Companies reduce generation

Two energy companies have reduced generation from hydro power stations in the South as a lack of rain continues to bite.

Meridian Energy and Contact Energy said yesterday they were generating less because of low flows in the Waitaki and Clutha rivers, and to conserve water in depleted hydro storage lakes.

Meridian operates stations on the Waitaki, fed by the Pukaki, Ohau, Benmore, Waitaki and Aviemore hydro storage lakes. Those lakes were 34% below their average energy storage yesterday, a spokeswoman said.

There was better news for Meridian, with storage levels in lakes Manapouri and Te Anau improving during the past month to 34% below average now.

Contact Energy was also generating conservatively on the Clutha River, a spokesman said.

Lake Hawea, where Contact operated control gates, was yesterday 33% below average for this time of year and the gates were only being opened from time to time as the company tried to "prudently manage" storage levels.

Lakes Wakatipu and Wanaka also feed into the Clutha. Yesterday, Lake Wakatipu was 309.64m above sea level, 42cm below the mean for this time of year, and Lake Wanaka was 276.68m above sea level, 80cm below the mean.

The level of Lake Wakatipu had remained static during the past month, while Lake Wanaka had dropped a little.

Last week, Meridian markets and production general manager Neal Barclay warned Meridian could fall short of financial targets because of the generation cut on the Waitaki.

Although the company had met its financial targets for the first half of the year, it saw some risk to achieving full-time year targets even assuming average rainfall from now on, he said in a report.

Meridian's generation cut was not affecting customers as arrangements were in place with other generators to ensure supply, the spokeswoman said yesterday.

Although storage lake levels were lower than usual for February, neither power company was unduly concerned yet about the low lake levels continuing and affecting power generation capabilities in winter.

Meridian staff were "watching and waiting", the spokeswoman said.

"We've had these conditions before at this time of year."

Contact staff were "concerned, but a long way from panicking yet", the spokesman said.


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