Aurora boss says 'we’re on track', despite unscheduled power outages

by Kim Bowden - Sep 02, 2022

A document measuring how well Aurora Energy is progressing with its major programme of work underway to upgrade the electricity network in Central Otago and the Southern Lakes, as well as Dunedin, is open to scrutiny by the public.

The company’s first Annual Delivery Report has been published on its website this week.

It’s one of several regulatory disclosures it needs to publish each year under its five-year customised price path, agreed with the Commerce Commission last year.

The customised price path gives go-ahead for price hikes for power users across Otago, so Aurora can replace failing infrastructure and run its network after years of under-investment.

Aurora chief executive Richard Fletcher says while the reliability of his power network as a whole is acceptable, the power's off without warning in some areas more than others.

In a statement to stakeholders on Wednesday, Aurora chief executive Dr Richard Fletcher says the report is “an important way for us to communicate how we are progressing with our work programme and the service commitments we’ve made”.

The Annual Delivery Report provides a breakdown of all the network investment undertaken to the year ending March 31.

“My key message is that we’re on track,” Dr Fletcher says in his statement.

“When we started to lift network investment in 2017-18 under a new Aurora Energy governance structure and management team, our aim was to arrest what had been a slow trend of deteriorating network asset condition and performance.

“I’m pleased to say that overall this has been achieved – and the aggregated reliability statistics across our whole operating region support this."

But power users across Central Otago and the Southern Lakes may not agree with his assessment, with a number of widely publicised unscheduled outages calling into question the reliability of the company's network this winter.

In July, thousands of residents in Arrowtown, Dalefield and Arthurs Point had three unscheduled power outages in as many weeks, for example.

Included in the report are SAIDI and SAIFI figures – used by lines companies as a reliability index.

The SAIDI and SAIFI figures included in the report for Queenstown, and Central Otago and Wānaka (two separate groupings for Aurora), are higher than those for Dunedin. The most recent figures are also some of the highest of the five years’ worth of data included in the report.

The chief executive acknowledges there's "parts of the network where the frequency of unplanned electricity supply interruptions is above what we and electricity consumers think is appropriate”.

Investment is underway or planned in these areas, and details are in the company's published Asset Management Plan, Dr Fletcher says.

“In the coming year we will make this work more visible and ensure we have regular and early engagement with local consumers.”

The report records where money’s been spent, and on what.

In total for the year, Aurora has spent $127 million across its network – that’s $81 million on network-related capital expenditure and $46 million on operational expenditure, such as routine inspections and maintenance, vegetation management, systems operation and network support.

Over five years, the customised price path will enable Aurora to spend $563 million.

Mr Fletcher says a shorter “plain English” version of the report will be made available for “wider community consumption”.

In October, Aurora has plans to hold public meetings for customers in Dunedin, Alexandra, Wānaka and Queenstown.

The Annual Delivery Report can be found online here.

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