Powerco works on meeting targets

LYN HUMPHREYS
Last updated 05:00 03/02/2014

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Powerco's electricity network has more power cuts than it should, industry figures show, but the company is bettering targets for getting power back on.

The publicly-listed New Plymouth-based company, the second-largest lines company in New Zealand, came in for flack last week when an as-yet unexplained cut affected large numbers of homes and businesses.

Taranaki dairy farmers were the most outspoken in responding to the news on social media when the power cut disrupted milking.

However, Powerco's figures show that in the last year the company was able to provide electricity to its more than 420,000 customers 99.97 per cent of the time.

Federated Farmers Taranaki president Bronwyn Muir said most farmers, especially those in isolated areas, were reasonably well prepared for power cuts.

The level of preparedness followed on from the big wind storms in South Taranaki in recent years.

It also helped if farmers were well informed by Powerco before scheduled maintenance when power needed to be cut.

Dairy farmers needed to know well ahead of time so they could, for instance, get generators in place to deal with twice-daily milking, she said. Sheep farmers were unimpressed if the power went out when they had a shed full of sheep waiting to be shorn.

Short-term power cuts were more manageable but if they were long term it could mean animals' welfare was at risk, Ms Muir said.

The national electricity watchdog, the Commerce Commission, monitors the 29 distribution companies under the Fair Trading Act.

To do this, it sets a reliability threshold within which they are expected to operate. The threshold is based on the average number of minutes per year a consumer is without electricity and is called the system average interruption duration index (Saidi).

Powerco's reliability threshold is set at 210 minutes each year.

According to the commission's website, Powerco's average duration of interruptions between 2008 and 2011 came in above its regulatory limit each one of those years and the average duration of frequency of the interruptions were both above the industry average. However, the average frequency of those inter- ruptions was below the limit.

Powerco's acting electricity general manager Phil Marsh said the company was committed to providing a safe, reliable supply of energy to all consumers connected to its networks. "Customers in rural and remote rural areas generally experience more and longer power cuts than those living in urban areas."

Trees were a never-ending concern when they were too close to powerlines and fell down during high winds.

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This year Powerco expected to spend around $24.5 million on capital and maintenance expenditure for the electricity network in Taranaki, Mr Marsh said.

- Taranaki

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