June 15, 2008

SURVIVAL TOOLKIT: New Zealand powercuts in 4 weeks (with tips!)

Four weeks until power cuts (+photos)

Lake Tekapo's water level may contribute to an electricity crisis. Photo / Grant Bradley

Lake Tekapo's water level may contribute to an electricity crisis. Photo / Grant Bradley

The country has just four weeks before severe power cutbacks will be needed.

Only extensive rain flowing into the South Island's hydro lakes will avert extensive cutbacks - but signs are that wintery weather headed that way will drop snow, not rain.

In developments yesterday:

* Civil Defence chiefs met in Auckland and urged the Government to implement an energy-savings campaign early.

* Meridian Energy warned that any "glitch" at Huntly's thermal power station this winter would plunge the country into an electricity crisis.

* Genesis Energy chief executive Murray Jackson said the North Island's peak demand - between 6pm and 8pm each day - had to drastically drop in the next four weeks.

Hydro-electric stations usually produce about 70 per cent of the country's electricity, but they are contributing only 50 per cent at the moment.

That has caused a shift in dependency to thermally generated power this winter, all of which comes from the North Island, Meridian spokesman Alan Seay said.

He said Meridian was still optimistic that winter power shortages could be avoided, with one warning: "If Huntly falls over, we've got an instant code red."

Huntly's coal- and gas-fired station has a 1450-megawatt capacity, making it the largest-capacity power station in the country.

The South Island's Waitaki and Clutha power schemes have a combined capacity of more than 2500MW, but their main storage lakes (Tekapo, Pukaki and Hawea) are at about half the level they should be.

Mr Jackson said users needed to conserve energy wherever possible to prolong what little reserves were left in the South Island's lakes.

Limiting use of clothes driers, dishwashers and washing machines would be a good step, he said. People should also look to reduce their lighting usage by half.

More information here.

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