Shoring up Coromandel’s power supply
Why are you investing in the Coromandel region’s power supply?
Powerco is investing in the Coromandel region to improve the reliability of power supply to the community. Due to geographical challenges in the region and the fact there are now times during the year when the level of demand for power is greater than our network was originally designed to deliver, we know that residents and businesses can experience power outages.
We understand the disruption outages cause and the risk of losing power during these times of peak demand will increase as the region continues to grow.
That’s why we’re working towards a solution that will support your community’s power supply into the future, including during times when demand peaks.
When does the network struggle to cope with peak demand?
When there’s an influx of visitors to the region. This is mainly during long weekends, public holidays, and other times of the year when people take a break such as the Christmas/New Year holiday period and Easter.
Will this project affect all customers within the Coromandel Region?
What options are you considering to improve the power supply?
There are several ways to address the issue from an engineering perspective.
Back in 2017, as part of our five-year investment programme, our team considered options and identified that a traditional approach, which would involve building new overhead power lines to increase the capacity of our existing network, would address the issue.
Since then our thinking has evolved and we’re considering alternatives that can be delivered sooner, keep the costs down for our customers, minimise the environmental impact and improve the reliability of our power supply.
The solution most closely aligned with the priorities of our customers involves the installation of modern diesel generators in three site locations: Whitianga, Matarangi and Coromandel Town. This would provide a back-up supply that will kick into action to keep the power on, in the event it is needed.
We’re also continuing to explore what other options are available for providing additional supply during times of peak demand so that we can assess these as part of our decision- making process. This is to ensure we deliver the solution that best meets the needs of your community.
Why aren’t you installing another power line on your network?
Initially, this was the thinking we built into our five-year investment programme; however, we have revisited our approach largely due to the associated costs, which are then passed back to our customers through their power bill.
The Coromandel region is a beautiful part of our network, but there are significant challenges posed by the terrain, which translates into significant costs when building poles and wires.
Added to this, because the population fluctuates so much between the quiet periods and times when people flock to the region for a holiday, we realise that a new permanent supply isn’t the best solution. With the use of modern diesel generators for example, we can install a back-up supply that will kick into action only when needed, therefore limiting the impact on our carbon footprint.
Why is installing power lines so expensive?
The geography of the region presents challenges posed by the rugged terrain, and this translates into significant costs when building poles and wires. Finding a more cost-effective solution is so important as these costs are passed back to customers through their power bill.
When deciding which option is best for the community, what are your key considerations?
Over the years, customers across our network have said they want a reliable network, with minimal environmental impact that can be delivered in time to address the risk of increased outages, and at the lowest cost.
With this in mind, we’re carefully considering options that will improve the reliability of power supply to your community into the future.
Is the use of modern diesel generators in the community safe?
Yes, in fact we’ve used these to support the network in the Coromandel and Whitianga previously. One of our modern diesel generators currently resides at our Whangamata substation, to kick in when needed to support power supply for the local community. Safety is our highest priority and our processes allow the safe connection and operation of generators.
How long will the diesel generators run for if they are confirmed as the solution?
The generators would be used to provide a back-up supply, kicking into action only when needed during times of peak demand.
We estimate that the total time the generators would be used is the equivalent of up to eight day a year across the three sites.
This means the carbon footprint is low as they are only generating power to support the network at peak times, when needed.
Will this investment mean I have to pay more for my power?
As a regulated business, the cost of maintaining and enhancing the performance of our network is passed back to our customers through their power bill. This means we need a solution that is cost-effective.
To help give you an idea of how your bill may be impacted, we’ve estimated the increase in distribution charges that will take affect from March 2023.
Although this is based on moving forward with modern diesel generators (if this aligns with your priorities as a community), it provides a better understanding of how your prices may be affected. The impact on your electricity bill will depend on your circumstances and how your retailer chooses to repackage these changes for you.
-For our residential customers, we estimate an increase of between $2.15 and $3.50 per month.
-For our commercial customers, our modelling suggests an increase of between 4%-7.5% of the distribution charge indicated on your bill.
Will this investment also reduce weather-related outages in the region?
While we’re committed to maintaining our network infrastructure and supporting the growth in demand and improving reliability, weather-related events, and accidents such as a car hitting a power pole, are out of our control.
When will the solution be delivered?
We’re in the early stages of this project. As a first step, we’re working through ensuring that we deliver the solution that best meets the needs of your community and aligns with your priorities and values.
We’re continuing to explore other alternatives to ensure we’ve considered all the options that meet the criteria of low cost, high reliability, timeliness, and low environmental impact.
If during our decision-making process, it’s confirmed that the installation of modern diesel generators is the best option based on your feedback and our comparison with alternatives, this will take up to a couple of years to deliver. Unfortunately, we’re unable to provide clearer timeframes now as there are several factors that influence how long it will take to deliver, including gaining access to the sites where the generators will be located.
In comparison with other options, diesel generators can be delivered much faster as we are not required to build network infrastructure. We will keep you updated regularly as we progress.
How can I share my thoughts and provide feedback?
To ensure that we deliver a solution that reflects the priorities that matter most to those that live in the Coromandel, we want to hear from you.
You can share your thoughts by providing feedback at www.yourenergyfuture.co.nz. This will help us to understand what is important to you when we design our solution.
Who else is involved with the project?
As well as talking to retailers, we’re engaging with representatives from Thames-Coromandel District Council, Iwi, and other key stakeholders within your community. To ensure they are all well informed and can share their views, as well as helping us raise awareness and communicate our progress along the way.
How long will it take for you to decide on the final solution?