New Zealand state-owned hydropower provider increased earnings in 2016

Mercury Energy, an Auckland, New Zealand-based renewable energy provider, today announced an increase of about 5% in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, amortization and fair value (EBITDAF) to US$270 million for HY2017 (half year 2017).

The company’s results for the six months ended Dec. 31.

Mercury Energy said its financial results reflect a strong operating performance, together with above-average rainfall that enabled a 7% increase in hydropower generation. The company updated its FY2017 hydro generation forecast in October 2016 to 4,250 GWh.

Mercury Energy, operating on the North Island, is 51% state-owned and 49% publically held. The company has nine hydropower holdings (including two plants at its Maraetai complex) on the Waikato River, which is the longest river in New Zealand at 425 km (264 m) and runs through North Island. It also owns and operates five geothermal plants on the island in the Taupo area.

EBITDAF adjustments rose to US$113 million from $74 million for the same period of 2015, and the company increased its interim dividend marginally to 5.8 cents a share. This represents 40% of the full-year ordinary dividend guidance of 14.6 cents per share, a 2.1% increase on FY2016.

Joan Withers, Mercury director and chairperson of the Board, in a press release said the company will pay a fully-imputed interim dividend of 5.8 cents per share on April 3, 2017 to 90,000 owners, including the Crown [Electricity Authority]. The Electricity Authority is an organization that forms part of New Zealand’s state sector established under the Crown Entities Act 2004.

According to the company, its shares opened 1 cent lower on Feb. 21, but are still up 19% compared to this time in 2016.

By initial commission date, Mercury Energy’s hydropower holdings on the North Island include the following:

  • 196-MW Arapuni ­– The first government-built and oldest currently generating station in New Zealand was commissioned in 1929 and is the largest single hydroelectric power station on the Waikato River;
  • 90-MW Karapiro –  Commissioned in 1947, it is located 188 km (117 m) downstream of Lake Taupo;
  • 360-MW Maraetai 1 and 2 – Maraetai 1 was commissioned in 1952 and Maraetai 2 in 1970. It is the largest hydroelectric complex on the Waikato River;
  • 100-MW Whakamaru – Commissioned in 1956, it is the main switching station for upper Waikato River generation and supplies the transmission system that leads north;
  • 84-MW Atiamuri – Designed for three generators, it was originally commissioned in 1958 and a fourth unit was later added and commissioned in 1962;
  • 112-MW Ohakuri – The catchment for the facility that was commissioned in 1961 is Lake Ohakuri, which is the largest lake on the Waikato River and covers 12 square kilometers (4.6 square miles);
  • 51-MW Waipapa – Commissioned in 1961, it is Mercury Energy’s lowest capacity power station; and
  • 78-MW Aratiatia – Has the smallest reservoir in the Waikato Hydro System and was commissioned in 1964. It is located 13 km downstream from Lake Taupo.

According to the company, total hydro generation increased 205 GWh for the same period in 2016 to 1,112 GWh. This reflects inflows into the Taupo catchment being 28 GWh above average and storage being 134 GWh above average at the start of the period.

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Gregory B. Poindexter formerly was an associate editor for HydroWorld.com.

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