What Causes Power Outages In New Zealand?

Date Sep 9, 2021
Blog category Power
By Khristine Eusebio
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New Zealand's power cuts recently affected more than 30,000 kiwis last month, which led Electricity Authority to order a review on the blackouts. This was after Haast Energy and Electric Kiwi, two small power retailers, had submitted a formal complaint about the blackouts and how big generators like Genesis and Contact used their market dominance and didn't provide enough power to meet demand.

The EA's chief executive James Stevenson-Wallace has responded by making sure that there will be an investigation regarding the issue and assure consumers in response to the blackouts.

The review will undergo two phases, the first one will focus on giving immediate assurance that the problems that caused the power cuts have been fixed while phase two will deal with a larger scope, beyond the operator's part, and will depend on the first phase' findings.

EA has been in contact with all the distributors and retailers in the affected areas. They have also encouraged consumers to call their retailer if they're still having issues even after Monday's event.

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Power Outages in New Zealand

Power outages, even for a short period of time, can cause major disruptions in our work and life. Here are the common types of power outages:

Brownout

A brownout means there's a drop in electrical voltage or electrical power supply. You can easily tell that it's a brownout if there's a dimming of light, which may result in poor performance of electronic appliances.

Blackout

Perhaps the most common type of power outage, a blackout happens when there's a complete loss of electricity in your area. Blackouts are usually caused by a fault in the power grid, whether it's from the power stations or power lines. This type of outage may last from a couple of minutes to months, depending on how bad the damage is (e.g. damage caused by natural disasters). It may also take time for technicians to fix.

Permanent Fault

A permanent fault means there's a sudden loss of electricity caused by a fault in the power line, which needs to be cleared and fixed by technicians first for power to be restored. Unlike the other types of power outages, a permanent fault is quite easy to fix and does not affect bigger areas.

While it's a rare occurrence in New Zealand, it does still happen. But what exactly causes them? There are many possible reasons why power outages in NZ happen.

What causes power outages?

Power outages happen for various reasons, mainly external causes that are beyond the power system and provider's control.

Planned Outages

There are situations wherein power companies are forced to cut power for a certain period, similar to the recent power outage wherein there was little generation capacity to meet demand, or when they need to do some maintenance work.

Natural disasters and severe weather

Weather and natural disasters can cause power outages. Ice and snowfall can cause serious damage to external power lines, especially in colder regions. Floodings and windy weather can also cause trees and posts to fall and hit power line equipments that can cause a power outage.

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Accidents

Accidents happen on a daily basis and sometimes, cars or trucks hit a power line which causes power outages to an area.

What should I do if I experience a power issue?

If you experience a power outage, it's best to give your power provider or network a call and report the problem as this will help them identify which areas are affected faster.

What is New Zealand doing to avoid power outages in the future?

Apart from Electric Authority's quick response when it comes to power outages, many NZ companies are launching projects that could help improve electricity resources in the country, including more solar farms, and Hive Energy's recent announcement about their joint venture which will develop a pipeline of nearly 350 MW of utility-scale PV plants all over New Zealand.

Hive Energy, Ethical Power, and Solar South West will collaborate and combine their knowledge for the JV also known as HES Aotearoa. This is a great opportunity to improve New Zealand’s electricity consumption and resources and reach the country's goal to have 100% renewable electricity generation by 2030.

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