Challenge to minister on power for Clyde

Mayor Tim Cadogan. Photo: ODT files
Mayor Tim Cadogan. Photo: ODT files
Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan has called on Energy Minister Megan Woods to direct the Electricity Authority to review Aurora Energy’s ability to supply electricity to Clyde.

In a letter to the minister on Monday, Mr Cadogan spoke of the effects of the unscheduled power outage on businesses and residents — particularly elderly people — in below-zero temperatures on June 14.

Mr Cadogan also warned of the possible ramifications on the area’s horticulture and viticulture industry should an outage occur at the wrong time — something that could cost the local and national economy millions of dollars in lost revenue.

Yesterday, a copy of a letter Mr Cadogan sent to Dr Woods was forwarded to the Otago Daily Times from the mayor’s office.

It is understood Aurora Energy chief executive Richard Fletcher also received a copy on Monday.

While power was restored after about nine hours, and before the situation became critical, the issue ‘‘was resolved for that day, and that day alone’’, he said.

‘‘Aurora has advised that it has no intention of providing a permanent backup transformer for Clyde and surrounds.’’

That put people again at risk in winter, he said.

Outside winter, a secure supply was needed for irrigation and frost-fighting in the Clyde-Earnscleugh area.

‘‘If such a power cut occurred at the wrong time, millions of dollars could be wiped from our local economy in lost fruit and grape production.’’

He called on Dr Woods to instruct the Electricity Authority to review and report on Aurora’s ability to provide a ‘‘level of service to Clyde and surrounds that meets legal requirements and a reasonable objective standard’’.

Mr Cadogan yesterday said the ‘‘straw that broke the camel’s back’’ that prompted his letter was Aurora delivering an email to businesses stating if they wanted security of supply, they should buy a generator.

That was an ‘‘admission of defeat’’, he said.

He questioned if having such poor electricity infrastructure was acceptable.

‘‘If so, I want the Government to tell me that.’’

An Aurora Energy spokeswoman yesterday reiterated the company was sorry for the outage, and was assessing whether it could have completed the work to restore power faster, what led to the fault, and its communication.

‘‘But it is a complex job when a transformer trips and reinstatement cannot be rushed.

‘‘We acknowledge our communication on the day was not perfect and we are looking at how we can improve this.’’

To say Aurora Energy had no intention of providing a backup supply to Clyde was incorrect, she said.

‘‘Our planned investment over the next two years specifically includes installing an alternative supply to the Clyde community which we will be able to switch over to in the event of a fault occurring similar to the fault experienced on June 14.’’

This was not a duplication of the substation but an alternative supply route which could be switched to when required, she said.

She also noted the company’s customised price-quality path (CCP) which was before the Commerce Commission.

‘‘We understand that the commission will consult with the Clyde community in August and we will support this process.’’

The Otago Daily Times had contacted the Minister of Energy’s office yesterday but had not received a reply before going to press last night.




Aurora’s ineptness again. A systemic failure of management that nearly caused a mayor to declare a state of emergency on the morning of the coldest day of the year -9degC. That would have required relocating all elderly and residents without fires to community centres. An outage that hugely affected small business recovering from Covid restrictions. A BS apology from a nameless member of the company. The arrogance of this company is not a good fit for the future of Central Otago. Horticulture/Viticulture is hugely at risk for the coming frost season. Management can’t even run a faults page out of business hours. These assets in our community need to be offered to a lines company that can front the community’s they serve.

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