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Details of electricity power cut investigation released

Hon Dr Megan Woods
Minister of Energy and Resources

The scope of the Government-ordered investigation into the electricity supply issues that led to more than 34,000 consumers being left without power last week has today been released by Energy and Resources Minister Megan Woods.

“New Zealanders have a right to expect that on a bitterly cold winter’s night that when they turn on the heater or flick on a light switch that they will be warm and not left in the dark when generation can’t meet demand,” said Megan Woods.

“I have directed the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) to carry out an investigation to look into the causes and factors contributing to the interruptions to the power supply on the evening of 9 August.

“I want to know why there was not enough generation to meet demand and am seeking recommendations that will reduce the risk of future supply interruption and ensure any demand curtailment is appropriately managed.

“The investigation will look into how pending power interruptions are communicated to consumers, industry, stakeholders and whether the notices issued to market participants can be improved.

“In addition, the investigation will also look at the availability of generation, demand forecasts, security margins and whether existing arrangements deliver appropriate security and reliability,” said Megan Woods.

Pete Hodgson will lead the investigation with Erik Westergaard being the specialist technical advisor. MBIE will provide secretariat support.

The investigation may draw upon information and insight from reviews being carried out by Transpower and the Electricity Authority.

Transpower, the system operator, is carrying out an internal review of its performance, and the Electricity Authority, the electricity market regulator, is conducting a review under section 16 of the Electricity Industry Act into how the electricity system performed.

The MBIE investigation will not: determine any breach of the Electricity Industry Participation Code or other laws; address methods to reduce electricity demand or to encourage generation investment; or consider ownership or institutional governance arrangements in the sector.

It is anticipated that the investigation will commence on 19 August with a written report expected within 6-10 weeks.

The full terms of reference are available here.

Pete Hodgson

Pete Hodgson spent over 20 years as a Member of Parliament, nine of them as a senior Cabinet minister whose relevant portfolios included energy, science, economic development, tertiary education, Crown Research Institutes, commerce and health. Prior to entering Parliament he practised as a veterinarian in NZ and the UK, taught secondary level physics and owned or ran a number of small businesses. Since leaving Parliament he has spent time as CE Otago Innovation and, among other things is currently chair of Callaghan Innovation Ltd.

Erik Westergaard

Erik Westergaard is an electricity market and energy sector regulatory specialist who has been closely involved in the establishment and ongoing development of electricity market arrangements in several countries. This has included reviewing market arrangement to ensure that the electricity market delivered the expected benefits to consumers.

Erik has also held a number of senior executive positions, including as the CEO of Buller Electricity and as a Director of Pulse Energy. He is currently an independent consultant.

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