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Winter Power Risk Increases

Winter Power Taskforce

Winter Power Risk Increases

The outlook for electricity supply this winter continues to be of significant concern and means that individuals, businesses and government agencies need to reduce electricity demand by at least five per cent, the Grid Security Committee’s Winter 2003 co-ordinator, Patrick Strange said today.

Dr Strange was appointed two weeks ago as the independent co-ordinator of the industry’s response to potential winter shortages.

He discussed the results of his review of the situation with the Grid Security Committee this morning. (The Grid Security Committee includes electricity company and consumer representatives.)

Dr Strange unveiled a new electricity riskmeter which will help keep consumers informed about the availability of electricity supply throughout the winter.

“Based on the latest information, the riskmeter is firmly in the amber zone, indicating a need to make precautionary electricity savings immediately. “In particular, my inquiries into the industry’s capacity to supplement existing natural gas with coal, oil and further gas leave me unable to be certain at this stage that there will be sufficient thermal electricity generating capacity if the winter is dry and cold.

“I acknowledge that there have been excellent efforts by generators in recent weeks to improve the thermal fuel situation by sourcing additional coal and fuel oil supplies and to prepare their plants to use these alternative fuels if required. “That is the good news. However, there is still uncertainty around these complex and challenging efforts and it would be imprudent to count on them all succeeding.

“There is no good news elsewhere,” said Dr Strange.

Hydro storage levels had decreased to 2140 GWh by yesterday – well below average and below levels recorded at the same time in 2001. Year to date inflows to South Island hydro lakes were 2760 GWh, only 75% of average, and meteorologists are giving no comfort that this will improve. Electricity demand was up by more than 4% across the nation on last year – a major increase.

“In my judgement, we cannot afford to be complacent. We need to start making significant electricity savings at home, in our communities, and especially in our workplaces.

“A five per cent savings target does not sound much: however, it takes effort, and we are not yet delivering it. Consistently saving small amounts of electricity at this early stage will help prevent the need for much larger savings later.”

Dr Strange stressed that it was not just residents who needed to conserve. “Business and industry consume large amounts of electricity and we will be working over coming weeks with business groups and the trade union movement on nationwide efforts to help companies save energy and reduce power bills.”

Dr Strange said particular opportunities arose as the seasons changed. “As the summer recedes, air-conditioning can be turned off earlier, rather than leaving it running to handle the odd warm day. And, as the first winter cold snaps appear, there is a tendency to turn on the heating and leave it that way until spring, even when the cold snap passes.

“I’m not advocating that anyone should go cold. Older people, or anyone suffering ill health, must continue to heat their homes as appropriate. But I do urge consumers to consider th e amount of home heating they need in these pre-winter months.

“Action now is important. I cannot discount the need to go to the next level of savings before the end of April if that riskmeter moves much higher.”

Dr Strange said the new riskmeter would be updated weekly along with other key information about the electricity system and could be viewed at http:// http://www.winterpower.org.nz.

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