McKay Best Community Energy Project Award 2023

The MCKAY Best Community Energy Project must contribute to the social fabric of a community, enriching its people and inhabitants’ lives using renewable energy. It must have helped the local community & improved their way of life with measurable and meaningful outcomes.

Winner: Hubands Energy
for Te Poari o Ngātiwai Project

Having developed a strong relationship with Te Poari o Ngātiwai, when MBIE announced the 2022 funding for the Maori and Public Housing Renewable Energy Fund, we immediately reached out to see if any whānau in their iwi could benefit from this fund. Huhana Lyndon spearheaded the application, working with us to source funding for 75.24kW of grid connected solar to be installed on eight Ngātiwai Marae in Te Tai Tokerau. The project was spread from Whangaruru (Tūparehuia, Ngāiotonga, Otetao Reti, Ōakura, Mōkau), Tūtūkākā (Matapōuri, Ngunguru) and Omaha (Pākiri).

It was very important to us that the solution we provided was both reliable and easily monitorable.  With an industry leading 25 year product warranty, Sunpower AC solar panels, including built in Enphase microinverters, were the logical choice.  The Enphase IQ Gateway communication device ensures we can monitor both production and consumption at each of the marae. The size of the system to be installed at each marae was determined during the site assessment that was carried out with our representative and the komiti once funding had been approved.  The komiti were very particular about which roof they wanted the solar system installed on, so the number of panels came down to what would physically fit on that roof. We collaborated with Nau Mai Rā, the first kaupapa Māori power company in Aotearoa, to establish a virtual power hub where the marae could provide their whānau with free, or low cost, power.

As the cost of living crisis has gripped the country, it’s those in lower socio-economic situations that are suffering the most.  Power poverty, especially in Māori households, is a significant problem negatively impacting whānau who are often unable to heat their homes.  This has seen an increase of respiratory illnesses and other preventable health conditions, such as rheumatic fever, in Māori. Our collaboration with Te Poari o Ngātiwai and Nau Mai Rā has ensured that not only will the marae benefit from lower power costs, but also the wider iwi and whānau. 

Find out more about Hubands Energy >

Runner Up: McNae Group 
for Kia Whitingia (Reureu Kotahitanga Limited), Halcombe


Our brief was to establish an energy cooperative to partner with marae and whānau to build energy generation capacity that can then be used to supply whanau with energy at affordable rates to help reduce the instances of energy poverty amongst whanau.
In collaboration with Graeme Everton and under the banner of Kia Whitingai project funded by Māori and Public Housing Renewable Energy Fund, we approached a number of maraes about partnering with this project. Consequently, we installed solar energy systems on five marae buildings and three permanently owned Trust/whānau homes and ten families, 

In order to deliver low cost energy to the local community, we were able to install 322 119KWp panels, across five marae and three houses and connect them to a battery in order to store energy and give it back or sell it to community members. This will be done via an energy trading platform with the aim of the collective reducing the overall cost of electricity to all members.

The most significant solutions for the community were:
Kia Whitingia is enabled to trade with their own community at $0.06 / kWh (~60% cheaper than market)
An excess of energy is able to be stored and then sold on to the New Zealand wholesale electricity market, these funds are then channeled back into a community fund which can be later redistributed back to community members
There is significant potential to grow this initiative once the wider community sees the benefits and is able to foresee how they could push this into the next phase.
Last winter, $10,000 worth of energy was able to be sold and then was distributed back into the community as a ‘winter energy subsidy’, at a time where most households find an increase in their power bill, these community homes connected with Kia Whitingia were able to receive this subsidy.
Palmerston North (which is in the same zone as the Kia Whitingia ICPs) has an average price of 33.43 cents per kWh. In comparison, Kia Whitingia customers have been averaging around 29 cents per kWh (and that's based on winter bills) - 12% less than the average in their region.
This is significant in times of rising household costs and we believe it is a great success. Notwithstanding the added benefits of a battery and other load control devices in the future. This project has led the way, with a second to follow in the emergency house sector.

Through solar installation, the local community recognises the positive environmental impact this has through using a sustainable power source that doesn’t impact the water ways.
Another improvement is the ability to energy bank, sell back to the grid and store power for use once the battery is installed. The local community will be able to benefit from the stored battery power, especially when the battery is discharged at high priced electricity times of the day.
This installation lets the community save money, have a positive environmental impact and be able to support the local community through power sharing.

Kia Whitingia is now fully functioning and the community is already seeing the benefits, with over $10,000 fed back into their local whare’s and maraes. The installation of a 36 KW 120KWh battery is imminent and this will enable ongoing tracking, as well as further energy cost reductions through stored electricity. We are also in close contact with our local lines company, with a view to investigate how the battery can assist with things such as grid support. Building something that is scalable and repeatable has always been our goal.

Kia whitingia site birds eye view school building front view with solar panels on the roof

Find out more about McNae Group >