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Alpine's work for 2014 to cost $15m

MATTHEW LITTLEWOOD
Last updated 05:00 08/03/2014

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Alpine Energy is continuing its major capital expenditure drive with a proposed $15 million worth of upgrades and maintenance on the books for this year.

Chief executive Andrew Tombs said that although there were several important projects in the next year, most of them were "not necessarily massively expensive".

"It's been a busy five or so years, but we've broken the back of it. I expect there to be some big projects coming up, but not of the same scale, over the next few years."

Mr Tombs said he would put the proposal to the board in the next week, and the final list would be signed off by the end of the month.

However, there was nothing on the list that was not "high, if not highest priority".

"It's a lot of work that people might not necessarily notice, such as line connection upgrades, and ring-main unit upgrades ... but all of it is essential for the security of the grid," Mr Tombs said.

In the past five years, the company has spent more than $100 million renewing and extending its assets. This included the $10m "Power to Timaru" project, completed in 2011, which upgraded the central business district's main supply from 11kV supply to 33kV.

"When we started a lot of the upgrades, we had a large bulk of infrastructure which was over 50 years old. You tackle it bit by bit," Mr Tombs said.

He expected the annual capital expenditure to average "about $8 to 10m" after the coming year. So in other words, there's a bit of ramping down on work ... but it's all important".

Last year, the company spent more than $2m on network repairs, after wind, snow and rain cut power to thousands of homes and downed hundreds of power hlines.

Mr Tombs said this led to a deferral of "about 20 per cent" of its planned work, which it would have to complete in the next financial year. "It was one of those situations where projects had to be put aside as getting people's power back on took priority."

Alpine Energy has already signalled a rise in its charges by an average of 14 per cent for the average household (11,400 kilowatt hours per year), or roughly $8.60 a month. This will come into effect next month.

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- The Timaru Herald

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