Elder: Safety laws will test small firms
Smaller line companies may be in for a rough ride as new legislation and technology changes come into effect, WEL Networks chief executive Julian Elder says.
Elder addressed WEL's partners and customers at the company's annual summit yesterday, when he released figures around the community-owned company's operation over the past financial year.
Outlining some of the looming health-and-safety regulatory changes in response the royal commission on the Pike River tragedy, Elder predicted greater collaboration with smaller operators was on the cards.
WEL already provides control room function for Waipa Networks, and Elder said the company was in discussions with other small operators about providing services.
"We've always had, as part of our business plan, to offer our services to other lines companies," he said.
"We firmly believe both the regulatory challenges and the technology challenges are going to result in the need for more collaboration.
"The smaller [operators] are just not going to have the resources to cope."
The new legislation and government regulations are set to come into effect late next year.
Corporate bodies failing to meet regulations will face fines of up to $3 million.
WEL has compiled its own health-and-safety action plan, and Elder said a continued focus on best safety practices was essential.
"There's going to be a much higher focus and much larger implication for directors and businesses and how they approach this," he said.
"Nothing is more important than the safety of our people and the community we serve."
WEL, which is completely owned by the WEL Energy Trust, employs 240 staff to service 160,000 customers across the Waikato's 5200-kilometre line network.
The company had been investing $470m into network upgrades over the year, making sure the infrastructure is in top condition, Elder said.
He said the company was in a good position, recording a net profit of $19.6m for the financial year, up from $18.9m the year before.
Revenue was at $157m, up from $97m in 2011, and the trust returned $21.8m to the community through community programmes and grants.
WEL ranks in the top five energy companies nationally for best cost of delivering services and in reliability.
Elder said another highlight was WEL Networks subsidiary Ultrafast Fibre's work on the Government's Ultra Fast Broadband initiative.
The company was expected to complete the rollout of the network across urban Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Taranaki ahead of schedule, wrapping up in 2015.
Ultrafast Fibre had been the fastest contracted installer of the Government initiative, he said.
He said uptake for the first six months was slow, but both residential and business retail had strengthened.
"The uptake signs are not becoming encouraging. We spent quite a bit of time thinking, ‘When is this really going to start?' but we're now starting to see things happen in that space."
- © Fairfax NZ News