Hamilton protest against Genesis Energy, 16 July 2021

21 Jul

Meeting with Genesis

As he has done on two previous occasions, Mark Titchener, from Auckland Climate Action, took up the offer to meet with a senior Genesis executive:

“During the protest, a Genesis executive, Tracey Hickman, (see below) came out to greet us all, and to invite further conversation.. With all other hands on banners, I obliged and we proceeded to the entrance foyer cafe. She introduced herself and explained her role in the company, pretty much along the lines of the description below. She further explained that she sat at the top table with Marc England and would like to be able to convey a message back to Marc, who was apparently away on a ski holiday with family! This was very relaxed and, I think, fruitful and constructive exchange.

After filling in some of my background, and what it was our protest was about, she said she got the message and was respectful of our position. She went on to claim that “Genesis was moving as quickly as it could but it would never be quickly enough for us”. We touched on the irony of the recent Genesis roll out of the “electric truck” to deliver “fossil gas”. I suggested this was simply an example of the greenwashing Genesis’ was undertaking… she herself recognised the irony of the situation.

Tracey acknowledged the wholesale market is currently not working, but I went on to suggest that the competitive positions of the players in the market together with the government shareholdings were an impediment to addressing climate impacts.

I made the point that, currently, generation capacity is an issue and that the burning of coal is profitable for all in these circumstances… I mentioned that the storage options and hydrogen projects being considered by the government would represent additional net consumption of electricity making the generation capacity problem worse, not better. In the current market structure what was needed was more low cost generation capacity, including distributed as well as grid scale solar, but that the companies desire for profit meant they appeared to be actively dissuading uptake. In this respect the market appears to be rigged against the best interests of the nation.

Tracy, not unexpectedly, felt competition was a good thing in the market, that it brings about rapid change which she believes is what we need to address the climate. I pointed out that the industry operating in competition was about profit, market share, and identifying growth opportunities for expansion, all counter to addressing the climate issues. I attempted to explain that what was needed was a co-operative approach in which we brought all the market players together and got them to understand that a different structure is required to meet the climate targets.

Thus I put to her a proposal, that we would value a face-to -ace meeting with industry leaders, including Marc, Alison Andrew (Transpower CEO), etc, and have a chance to present to them the key aspects of the science and co-operative business alternatives that are based on the science. I mentioned that in my last meeting with Marc, he was focused on a 1.5°C limit that was no longer feasible, that Genesis’ signing up to the iSBT (Science-Based Targets) was an international commercial branding exercise, and that the iSBT web has no substantive basis in science that I could identify.

By claiming as it does to be committed to iSBT Science-Based Targets brand, it is misleading people. (A water bottling company has also signed on to the iSBT branding.. How silly is that? Emissions-free drinking water!)

Tracey was keen to take my proposal back to Marc. It remains to be seen what response we get.

She made a number of further notes. We talked about setting up links to appropriate information sources on their intranet for internal staff education, though she seemed to want to do this more as part of the companies public face… more marketing … sounded too much like their school-gen trust … more greenwashing to me.

The exchange appeared to pique her personal interest in addition to her engagement in her official capacity, and so we had quite a wide ranging discussion about various aspects of energy generally and climate. This is hopeful.

Lets see what happens… It has to be said that both Marc England and Tracey Hickman appear ready and willing to engage, but just how much of this is placatory remains to be seen.


Tracey Hickman MA (Hons), Chief Customer Officer:
Tracey Hickman joined the Genesis Executive Team in 2012 as General Manager Generation. In 2019, she took on a new portfolio as Executive General Manager Retail Operations. Prior to her current role, Tracey led Genesis’ Generation, Wholesale and Fuels portfolio businesses as Executive General Manager.
On 1 September, 2020, Tracey takes up the role of Chief Customer Officer. Tracey is accountable for the Genesis Retail brand, LPG operations and a range of retail support functions for the whole business.
She brings over 25 years of energy sector experience to the Executive team, having begun her career with the Electricity Corporation of New Zealand, managing large scale environmental reconsenting projects.

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