Leading questions — Business leaders discuss the year just gone and what will affect them in 2017. Today: Genesis Energy chief executive Marc England talks about providing more digital services to customers

What is 2017 looking like for your business?

I am expecting 2017 to be a year of positive change for Genesis Energy. In my first eight months as chief executive we have re-set our strategy, refreshed the executive team and kicked off a number of strategic initiatives. In 2017 we will be working hard to deliver new products and digital-based services for our customers. Our focus is on creating new ways to give our customers comfort, convenience and control over their energy use.

How does that compare to 2016? How did last year shape up for you and your staff?
The past year was a one of significant transformation for Genesis Energy and its employees. The company farewelled its chief executive of eight years, Albert Brantley, plus a number of other senior managers and non-executive directors. We have brought in many new people from executive general managers with valuable international experience in energy and digital markets, to graduates and interns who are throwing themselves into new digital and data-driven projects and directors with strategically aligned experience. Genesis Energy's new vision of reimagining energy to be customers' first choice for energy management has galvanised and energised our people. We are re-engineering how we are organised and how we work. All of this is driving a bow-wave of change and enthusiasm throughout the company.

What are the issues affecting your industry and what impact are these likely to have over the next 12 months?


The New Zealand energy market, along with the Australian and United Kingdom markets, where I have worked previously, is experiencing a lot of change driven by new technologies, competition for customers and changing regulation. We're moving from a 100-year-old business model with a single direction of energy flow to an era where technology allows local production and home storage of energy. This will have a transformational impact. Digital capabilities offer the opportunity to change and evolve business models to engage consumers in a deeper way. We see an opportunity to create more enduring relationships with consumers.

While the reality of today is very exciting what is concerning is that there is a real risk that our regulatory environment is not moving fast enough to support the anticipated consumer demand for distributed energy production and new digital and data-driven services. There is evidence that lines companies are also looking at the future of the energy sector and starting to think about whether to offer in-house services.

Simply put, the new technologies downstream of the meter should be developed to benefit consumers, not weighted in favour to benefit regulated lines companies that have different incentives.

Going into an election year, what are the three biggest issues the Government needs to solve?

Clearly housing is high on the agenda. As a new Auckland resident, I am very aware that transport in the city is another big issue for both Council and Government. With my energy hat on, I would suggest that we need regulatory reform in the electricity sector in the near future.

What role does the business community have in tackling these problems?

The housing and transportation issues are complex as there are a multiple of causes and agencies involved in solution finding. Businesses need to be able to recruit and retain high calibre employees so access to housing and efficient transportation is important to us.

With regard to electricity regulatory reform, we are encouraging the various regulators to talk to each other on these matters as decisions reached today will be difficult to reverse and could inadvertently relegate New Zealand into an energy technology backwater.

The Australian regulator has just decided that if a distributor wanted to compete in a competitive market, it needed to ring-fence that business from its regulated monopoly lines business. We are proposing the same to regulators here.