Free electricity leaves central city cold

Hannah Martin (left) and Annaleise Geerligs say the power cuts have been going on for about two...
Hannah Martin (left) and Annaleise Geerligs say the power cuts have been going on for about two to three weeks. Photo: Gregor Richardson
Central Dunedin residents may be in for more cold nights as transformer overloads have been deemed the cause of over two weeks of intermittent power outages.

People living on Pitt St and Heriot Row have been plagued by a series of late-night power outages over the last two weeks.

The outages ranged in length from a couple of minutes to three hours.

The power outages had been linked to free electricity being offered during off-peak hours by electricity providers, such as Electric Kiwi’s "hour of power".

Free electricity services have been an issue for Aurora Energy in the past.

Pitt St resident Annaleise Geerligs said the last time her power had gone out was on Tuesday night.

Her flat of 12 people was without power from 9pm until 11.15pm, she said.

"It’s been going on for about two to three weeks," she said.

Her flatmate had two assignments due the last evening power went out and was not able to complete them.

Miss Geerligs was concerned over how the power outages caused her flat to become freezing cold.

Another resident, Georgia Lawson, said her flat had six power outages, with the most recent the night before which lasted an hour and a-half.

The first time the power went out, she and her flatmates were incredibly confused, she said.

"When they happen that’s the time we’ve wanted to put our heaters on and stay warm," Miss Lawson said.

The outages, which she said ranged from 9pm until midnight, prevented her flatmates from studying and making dinner.

"It makes it really hard. We tried to call Contact [Energy] but no-one has been helpful, " she said.

Aurora Energy customer and engagement manager Lisa Gloag said the outages in Pitt St and Heriot Row were due to a series of transformer overloads on the street, which coincided with periods of free electricity.

Aurora Energy would be installing a voltage logger that would record peak loads to further inform them about the issue and help them to overcome it.

Electric Kiwi, well-known provider of the free "hour of power," said it had collaborated with Aurora in the past to educate the student population on appropriate power usage, but Aurora no longer engaged with them.

"It is our view that Aurora has the responsibility to provide network capacity to allow for all customers to heat their homes, even in a cold snap," it said.

Aurora’s responsibility extended to students who used the cheaper or free off-peak times to heat their homes, Electric Kiwi said.