Tiwai production cut temporary

New Zealand Aluminium Smelters (NZAS) says cutting production at Tiwai Point by 5% is only a temporary measure, with no immediate impact on staffing levels.

The company announced on Wednesday it had begun reducing its electricity load from 572MW to 540MW, because of extremely low hydro-electricity lake levels, with smelter production capacity reduced by about 400 tonnes a week.

Dry weather in the South Island and North Island drought conditions have seen hydro-electricity lake levels plummet in recent weeks.

Tiwai uses about 15% of the electricity produced in New Zealand. It buys its electricity from Meridian Energy, which operates eight hydro power generation stations, all in the South Island.

NZAS general manager Ryan Cavanagh was not taking telephone calls from the media on Wednesday or yesterday, but company community relations officer Andrea Carson said in a statement yesterday there would be a return to full production once lake levels rose.

It was difficult to predict how long Tiwai would need to operate at a reduced electricity load, she said.

Asked if reduced production would affect jobs, she said no impact was expected ''at this stage''.

Transpower, which monitors electricity generation and hydro-electricity storage lake levels, said yesterday storage in all lakes was below average for the time of year and was continuing to decrease.

However, it assessed the risk of electricity shortages in the next two months as low, at less than 1%.

-allison.rudd@alliedpress.co.nz

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