When the first generator was commissioned at Wairakei in 1958, it was only the second geothermal plant in the world to begin large-scale, commercial operation and the first to exploit a wet (rather than dry steam) geothermal resource. The impetus for the development of Wairakei came in 1947 from severe electricity shortages following two dry years which restricted hydro generation, and a desire by the New Zealand Government for the electricity supply to be independent of imported fuel. New Zealand has recently faced similar situations
There are currently six fields used for geothermal electricity generation, which is dominated by Contact Energy Ltd (a listed company) and Mercury (a state-owned enterprise). A significant factor in recent geothermal projects has been the high level of commercial participation by Maori-owned enterprises.