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John MacDonald: Our power supply isn't Third World but it is third rate

John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Fri, 10 May 2024, 1:08pm
Photo / File
Photo / File

John MacDonald: Our power supply isn't Third World but it is third rate

John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Fri, 10 May 2024, 1:08pm

I could be wrong. But I reckon most of us wouldn’t have done what Transpower wanted us to do to try and avoid power cuts. 

I could be wrong. You may have dutifully done what Transpower wanted you to do. Which was to use as little power as possible by not charging your phone and not having heaters and lights on in rooms you’re not using between 7am and 9am today. 

But I reckon most people would’ve either forgotten, or just thought everybody else would be doing it so they wouldn’t need to. And why’s that, do you think? 

Well, it’s because New Zealand is not what ACT leader David Seymour says we’re becoming with things like this warning about power cuts. 

He’s saying that it’s all “third world stuff”. But, I think that’s overboard. Because, if we were Third World, we would have heard that warning from Transpower last night and every one of us would’ve done exactly what they wanted us to do. 

Because, if we were Third World, power cuts would be a regular thing. So, as per, I think David Seymour is exaggerating, a little.  

As it turned out, there weren’t any power cuts. But, listening to the head of Transpower on Newstalk ZB, we were cutting things a bit fine. 

I won’t get into megawatt this and megawatt that - for two reasons. One: I’d be running the risk of sounding like I’m pretending to know what I’m talking about. When I don’t. So I’ll put it out there right now - I am not an electricity expert. 

The other reason I won’t start throwing around megawatts is because I think your eyes would glaze over faster than mine. When all we need to worry about, is that this early in the year they’re talking about power cuts and telling us not to put our phones on charge.    

And, even though I think David Seymour’s talk about us being Third World is nonsense, don’t think for a minute that I think this is good enough. It’s not. 

Because here we are just over a week into May and already we’re being told that to save power to prevent blackouts.  

When I heard the head of Transpower saying that this weather is unseasonably cold, I questioned that a little bit. But, I’ve looked up some of the stats, and it is a bit older than usual. Nevertheless, I don’t think that’s enough of an excuse. 

Because the real excuse for what’s happened, is that we have continually turned a blind eye when it comes to investing and maintaining our electricity infrastructure. 

Back in February, Transpower announced a plan to spend $400 million to strengthen the nationwide electricity system. Or the grid, as it’s known. 

They also want to spend another $100 million upgrading the Cook Strait Cable. 

Don't get too excited. Because, even though they announced it in February, they’re now doing the whole consultation thing with people in the energy sector. So that’ll take yonks.  

And, I don't know about you, but I reckon that spending $400 million strengthening the national grid and $100 million upgrading the Cook Strait Cable sounds like chicken feed. 

Especially, when you consider how electricity usage is expected to go through the roof over the next few years.  

Transpower reckons that by 2050, electricity demand or usage will have increased by 70 percent, compared to what it is now. Which is why I think Transpower is just tinkering at the edges with this $500 million it wants to spend on the grid and the cable upgrade. 

We are going to have to spend truckloads more than that if we are going to remotely cope with a 70 percent increase in demand for electricity. 

But we won’t, of course. Going by how we’ve done things up until now. Which is to under-invest and hope for the best. 

To under-invest and then, when things look like they might go pear-shaped, to go into panic mode and to tell us not to charge our phones and to turn the heaters and lights off. 

So even though I disagree with David Seymour’s view that the threat of power cuts this morning is Third World, what I will say is that it’s third rate. And we must do better. Otherwise, we will start to look a bit Third World on it. 

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