and decarbonising the New Zealand electricity market.

Eastland Generation already owns two plants on the Kawerau geothermal field — the 9MW Geothermal Developments Ltd (GDL) and the 25MW Te Ahi O Maui geothermal power stations.

Eastland Group chief executive Matt Todd said it was an important next step in the regional infrastructure company's growth plans.

“The purchase of TOPP1 is key in enabling us to deliver on our strategy of 100 megawatts of renewable generation by 2025,” he said.

“This adds scale to our portfolio and means we are becoming a truly significant developer, owner and operator of renewable energy in the New Zealand market.

“TOPP1 will provide operational synergies across our three geothermal plants. Importantly, our agreement with NTGA also gives us further development options on the Kawerau field.”

NTGA is the largest direct-use steam supplier in the world and is a wholly-owned commercial entity of the Ngati Tuwharetoa (Bay of Plenty) Settlement Trust (NTST).

NTST chair Karilyn Te Riini said the transaction “allows the Tuwharetoa group to grow the scale of our steam supply business”.

“It also increases our financial capacity to both diversify our commercial interests and increase the level of support provided to our owners.”

Eastland Generation and NTGA say they share natural alignments in terms of their trust ownership structures, kaupapa of development and focus on a transition to a low-carbon future.

They also said they were committed to the sustainable management of the Kawerau reservoir and championing a kaitiakitanga (guardianship) approach to operations.

Eastland Group also operates Eastland Port, electricity lines company Eastland Network and Gisborne Airport.

The group's generation sector owns and operates two geothermal power stations in Kawerau and a hydro scheme near Wairoa.

It is also in the early stages of planning for the 25MW Taheke Geothermal Project, northeast of Lake Rotorua, in partnership with The Proprietors of Taheke 8C & Adjoining Blocks Incorporation.

This project was awarded $11.9 million in funding from the Government's “shovel-ready” fund last year.

“Our generation investments out of region bring an enormous amount of value back to Tairawhiti,” Mr Todd said.

“Firstly, they provide strong sector and geographical diversity and deliver excellent returns to our sole shareholder, Trust Tairawhiti, to support regional wellbeing and economic growth.

“Plus we're leveraging the returns on these investments and our specialist expertise to explore new renewable generation opportunities in Tairawhiti itself, including solar, wind and waste-to-energy plants.”

Generation investments 'bring enormous value back to district'

Trust Tairawhiti chairman Dr Paul Reynolds said the benefits of the acquisition for the trust and local communities were clear.

“Eastland Group and its subsidiary businesses are a cornerstone of the trust's investment portfolio.

“The Covid-19 pandemic and recent earthquake and tsunami events have reinforced the critical need for geographic and market diversity for all investments. So to balance out its locally-held assets, it's essential Eastland Group continues to build on the success of its geothermal operations and grow its scale in this sector.

“In turn, this will have direct benefits for the communities of Tairawhiti by delivering returns to the trust that will help support our delivery of the He Tohu Ora Regional Wellbeing Framework.

“The group is also making a growing contribution to a low-carbon, sustainable future for Tairawhiti and New Zealand.

“We look forward to seeing the progress as it explores Tairawhiti-based energy initiatives in parallel with their out-of-region projects.

“We also look forward to developing our relationship with NTST at a shareholder level.”

Powering up: The TOPP1 geothermal power plant which Eastland Group's generation business Eastland generation has bought. It now owns three power plants on the Kawerau fields. Picture supplied
Eastland Group chief executive, Matt Todd.