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The BulletinMay 10, 2024

Could you be about to lose your power?


New Zealanders have been asked to conserve energy this morning to combat a possible electricity shortfall, writes Stewart Sowman-Lund in this extract from The Bulletin. To receive The Bulletin in full each weekday, sign up here.

A call to conserve power

New Zealand is facing a possible electricity shortfall, with people up and down the country being urged to conserve energy from about now – 7am – through until 9am this morning. On Facebook yesterday afternoon, Transpower said “an unseasonal cold snap and low wind generation” was to blame, potentially causing power outages on what’s set to be one of the coldest mornings of the year so far. Transpower has urged New Zealanders to be “mindful of their electricity” use this morning, suggesting that heaters and lights are turned off where possible, appliances – like washing machines and dishwashers – aren’t used until after 9am, and devices like EVs are left off charge. Transpower’s Chantelle Bramley spoke more about the possible outage with Newstalk ZB’s Heather du Plessis-Allan last night.

Is anyone to blame?

Energy minister Simeon Brown certainly believes so. He said the government had inherited an “energy system which is in crisis”, reported Stuff. It sparked a war of words between the two major parties, as The Post reported, with Labour’s Megan Woods rejecting her party had anything to do with today’s possible power outages – and said it had nothing to do with the former government’s decision to not to issue new offshore gas exploration permits in 2018. In a lengthy interview with RNZ’s Nine to Noon last year, Woods, while still a minister, discussed the problems facing the energy sector. This isn’t the first time New Zealand has faced grid emergencies, with a major power outage in August 2021 ultimately resulting in a $150,000 fine for Transpower.

‘More coal will be needed to keep the lights on’

The issue of power more broadly has been in the news quite a lot this week. On Wednesday, a joint statement from Brown and resources minister Shane Jones noted that low gas production could mean “more coal will be needed to keep the lights on”. Brown told parliament that the government was committed to “returning investment confidence in the natural gas sector”. Megan Woods defended the last government’s actions, saying New Zealand must transition away from gas. Richard Harman has written more about this over on Politik(paywalled). Meanwhile, iwi in south Taranaki met with Jones to discuss the possible removal of the oil and gas exploration ban, the Whanganui Chronicle reported. National, Act and New Zealand First all campaigned on repealing the 2018 ban, as this piece from Newsroom’s Marc Daalder examined.

It’s going to be a cold day

As I sit in my dressing gown on a chilly Auckland morning, I’m sparing a thought for those in much colder parts of the country. At 5.30am, Christchurch, Twizel and Mt Cook Airport were down around -6.4C, reported the Herald. Alexandra was at -5C, while parts of North Island have also dropped below zero, including Taumarunui at -4.6C. Here in Tāmaki Makaurau, it’s a comparably balmy 3C. The latest on the situation, as I’ve just heard on RNZ’s Morning Report, is that it’s a colder than expected day in the North Island and Transpower has warned blackouts could still not be ruled out (though there haven’t been any so far). Keep warm wherever you are.

Keep going!