NZ’s $4.6 billion national grid investment

Tuesday, 29 May, 2012

The Sustainable Electricity Association of New Zealand (SEANZ) has welcomed the government’s Budget announcement that $4.6 billion would be spent upgrading the national electricity grid over the next 10 years.

The owners and operators of the grid, Transpower, will use the investment to ensure that the grid is able to cope with the extra demands that are made on it, and to do as much as possible to guarantee security of electricity supply for New Zealand businesses and consumers.

But Brendan Winitana, Chairman of SEANZ, said that while his organisation welcomes the investment in Transpower, he thinks there are still issues that need to be thought through, especially how the fund will be used.

“Electricity supply in New Zealand still has one major challenge. It is largely centralised generation, moving power from the hydro lakes in the deep south to the rest of the country,” he said.

“Are there better ways, where as part of a much-needed upgrade, local electricity generated from renewable sources such as solar and wind are also looked at and consideration given to how these might be integrated into the grid?”

Winitana added that the $4.6 billion investment in Transpower is as much about what the future of electricity generation will look like in the next 50 years.

“If the plan is simply to make the pipes bigger, enabling more electricity to be shifted between the islands, then I think we are missing the point.

“This is the time to plan for how distributed generation can future-proof New Zealand and provide a more effective way to deliver electricity from a variety of sources through the grid. For example, it was disappointing that the rollout of smart meters did not include an option for dispatchable loads. The smart meter boxes currently being installed all over New Zealand have no means to service people putting power back into the grid. This could have been incorporated at little additional expense at the time of installation. Not thinking about the future means that this will now have to be done as a separate exercise at considerable additional cost.

“New Zealand has the ability to be a leader in renewable energy and should be using the opportunity to make as much provision for it in the future.

“We can’t always rely on hydro, gas and coal. Our electricity future will incorporate more clean, green technology, supplementing centralised generation with power generated from local sources.”

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