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Electricity Supply Risk Increased

The risk of electricity supply shortages has increased as inflows to New Zealand's hydroelectric lakes have remained below average, says Energy Minister Pete Hodgson.

"With no signs of the current weather pattern changing in the near future, there is now a moderate risk of blackouts in in September or October if inflows remain low," Mr Hodgson said. "Hydro storage levels are now a cause for considerable concern."

Hydro storage yesterday (26 July) was 55 percent of average. The key lakes Tekapo and Pukaki, which together account for 60 percent of national hydro storage, were 37 percent and 42 percent full, respectively. Storage totalled 1323 GWh (gigawatt-hours) of electricity yesterday, compared to the maximum storage capacity of 4267 GWh. It is still significantly above the low point of about 500 GWh reached in 1992, however.

Mr Hodgson will meet electricity industry stakeholders at 3pm today to discuss possible responses to the prospect of supply shortages. Participants will include electricity industry representatives, Transpower, consumer groups, the wholesale electricity market operator M-co and officials.

"The Government's primary concern is to ensure a secure supply of electricity," Mr Hodgson said. "While high wholesale electricity prices are a concern, they are essentially a symptom of the underlying supply problem. Wholesale prices will come down when the supply situation improves."

Mr Hodgson said a key lesson from the 1992 electricity crisis was the importance of releasing information on the supply situation early so that the public and business became aware of the risk before it was too late to respond effectively.

"I have been releasing regular updates on the electricity supply situation since early June and I am satisfied that New Zealanders are alert to the risk we now face. I intend to keep up the flow of information in the coming weeks to ensure the nation is not taken by surprise the way it was in 1992, when the issue only became news when the lakes were at their lowest.

"Information is no longer enough, however, and I expect to be able to announce further initiatives after today's meeting."

Ends

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