Cuts avoided after South asked to conserve power

Photo iStock.
File photo: Getty Images

Power cuts have been avoided in the South Island after residents heeded calls to reduce their electricity usage on Tuesday evening, Transpower says.

Temperatures in the South Island plummeted, and demand for electricity was beyond what the grid could handle, prompting Transpower to ask people to conserve power immediately.

Later in the evening, Transpower said in a statement "residents in Christchurch, Rangiora and Kaiapoi along with quick work by local lines companies to switch off controllable load such as hot water systems helped avoid power cuts this evening.

"Transpower also worked with electricity lines companies MainPower and Orion to switch off controllable load such as hot water systems to reduce demand on the grid. Residents should not have noticed any impact from this as it was for a short time and hot water systems are regularly switched on and off to manage demand peaks."

Peak demand started tapering off after 7pm and no power cuts were needed.

A transformer on outage could could not be brought back earlier to mitigate the risk this evening, Transpower said.

It had taken steps to prevent the issue reoccurring until the transformer was returned to service later this week.

What happened earlier?

Earlier this week MetService issued a heavy snow watch for Queenstown Lakes and Central Otago, and warned southern and eastern parts of the South Island would see highs around a wintry 12C on Wednesday.

But with temperatures already plummeting to single-digits on Tuesday evening, Transpower said electricity demand was "soaring".

Add to that a planned outage at a substation in Islington, and there was a risk of unplanned cuts.

Transpower said locals should put off using washing machines, dryers and dishwashers, delay charging electronic devices - including cars - and turn off heaters and lights in rooms they were not using.

"Transpower is advising people to stay warm by continuing to heat the rooms they are using but asking them to consider turning down the temperature a degree or two," the national grid operator said in a statement.

"Transpower is working with electricity lines companies Mainpower and Orion to switch off controllable load such as hot water systems to reduce demand on the grid.

"If this is not enough to balance the power system, along with consumers conserving power, then Transpower will need to ask lines companies to disconnect a small number of customers for a short time until peak demand is over, which is expected to be around 7pm."

Transpower said this would be a "last resort" used to prevent "cascade grid failure, which would result in extended outages for a much longer period".

At the time of the warning, Christchurch was down to 7C and Dunedin, 8C - the latter now not expected to reach double-digits on Wednesday.