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Blackout report to be with Government in fortnight

13 June 2006

Blackout report to be with Government in fortnight

Transpower is to report to ministers on how and why Monday's blackout of Auckland occurred, Energy Minister David Parker said today.

He said he had written to Transpower chairman David Gascoigne today asking the national grid operator to report to Government within the next two weeks.

Auckland's central business district, southern and eastern suburbs were without power for up to eight hours yesterday after an earthing cable broke and damaged the Otahuhu substation.

Mr Parker said the Government was deeply concerned about the unacceptably widespread blackout which followed the incident.

"I will be having the Transpower report reviewed by an independent expert, and necessary action will be taken promptly."

Mr Parker said the Government had also asked for urgent advice on whether an additional substation on a different site to that of Otahuhu was needed to provide greater diversity of transmission routes into Auckland.

"This Government has demonstrated its commitment to investment in infrastructure. If we need to spend more to ensure supply, we will."

The letter to Transpower chairman David Gascoigne

***********

13 June 2006

Mr David Gascoigne Chair Transpower Ltd PO Box 1021 Wellington

Dear David

I am writing following the major power outage in Auckland yesterday, 12 June.

As you are aware, the consequences of the outage were severe, and are not acceptable in a major urban centre such as Auckland.

I understand that you will be undertaking an internal review of the events of yesterday.

In addition, I am asking that you provide an urgent report to me, by 23 June, addressing the following matters:

1. The reasons for the failure of the earth-wire that appears to have been the trigger for the subsequent problems.

Was the cause a weather event beyond the range that such wires are designed to withstand? If so, is the design standard appropriate? If not, what was the cause of the wire snapping?

2. The reasons why the failure of the earth-wire had such severe and widespread consequences for power supply into Auckland.

My understanding is that the system should be robust to a single event such as an earth-wire snapping.

If part of the answer is that the system is unacceptably vulnerable to failure at a single substation ? Otahuhu ? please provide at least initial thoughts on what might be done to reduce this risk in both the short-term [e.g. via changes to operational and maintenance practices] and in the medium-term [e.g. via additional investment].

Following receipt of your report, I will seek independent advice on your conclusions and any proposed further actions.

I am particularly concerned to ensure that any learnings from the events of yesterday are rapidly applied so that ongoing risks to security of supply are minimised.

Yours sincerely

David Parker

cc: Minister of Finance Minister of State-Owned Enterprises Electricity Commissioner

ENDS


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