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Meridian gets silver lining from February's ex-cyclones

Meridian gets silver lining from February's ex-cyclones with rain dump in hydro lakes

By Rebecca Howard

March 13 (BusinessDesk) - Meridian Energy saw hydro storage increase last month as tropical storms brought heavy rainfalls, ending a protracted dry spell for the renewable electricity generator and retailer.

Wellington-based Meridian said South Island storage at 100 percent of average storage on March 11 while North Island storage stood at 158 percent. National hydro storage increased from 92 percent to 107 percent of historical average in the month to March 11, it said.

The company's earnings fell in the final six months of 2017, largely reflecting reduced hydro generation caused by an extended period of dry weather that only broke when large rain dumps arrived in the southern lakes during ex-cyclone Fehi, which hit New Zealand in late January and early February.

"February 2018 saw the influence of two ex-tropical cyclones, with South Island rainfall totals as high as 300 percent to 400 percent of average in places and notably lower irrigation usage," Meridian said.

In late January, ex-cyclone Fehi slammed most of the country and led authorities to declare a state of emergency and ask people to avoid travelling by road in some parts of the South Island. Later that month, ex-cyclone Gita brought more rain, causing heavy flooding in some areas.

Meridian said national electricity demand in February was 2.4 percent lower than the same month a year earlier, with all the reduction being seen in the South Island. Retail sales volumes dropped 13 percent from February 2017, with residential and small to mid-sized business sales volumes down 16 percent on lower irrigation-driven agriculture use. Corporate sales fell 6.4 percent, having got a boost a year earlier when the power company signed a large short-term customer.

So far this financial year, which ends June 30, retail sales volumes are 7.1 percent higher than the same period last year.

Meridian's New Zealand generation in February was 16 percent lower than the same month in 2017, reflecting lower hydro generation and higher wind generation. Financial-year-to-date, generation is 15 percent lower than it was in the prior period.

The stock recently traded at $2.855 and has fallen 2.4 percent so far this year.

(BusinessDesk)

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