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400 kV Grid Proposal should be Rejected

26 April 2006

Sustainable Energy Forum Electricity Group

400 kV Grid Proposal should be Rejected by Electricity Commission

Transpower’s proposed grid upgrade for Auckland should be rejected by the Electricity Commission. Alternatives could be better good news for security of supply and the economy as a whole.

Rejecting the 400 kV upgrade would facilitate smaller investment in critical areas. This would give time for new network technology to offer more competitive solutions.

Transpower’s proposed upgrade assumes conventional technology for its own networks, distribution networks, and consumer appliances. It could be called “dinosaur technology”. It provides for remote power stations and massive transmission lines to supply any and all demand, without signaling that peak demands might collapse the whole system.

Modern, computerised network technology enables a real alternative. “Active network management” would improve security, reduce network losses, and allow consumers to save on their power bills by choosing smart appliances that respond automatically to shortages.

A staged approach is needed to allow some benefits to be realized early, while giving time – more than a decade - to develop fully integrated systems. Changes involve market rules, company regulation and consumer appliances as well as technology.

The “active management” concept has been introduced this year in Europe, the U.K, and the United States. It promises revolutionary new technologies, products and services to create a strongly user-centric approach for all customers.

The European paper is based on objectives of sustainability, competitiveness and security of supply. Its vision is designed to be shared by consumers, suppliers, regulators and governments.

Transpower’s philosophy stands in stark contrast. Its nationwide advertising campaign claims the grid “has to be upgraded to minimise any risk to the consistent, reliable supply of electricity…” Transpower told the Employment and Manufacturers Federation last month that it if its plan is not approved, it “will not resubmit an alternative plan that it believes to be inferior.”

New Zealand must not be trapped into the formal, bureaucratic, one-way “consultation” exercises on specific electricity proposals. These only entrench the positions of dominant industry players.

Instead we call on Government to provide leadership, to ensure our electricity system is progressively modernized to enable active participation by all. This would offer true consumer choice – whether to be a passive consumer treated as a cash cow, or whether to reduce power bills – and improve system security – by responding actively to shortage and system stress.

ENDS

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