Cook Strait Power Cable Failure

  • Gerry Brownlee
Energy and Resources

Energy and Resources Minister, Gerry Brownlee, is expressing concern at the failure of the Cook Strait power cable last night.

At 10.30pm last night Pole 2 of the High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) tripped. Transpower says a transformer failure appears to be the reason for the link to fail.

The failure of the link meant only limited power could be delivered from the South Island to the North Island but there were no immediate implications for consumers as there is sufficient generation capability available in the North Island at present.

"What this incident highlights is the continuing concern I have about the state of our transmission network and how fragile security of supply is," said Energy and Resources Minister Gerry Brownlee.

"As of this morning there is only one cable available across Cook Strait for emergency use, the 43-year-old Pole 1 link which is due for replacement. If this incident happened at the height of winter there would have been potentially significant consequences for industrial and domestic users," he said.

"I am confident Transpower is working as quickly as possible to have Pole 2 up and running. This failure validates the approach the new government is taking prioritising security of supply and encouraging Transpower's investment programme," said Mr Brownlee.

Pole 2 is a relatively new asset, built in 1992. The dated Pole 1 has limited capacity but is relied on to transfer power between the two islands at times of heavy load.

"Had any North Island generation come off line or not been available over night I am worried security of supply would have jepoardised, " said Mr Brownlee.

"I will be directing my officials to find out if this failure meant we were left in the situation of relying on thermal generation in the North Island - burning coal because of an infrastructure weakness, when the hydro lakes in the South Island are full," he said.

"The state of our transmission network has been seriously neglected by the previous government. This latest incident reinforces National's policy direction to strengthen the grid."

"Because decisions were delayed for so long on replacing Pole 1 we are still going to be reliant on its limited capacity to see us through winter," he said.

Transpower has a project underway to replace Pole One by 2012 and has a 3-point-9 billion dollar network upgrade plan.

"Transpower would be delighted if it could get Pole One replaced sooner but I am satisfied that Transpower and its Board working as quickly as possible to replace this equipment," said Mr Brownlee.