Evolution and revolution
Alpine Energy began in March 1906 when the Timaru Borough Council entered into a contract with Scott Brothers of Christchurch to light the town with electricity. The price for this contract was £750 per year for four hours of light per night – except when the moon shone.
In 1915 the council purchased the Scott Brothers’ electricity generator and a year later another generator was installed and about 580 customers had been signed up.
All electricity developments were in town until 1921 when a meeting of country delegates decided to form a South Canterbury Electric Power Board. The board set about forming a viable electricity supply enterprise across the province.
The South Canterbury Electric Power Board and the Timaru Borough Council agreed for the power board to purchase the town supply. However, the town’s residents voted against the proposal. From that day, February 29, 1924, the Timaru Electricity Department and the power board continued on their separate paths.
The Timaru Borough Council purchased all of its electricity from the SC Electric Power Board. This was from the Lake Coleridge power station supply which was made available at Temuka for distribution throughout Timaru and South Canterbury.
The two organisations grew and developed in their separate franchise areas until the Government industry reforms of 1992 prompted the separate bodies to look again at the issue of amalgamation.
In the 1980s, the Labour Government introduced a series of economic reforms, designed to improve accountability and efficiency. It soon become clear to South Canterbury community leaders that Timaru Electricity Ltd and the South Canterbury Electric Power Board should merge.
A significant step in the 1992 merger and formation of Alpine Energy Ltd was the creation of a truly representative, community owned company, with its shares allocated to the three local government bodies – and the creation of a new body to represent and hold shares on behalf of consumers.
The Timaru District Council gained proportionally more shares because of its previous sole ownership of Timaru Electricity but the final outcome ensured broad representation of these parties via their shareholdings.
- Timaru District Council 47.5% shares
- Waimate District Council 7.5% shares
- Mackenzie District Council 5.0% shares
- South Canterbury Power Trust 40.0% shares (later becoming South Canterbury LineTrust).