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June power demand highlights need for investment

Media Release
For immediate release: Tuesday 18 July 2006

June’s record electricity demand highlights urgent need for national investment, says Meridian

Stretched electricity supply during the recent cold weather is yet another indication of the urgent need to build more generation and transmission capacity, says the country’s largest power generator, Meridian Energy.

Meridian spokesman Alan Seay says the fact the country had to draw on all available generation plants during the extreme cold weather in mid-June is a sign that the current system’s capacity is under stress.

“On 19 June, when a new national peak demand record of 6630 megawatts (MW) was set, the only Meridian plant not committed was one of the six Benmore units that had been undergoing major scheduled maintenance since 25 May.

“Given the cold weather prior to June 19 we had already taken urgent steps and deferred maintenance on turbines at the Tekapo and Aviemore power stations to ensure they were available during the peak winter months, including on 19 June. The unavailability of a unit at Manapouri would have made no difference to the situation on June 19 as that station was already generating to its consented maximum.”

Mr Seay said the country’s peak demand record of 6513MW set in August 2004 has been raised three times in June: 6630 MW on June 19, 6676 MW on June 27 and 6748 MW on June 29.

He said that 2006 was proving to be an extremely challenging year for managing Meridian’s generating stations, as the new peak demand records coincided with record low inflows to the Waitaki system.

“At the same time as we are managing these short-term needs, we are also trying to do our bit to address the country’s long-term needs through our portfolio of new generation proposals including Project White Hill in Southland, Project West Wind in Wellington, and Project Hayes in Central Otago.”

“Nobody should be under any delusion that this country urgently needs to get more generation and transmission capacity in place and quickly. We have been saying for some time that the day of reckoning is coming, and it is closer than many people realise,” he said.

ENDS

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