Meridian granted freedom to lower lake an extra 5m

Environment Canterbury has given Meridian Energy more freedom to lower Lake Pukaki.

At yesterday's meeting, the regional council's commissioners signed off an amendment allowing Meridian to lower the lake a further five metres from the minimum level of 518m above sea level in the event of an energy crisis.

A report presented to the commissioners said it was a necessary move, "given the dominant position of Lake Pukaki in the national hydro storage system".

The report said benefits of the move would include greater security of supply, suppressed wholesale electricity prices and less dependence on gas or coal-fired generation.

When ECan put the proposal out for public comment, it received submissions from local runholders, concerned about the likelihood of further erosion or dust storms caused by the lower lake levels. However, it appears that the submissions have since been withdrawn. Bronwen Murray, who lives at the Wolds, in Tekapo, said Meridian had been very practical in their recent dealings.

"I'm pleased they finally came to us and assured [us] that our concerns would be addressed. It's nice to see them do that," she said.

Meridian's planning documents suggest the move could generate an extra 550 gigawatt hours of power.

In May, Lake Pukaki was at 51 per cent of hydro capacity, around the same level as during the 1992 power crisis.

Heavy rainfall in the last month or so means the lake level is now sitting at 526.3m above sea level; the normal operating range for Lake Pukaki is between 518m and 532m, depending on the time of year.

Lake Pukaki is Meridian's largest storage lake, after it purchased Genesis Tekapo A and B last year.

The Timaru Herald