Archive | Energy

Vector fails on outage check

Power was cut to some of the houses in our suburban street for several hours last night – inconvenient, and it necessitated a return to the cbd for my wife, who’d intended to work from home on a computer programming update.

At both the cbd & suburban ends, we dialled up the Vector Ltd website to see how long this outage might take.

The answer? “Information is not currently available. Please try again later.”

That wasn’t just for us. That was an Auckland-wide response.

This morning, the outage section of its website works: The screen reads “Current outages” with a tick and the comment “Great! Nothing to report”.

For some strange reason, the only times we look at the Vector website is when the power is out. And it was worse than useless.

Attribution: Vector website.

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Commission refuses Transpower full recovery of overspend

The Commerce Commission has concluded that state-owned enterprise Transpower NZ Ltd could have avoided spending $17.7 million of a $70 million overspend on the North Island grid upgrade project.

The commission released a draft decision yesterday on Transpower’s application seeking to recover its overspend, which added $70 million to the original $824 million the Electricity Commission approved in 2007.

Transpower owns & operates the national electricity grid, and the project was part of a suite of initiatives aimed at improving security of electricity supply to Auckland & Northland. The commission is reviewing the project because Transpower spent more than originally approved.

Commission deputy chairwoman Sue Begg said the review found the $70 million overspend was largely due to under-forecasting at the beginning of the project: “The grid upgrade was the largest & most complex transmission line project that Transpower had undertaken for many years. Accurately forecasting the costs of major infrastructure projects is challenging, so spending in excess of a forecast is not necessarily inefficient.

“The focus of this review was to identify costs that Transpower could have foreseen & avoided. We found that $17.7 million of the $70 million overspend was avoidable and this all relates to construction costs for the 400 kV line. Specifically, this was a result of construction work being undertaken out of sequence.

“Our assessment is in line with Transpower’s own estimates of the costs that arose from later than ideal planning, which it proposed to not recover. Our draft decision will allow Transpower to recover an additional $52.3 million from consumers, which amounts to roughly 89c/year for the average consumer.

“Preventing Transpower from recovering the avoidable costs from consumers will encourage it to deliver investments more efficiently, while still providing incentives for new investments that are appropriate in the future.”

The commission is seeking feedback on its draft decision & Transpower’s proposal by Thursday 21 May.

Link: Commerce Commission decision

Attribution: Commission release.

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Agreement for Transpower cables to cross Auckland goes unconditional

Published 2 June 2011

The tunnel agreement between Vector Ltd & Transpower NZ Ltd, allowing Transpower’s high voltage cable circuit to be installed in Vector tunnels between Transpower’s Penrose & Albany substations, has gone unconditional.

The access agreement was signed last June to enable Transpower to deliver its North Auckland & Northland project, reinforcing electricity supply. Vector will use the opportunity to upgrade its own substations on the North Shore and in the central business area. In exchange for the rights granted under the agreement, Transpower will pay Vector $53 million in 2 instalments of $28 million this month and $25 million in June 2012. Want to comment? Go to the forum.


Attribution: Company release, story written by Bob Dey for the Bob Dey Property Report.

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Brown ignores real projects as he joins “Get a new power supply” cry

Published 26 January 2010

Manukau mayor Len Brown picked up the “Get a new power supply” cry today in the wake of power outages arising from conflict between TransPower & a Waikato farmer, and a fire caused by transmission lines over trees on the farm yesterday.


Would a combined-cycle gas-turbine power station up around Helensville do? Rodney District Council’s plan change enabling Genesis Energy Ltd’s 480Mw combined-cycle station between Helensville & Kaukapakapa became operative on Friday 22 January. The station is to be built in 2 stages and would, as I understand it, provide the energy for at least 300,000 homes.


Or a tidal scheme feeding lower Northland, as backup? Crest Energy Ltd estimates the 200Mw (gross) tidal power scheme in the mouth of the Kaipara Harbour, for which it received interim consent in December, would generate power for up to 250,000 homes.


Mr Brown ignored those real projects as he said: “The new Auckland Council needs to investigate electricity generation options which will guarantee security of supply. Relying on lines transmitting energy from generators hundreds & hundreds of miles away will always leave Auckland vulnerable to transmission cuts & system failures as we saw yesterday. “Power supply to first-class cities should not be caught in the middle of an intemperate scrap between a single disgruntled farmer & a single power transmission company. "It’s important to note that major investment is currently going into the power lines & upgrade of the Otahuhu substation. However, we need to examine ways of generating energy close to source & north of Auckland. Rather than playing the old blame game, we should be focused on how to future-proof our city. “The new council will have the critical mass to investigate options with power utilities to begin to provide generation to Auckland which is sustainable & secure. It needs to support proposals for sustainable generation close to Auckland – such as the proposals we are seeing for wind & tidal generation on sites on the west coast. "The Super City can work with power generation companies to share information, give advice on environmental impacts and represent local communities when it comes to new development. The new structure provides us with the chance to try new approaches to growth. "The council will also be able to examine & standardise the region’s best consenting practices, which could allow easier & cheaper installation of solar panels & home wind generation. It can also work with residential & commercial developers to share knowledge on energy efficiency to lessen demand. “The council also has to do all it can to ensure all regulatory hurdles for upgrades to the existing big-ticket infrastructure run as smoothly as possible. “The council might even look at joint ventures with power companies, such as the Whitford landfill development that draws methane gas from waste to make energy. All possibilities should be canvassed.  Otherwise we’re left with the status quo – insecure supply & major outages causing havoc to the region & its economy.”




Auckland had a 5-week power crisis in 1998 and a blackout in 2006. After the second of these, the Auckland Regional Council began work on a regional energy strategy, whose priority faded along with memories of the outage itself.


Mr Brown’s notion that the new Auckland Council should give advice to power suppliers on environmental impacts is an example of how the structure of the new council is likely to place the present regional council’s role as an environmental regulator well down the priority list.


And his notion that the new council should represent local communities when it comes to new development appears at odds with the likely role of the new local boards, and also at odds with likely opponents of any proposed development.


Want to comment? Go to the forum.


Attribution: Mayoral release, story written by Bob Dey for the Bob Dey Property Report.

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Ngatamariki geothermal station out for consultation

Published 23 November 2009

Jurisdiction: Taupo District




Applicant: Rotokawa Joint Venture Ltd


Application detail: Rotorua, 1627 State Highway 5, application to build the Ngatamariki geothermal power station & associated infrastructure, including a transmission corridor between the power station & the Nga Awa Purua substation


Notification date: 20 November


Submission closure date: Friday 18 December


Other details: The joint venture is between Tauhara Development Ltd (Aroha Campbell & Timoti Nikora, Rotorua) & Rotokawa Geothermal Ltd, a subsidiary of Mighty River Power Ltd, which is a state-owned enterprise.


Want to comment? Go to the forum.


Attribution: Council notice, story written by Bob Dey for the Bob Dey Property Report.

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Auckland electricity upgrade approved

Published 4 May 2009

The Electricity Commission has approved Transpower’s $473 million North Auckland & Northland (NAaN) project, which will reinforce electricity supply through Auckland and for Northland.


The project involves installing a cable between Penrose & Albany, a new 220/110kV transformer at the Penrose substation and a 220kV cable between the Pakuranga & Penrose substations. The project makes allowance for 2 new grid exit points to supply Vector at Hobson St in the cbd and Wairau Rd on the North Shore.


Transpower has withdrawn a second proposal regarding a potential second cable between the Penrose & Albany substations. The commission’s approval is required before Transpower can charge consumers for the cost of new transmission investments. The commission had previously said it intended to decline the proposal as analysis showed it didn’t pass the cost-benefit test that all transmission projects must pass.


“The test compares Transpower’s proposals against alternatives to see which provides the best value, and so protects consumers from paying too much for transmission.” In its original decision to decline, the commission said alternatives to NAaN, including waiting to build it until it was needed in 2016, appeared to have significant benefits compared to proceeding with the project as a whole at this time. In particular, there was uncertainty over the proposed Genesis Energy power station at Helensville. The commission said new information presented at a public conference caused it to review its assumptions regarding the alternatives, the comparative benefits of the NAaN proposal & its earliest commissioning date, which Transpower now says is 2014. After considering these submissions and carrying out further analysis, the commission concluded NAaN was the best way to reinforce supply through Auckland.


Auckland City Council city development committee chairman Aaron Bhatnagar said the decision meant the city would have a built-in contingency for its electricity transmission lines, dramatically reducing the risk of widespread power failures like that in February.


Want to comment? Email [email protected].


Attribution: Commission & council releases, story written by Bob Dey for the Bob Dey Property Report.

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Commission release electricity distribution methodology paper

Published 26 June 2008

The Commerce Commission released its methodology paper today on encouraging competitive & consumer-friendly behaviour among electricity distributors.


At least, I think that’s what it’s supposed to be about. From one point of view, it’s been about that ever since privatisation supposedly improved the industry in the mid-90s. From another point of view it’s been about successful gouging, coinciding with a national failure to provide adequate certainty of supply. Setting up a system encouraging profitmaking in a basic industry could never be balanced by the provision of bad-times security of supply.


The paper, Update concerning the reset of thresholds for electricity distribution businesses, is part of the process for the reset of the current price-path & quality thresholds applying to these businesses and is to take effect from 1 April 2009.


The commission published its discussion paper on the threshold reset last December, setting set out a discussion on a range of issues the commission considered relevant in resetting thresholds. The update takes in views of submitters and the commission’s preliminary views on specific issues: 


various components of the price-path & quality thresholdsthe requirement for a mechanism to incentivise network investment, and a number of areas where refinements to the thresholds may be appropriate.

The update also sets out a number of areas where the commission intends to undertake further research before setting out its views.


The commission said it wouldn’t invite submissions: “Correspondence received will be considered as part of the consultation following the publication of the commission’s initial decisions paper, scheduled for September.”


Website: Electricity distribution business thresholds update paper


Want to comment? Email [email protected].


Attribution: Commission release, and a comment, story written by Bob Dey for this website.

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BRANZ says escalation in summer heat-pump use could hit electricity supply plans

Published 30 March 2008

Research company BRANZ Ltd says a study it’s completed shows a dramatic increase in the country’s use of heat pumps, with potentially significant consequences for electricity planners & suppliers.


The study report, Active cooling & heat pump use in New Zealand, reveals that New Zealanders are quickly adopting technology for cooling their houses in summer as well as heating them in winter and, in all likelihood, creating something of a headache for energy planners.


Report author Lisa French said: “One of the implications of this shift in demand is a potential upwards trend in electricity usage in summer as well as in winter, as consumers also move to replace solid-fuel burners. The study has also found people are using their heat pumps to heat to higher temperatures and for longer hours than the technologies they have replaced. This will probably result in better occupant health, but will also result in greater electricity usage.


“The results of the survey have been surprising. We knew heat pump sales were strong, but last year nearly 78,000 were sold, which is more than double the number sold in 2004, the first year figures were publicly available.”


Ms French said a previous study completed in 2004 showed 4% of houses had the ability to cool their indoor environment but this year the average was 19%, with regional variations from 50% to none. Heat pumps were installed in nearly half of all new houses during construction.


More than half the heat pumps installed were for cooling – a new load on the electricity network when domestic loads are traditionally at their lowest, during summer.


Website: Branz heat pump report


Want to comment? Email [email protected].


Attribution: BRANZ release, story written by Bob Dey for this website.

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NZ Windfarms gets Manawatu consent

Published: 14 February 2005

NZ Windfarms Ltd has got resource consent for its proposed Te Rere Hau windfarm near Palmerston North.

 Environment Commissioner Alistair Aburn granted consent after hearing submissions last December. Windfarms chief executive Chris Freear said it had taken 10 years to establish the windfarm, which he said was the first to use New Zealand-designed & manufactured wind turbines.The proposed Te Rere Hau windfarm is next to TrustPower’s Tararua windfarm, described as the most productive windfarm in the world.Subject to appeals, Windfarms believes it can have its initial batch of turbines operating early next summer. It’s planned a staged process to have all 104 turbines in place by 2008.”We have other windfarm sites in advanced stages of planning. So even if appeals delay the process at Te Rere Hau, we are likely to use one of these sites for our first turbines,” Mr Freear said.The company is negotiating an agreement with Windflow Technology to buy up to 104 Windflow 500 turbines over the next 3 years.

If you want to comment on this story, write to the BD Central Discussion forum or send an email to [email protected].

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Wind turbine grant to help isolated networks

Published: 8 February 2005

Technology NZ has given listed wind turbine manufacturer Windflow Technology Ltd a $130,000 research grant through the Technology for Business Growth (TBG) scheme.

That’s half the funding for the company needs to prove the suitability of its Windflow 500 turbine for use in small, isolated networks such as islands or remote communities.Windflow chief executive Geoff Henderson said the technology produced would be a wind turbine capable of operating successfully in tandem with a diesel generator, in an isolated situation. He said wind-diesel combinations were likely to lead the way to water desalination & refrigeration applications which the company expects will be growth markets.The research project is also intended to demonstrate the ability of the Windflow synchronous design to ride through a fault in the electrical grid. “Fault ride-through is important not only for isolated grid applications but also for national grid-connected wind farms as wind power becomes a significant source of generation. The issue of wind power’s fault ride-through capability has become a major concern internationally in recent years and is increasingly seen by Windflow as a point of competitive advantage for its TLG technology.”

If you want to comment on this story, write to the BD Central Discussion forum or send an email to [email protected].

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