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Risk Of 2006 Winter Power Crisis "Nearly" Over

Risk Of 2006 Winter Power Crisis "Nearly" Over

By Alastair Thompson

Recent rainfall in the South Island breaking the drought on the Taieri Plains and bringing flooding to Oamaru has had a clear upside for the rest of the country.

Over the past five days the rain has also seen the Southern hydro lakes rapidly filling up. Since April 16 the level of storage in the hydro system has increased from 71% of average for this time of year, to 84% of the average (59% of the maximum).

According to an industry insider who spoke to Scoop off-the-record this means that New Zealand is, "nearly but not quite out of the woods", in terms of experiencing a power crisis this winter.

The following graph taken from M-co's hydrology page shows the impact of recent rains in comparison to previous hydro drought years.

Click for big version

The bold red line shows this year's lake storage levels while the green line below it shows the path taken in storage levels during the record-setting 1992 drought. In 1992 drastic measures were taken to keep the lights on in the major cities including turning on Wellington Hospital's diesel generation plant.

Whereas at the beginning of April this year the hydro storage position was nearly as poor as that experienced in 1992, over the past 10 days the position has already improved past that of 2003. Storage levels are now close to matching those experienced at the same time last year when there was no threat of a crisis.

The market has been responding to the change in circumstances for more than a month seemingly anticipating the recent rainfall. From a high point of over 24 in March the m-co spot price index has now fallen to 10.9.

Website resources:
COMIT Free To Air - a free service to information about New Zealand's Electricity Market.

The last two weekly market summaries in PDF format:
23 April 2006
16 April 2006

Daily hydro Inflows (as a percentage of average for this time of year) over the past five days:

22-Apr 126%
23-Apr 279%
24-Apr 206%
25-Apr 176%
26-Apr 173%

Don Brash press statement 12 April 2006:
Power savings campaign needed now

© Scoop Media

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