Internal talent picked for key Powerco electricity and gas operations roles

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Powerco has recruited from its internal talent pool to fill both electricity and gas operations businesses’ executive leadership roles.

Karen Frew, Powerco’s Network Operation Manager, has been promoted to General Manager Service Delivery and Systems Operations, while Emma Bennett, Powerco’s Group Human Resources Manager, has been appointed General Manager Gas. 

It follows the announcement earlier this month that Contact Energy’s James Kilty will join Powerco as its new Chief Executive from October, with the departure of current CEO Nigel Barbour. 

In her new position, Karen Frew will lead Powerco’s electricity operations business, with current GM Service Delivery and Systems Operations, Ian Skipworth, leaving in September in a career change that will allow him to spend more time with family, including relatives in the United Kingdom. 

Emma Bennett is taking up the role overseeing gas operations, a position that had previously been covered as part of an internal secondment. She will also at present continue to oversee human resources within the company as General Manager People. 

Powerco Chair John Loughlin says the latest leadership appointments showcase the talent and expertise within Powerco. 

“Powerco is looking to the future in terms of the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead and how we can get the best outcomes for the communities we serve. 

“Our people are key to achieving this, which is why we’re delighted to welcome Karen and Emma into their new roles and highlight the leadership skills and qualities they will bring to these areas of our business,” John Loughlin says. 

As a power-systems engineer, Karen Frew brings a wealth of expertise to her new role, having worked in almost every part of Powerco’s business, including transmission, pricing and commercial, regulatory, information systems, asset management, engineering, and systems operations in her 19 years at the company. 

“It’s an honour to be considered and backed for such a critical role, one that will see Powerco completing delivery of our Customised Price-Quality Path commitments to our customers during the next year-and-a-half. 

“Electricity’s part in New Zealand in a decarbonised environment looks set to grow with increased use of electric vehicles and changes in use of other energy sources. For us, one of the biggest challenges is how to utilise the diversity we have in our existing network assets but also investing to keep up with growing demands at costs that are acceptable to our customers. 

“In my role this means delivering the safest and most efficient construction, maintenance and operational practices through working with our partners across the industry,” Karen Frew says. 

With degrees in international business, psychology and political studies, Emma Bennett held a number of senior manufacturing and human resources roles before joining Powerco in 2019. She has public and private sector experience in strategy development and deployment, operational excellence and high performing environments. 

“I bring a different perspective and background. I don’t have a traditional career path into this position, but I have worked in different industries and roles that can lead to fresh ideas coming in.” 

She is proud to work in a company that works towards gender balance and equality and celebrates progress in the area. 

“In the past 12 months, we’ve seen a really big shift in gender representation within leadership roles within Powerco. In 2019, 25% of Powerco’s senior leadership roles were filled by females. Today, it sits at 43%. That’s a massive shift in a really short space of time, which has had buy-in from the board, chief executive, leadership team, as well as a support from further down. 

“Looking back at our last employee survey, the biggest shift in terms of a more positive experience at work, was recorded from our female employees. There’s a noticeable link between increased female representation at senior levels and a more positive experience of female employees.” 

Emma Bennett says it’s an exciting time to lead Powerco’s gas operations as New Zealand moves towards achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

“We support Aotearoa's drive toward a carbon zero future and have confidence that innovative, new zero-emission gases will see gas continuing to play an important role in our country's energy mix. Our planning processes have long considered the implications of climate change and new technology and are being built to meet the needs of our customers and communities. I’m looking forward to continuing that journey,” she says.

Karen Frew and Emma Bennett

Left to right: Karen Frew and Emma Bennett

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