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Electricity industry prudently planning for winter

Media release 14 April 2008

Electricity industry prudently planning for coming winter

Transpower, on behalf of the electricity industry, said today that the industry is contingency planning for what measures could be put in place this winter, if the current severe drought conditions continue and the hydro lakes remain low.

The Electricity Commission released earlier today that the current hydro levels had dropped below the Minzone – an analytical tool that helps the electricity system planners understand what is happening with the hydro storage levels.

Transpower Chief Executive Patrick Strange said that New Zealand has experienced drought this year in both the North and South Islands, which has resulted in very low inflows into the hydro lakes.

“In the case of Lake Taupo, the seasonal inflows are the lowest ever recorded. We also had the unexpected closure of the New Plymouth thermal generating plant; the Stratford plant out for a scheduled mid-life maintenance; a unit out at Huntly and Huntly also experiencing some constraints due to river temperature. All of these have meant that the generators had to use more hydro to power the system, and this has put pressure on storage.”

“The industry is keeping a close watch on the situation and we feel that given the current environment, it is prudent for us to put some preparatory plans in place so that we can cover the ‘what ifs’ in the unlikely event they were to eventuate.”

“Provided that the severe drought doesn’t extend beyond Autumn, and there is no failure at a large thermal plant, which is rare, the situation will be okay. However, should either of these two events occur, we may reach a point where some action would need to be taken. This action would be in the form of demand side management initiatives – where customers reduce their electricity consumption for a financial incentive - and the industry is already talking to some of their large customers about this process, and planning other customer measures.”

“The industry is working well together to ensure that the power system remains secure this coming winter. It is important to note that, although we are initiating planning measures now, there is still plenty of time for it to rain – and rain will help the situation – before we need to implement any of the demand side initiatives.”

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