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Power failure highlights grid's fragility

Nick Smith National Party Energy Spokesman

12 June 2006

Power failure highlights grid's fragility

Provenco corp hurries together a generator solution.. just as the lights turn back on.Today's massive power failure in Auckland and Hamilton shows just how fragile New Zealand's transmission system has become, says National's Energy spokesman Nick Smith.

"Storms and accidents will inevitably knock down lines but the system should be designed and maintained to always have an alternative circuit available.

"Overhead earthwires brought down by the weather caused Auckland to grind to a halt today. That's not good enough.

"Consulting engineer Bryan Leyland has blamed a lack of investment in the grid for the problem, and pointed out Auckland's vulnerability.

"Engineers have been warning the Government for years that the level of investment in transmission has not been sufficient to keep up with growth, particularly in the upper North Island.

"Meridian Energy chief executive Keith Turner said in February last year that 'New Zealand's electricity grid is so overworked that some lines cannot be taken out of action for servicing. That is unheard of in the Western developed world.'

"The cost of this electricity failure will amount to tens of millions of dollars for the Auckland economy - as well as the human cost of delayed medical operations, lost schooling and personal inconvenience," says Dr Smith.

"This is a warning shot that Auckland's electricity infrastructure is nearly as bad as its roads.

"Can the Energy Minister reassure the public of Auckland that this won't happen again?

"The system should be able to cope with a storm of this sort and National will be following the issue up with more questions about not only went wrong, but why there were no backup systems in place."



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