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Z Energy says EV take-up will drive charger installs

Thursday 6th December 2018

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Z Energy says it is ready for the rapid expansion of electric vehicles but has no idea when that tipping point will be reached.

The firm, which earlier this year acquired a controlling stake in Flick Electric, is not wedded to hydrocarbon fuels and will expand its charging sites as demand increases.

Sustainability and community manager Gerri Ward said the company has eight EV chargers on a range of sites around the country and they are being used about as much as expected.

New Zealand had 11,255 electric vehicles registered at the end of November, almost twice that of a year earlier. But more than 5,000 of those are in Auckland, with another 3,000 split between Wellington and Canterbury.

Ward said the company has many sites that could have chargers, but it makes little sense installing them in centres that have few EVs, particularly given they will generally be charged at homes.

She noted that, depending on who you talked to, rapid uptake of EVs was either going to happen tomorrow or in 20 years’ time.

“When that tipping point happens we’ll be more than ready to go and we’re up for that,” she told delegates at the New Zealand Emissions Workshop yesterday.

Z Energy, the country’s biggest fuel retailer, is aiming to reduce its operational carbon emission by 30 percent by 2020. It has also set itself a goal of being a leader in New Zealand’s decarbonisation efforts.

The company has a major stake in electric car sharing firm Mevo, and in July it invested $1.5 million in permanent forestry projects to help offset its group-wide emissions. In August it acquired a controlling stake in power retailer Flick Electric.

Last month it started deliveries of biodiesel to Fonterra’s North Island tanker fleet from its Wiri plant. That is about two years later than originally planned. It has spent about $35 million on the project, Ward said, including capitalised operating costs.

“It’s been hard. It’s been a really long journey and it’s cost a lot more than we thought it would.”

But she said the project reflects the sort of materiality the firm needs to achieve if it is to meet the “big hairy audacious goals” it has set itself

Not only does the 5 percent biodiesel blend reduce emissions from Fonterra’s fleet, it also keeps tallow onshore that would have otherwise been shipped overseas to make candles.

And at a volume of 20 million litres a year, the plant is using only about 10 percent of the tallow available. It is also the only biodiesel plant in the world operating without government subsidies.

Andrew Bolland, co-portfolio manager and investment analyst at Salt Funds Management, said climate change presents real financial risk and firms need to get a handle on the drivers of their own exposure.

The scenarios modelled by the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change could have temperatures reaching the 1.5 degree warming threshold as early as 2025 – well within the forecasting range of the valuation models his firm runs.

While some firms do seem to have a good grasp of the potential risks they face and how they will respond, Bolland said others appear to be have produced little more than “glossy pages with pictures of very happy people standing in front of oceans and wind mills.”

The big risk, he said, is a mis-match between firms' short-term goals and their long-term risk position.

Firms need to be able to identify how they could suffer – or benefit – across a range of potential climate scenarios and what their plans are for those different eventualities. They also need to report that in a way that is transparent so that investors can “stress test” those assumptions.

And they need to be aware how climate change could potentially affect their partners and suppliers, of everything from resources to insurance.

Bolland said expectations around sustainability are increasing among consumers and governments and firms need to be acting now.

“You don’t want to be the company left behind,” he said. “You don’t want to be the polluter that makes the call that ‘we’re not going to change.’”

(BusinessDesk)

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