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What to expect in electricity crisis campaign

Gerry Brownlee MP
National Party Energy Spokesman

6 June 2008

What to expect in electricity crisis campaign

National Party Energy spokesman Gerry Brownlee says with a likely electricity crisis campaign due to be announced next week, consumers can probably expect incentives for savings and televised advice on how to get through.

“During the 2003 and 2001 crises, generators promised to donate money to charities for energy savings, there was a free phone line established to give consumers advice, and there was extensive advertising.

“Consumers should expect something similar to 2003’s ‘Target 10’ campaign, where electricity savings of 10% were sought.

“The difference with this year’s crisis is that the situation when it comes to the hydro lake storage is far worse,” says Mr Brownlee.

On 12 May 2003, hydro storage levels were at 2018 GWh - ie 67% of average. New Zealand was in the middle of the ‘Target 10’ per cent campaign. As at June 6 2008, the hydro lake levels are at 1465 GWh, or just 51% of average.

“Despite this, Energy Minister David Parker is doing his best impression of the famous Iraqi Information Minster, saying it is ‘too early’ for a campaign because there is no problem.

“Meanwhile, delegated spokespeople are publicly admitting the prospect of a crisis is keeping them awake at night.

“Beyond the breakdown at the Otahuhu B power plant this week, New Zealand is currently relying on a broken Cook Strait cable, a mothballed plant in New Plymouth, and a diesel guzzling emergency generator at Whirinaki.

“It is going to be touch and go.”

Mr Brownlee says consumers should prepare for all, or some, of the measures employed in the previous two crisis campaigns under Labour’s watch.


Below: Power crisis emergency measures employed in 2001 and 2003 – 1 page.

Emergency power savings measures in 2001 & 2003

The Winter Taskforce’s ‘Target 10’ campaign had an advertising campaign with a budget of $2.6 million and included musician Boh Runga and former All Black Marc Ellis.

Some of the Taskforce's recommendations were to:

1. Wash clothes in cold water and bypass the drier for the washing line

2. Turn off appliances such as TVs, stereos, dishwashers, PCs and microwaves at the wall

3. Just heat the rooms you're using

4. Take showers instead of baths

5. Switch off your heated towel rail during the day

6. Switch off your computer's monitor when you go to lunch or to a meeting

The generators/retailers got in on the act as well:

Meridian ran a $1 million for Plunket power challenge promotion - if the country saved 10% of power then Meridian would donate $1 million to Plunket.

Contact Energy set aside $3.5 million for its 500,000 customers spread through 10 regions. The money was to be divided up among community projects in each region

Genesis Power donated up to $5 million to the Genesis Oncology Trust involved in supporting the treatment of cancer as it did in 2001.

Mercury Energy paid its 280,000 customers, including 20,000 small business customers, 10c a unit for every unit saved.

Also - 12 energy savings teams were established which visited retailers and office tower managers in the Wgtn/Akl/Chch CBDs to provide savings information.


Hodgson, August 2001: "My plea to New Zealanders is not to gamble on the weather. Saving power now will save the much greater inconvenience, expense and danger of blackouts later." Key message was ‘if you're not using it, switch it off’.

In 2001, Street lights were turned off, hot water cylinders went cold, and shops stayed gloomy for most of the day. The economic impact was just as dark, with power savings clipping 0.6 percent off the gross domestic product, and carving $600 million from the national bottom line.

1. Five television commercials, fronted by television DIY man Dave Cull - gave householders practical tips about how to save electricity around the house.

2. Viewers could call 0508 SAVE IT for a free household energy efficiency video that had more detailed information on how to conserve power and cut the household power bill.

3. Billboards in two locations each in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

4. Advertising in both community and metropolitan newspapers.

5. Radio stations were sent electricity saving tips to broadcast on their community notice boards.

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