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Unison & Transpower work to increase supply to Hawke’s Bay

Unison is working alongside Transpower this weekend to return to service part of the flood damaged Redclyffe substation, to help improve the security of the electricity supply to Hawke’s Bay which was compromised following the flooding of Redclyffe. 

Transpower has been  working to clean and repair equipment, including the interconnector transformer and its control equipment, at its Redclyffe substation after it was damaged by flooding following Cyclone Gabrielle. Interconnectors connect the regional 110,000 volt transmission network to the 220,000 national grid, increasing resilience, security of supply, and helping to meet peak demand.

Unison has been preparing its network to take advantage of this and use the increase in available transmission supply to put its network into a more secure configuration that better balances supply and demand across the distribution network.

Unison’s Incident Controller and GM for Commercial Jason Larkin says, “The work our control room staff and field crews are doing alongside Transpower this weekend will essentially allow us to plug back into the backbone of the national grid, meaning we can ensure a more resilient, secure supply of energy into Hawke’s Bay.

“We know it’s been tough for businesses and the community to cope with the limited electricity supply coming into Napier, and occasional outages. This essential repair work will go a long way to making more supply available to the areas that need it most and reducing the likelihood of unplanned outages.”

Unison advises this work will cause a power outage in Napier for up to an hour from 3.30am this Sunday 12 March, while the network is reconfigured.

“Unfortunately, Napier will experience an outage so we can safely complete this work. We’re keenly aware of the impact these outages have on our customers and the livelihoods of businesses, even in the early hours. We thank all our customers for their understanding and patience while we undertake these repairs”, says Mr Larkin.

“While this is a major step forward in restoring a resilient transmission supply to the region, we are still some way off having supply fully restored to the state it was prior to Cyclone Gabrielle.  Transpower hopes to return its second interconnector into service in around six to eight weeks, which will add much needed security ahead of winter.”

Following completion of this weekend’s work, Unison will no longer be asking customers to conserve power. However, further short outages can still be expected as Unison works to reconfigure the network from time to time, to manage supply and demand until transmission supply is fully restored.

As power restoration efforts progress, Unison continues urging anyone working around electricity lines or using plant and machinery as part of the Cyclone Gabrielle clean up, to assume all lines and assets are live, be aware and stay safe around electricity.

Due to flooding, ground contours have changed in many areas, and there is damage to lines, poles and other network assets. The presence of electrical assets may not be immediately apparent. 

“We urge anyone working in the clean up – particularly contractors, farmers, orchardists, and anyone using tools or equipment like diggers, tip trucks, forklifts and so on – to be highly aware of any electrical assets below ground or above, and to treat all electrical assets as live”, says Mr Larkin

Unison encourages customers to request a cable location service before starting digging or excavation work to know what's under the ground, and to request a permit if any clean-up work will put a person, equipment or vehicles within four metres of a power line. Both can be requested via Unison’s website.

As of Saturday morning, Unison is providing generation to 663 households that are unable to be reconnected to the network due to extensive cyclone damage, to meet their essential welfare needs; and 900 customers remain without power in the region, mostly in isolated rural areas.

Some important key messages for the community are as follows:

  • For customers still without power who reside in an area that is now reconnected to Unison’s network (areas coloured green on Unison’s online restoration map), please check if there are lights on in your meter box.  If not, then you do not have power to your property. Please log a fault at www.unison.co.nz/outages. This will ensure Unison is aware of the issue and can make arrangements to assess and, where possible, restore power. We encourage customers to check in on any neighbours, whānau or friends who may still be without power and pass on this message.
  • As restoration is progressed, please assume all lines and assets are live. Due to flooding, ground contours have changed in many areas. Unison urges all contractors, farmers, orchardists, anyone working around electricity lines or using plant and machinery (eg, diggers tip trucks, forklifts, etc) as part of the cleanup, to be aware and stay safe around electricity. Treat all lines as live, know what’s below, look up and live, and contact Unison for cable location services and safety permits.
  • Occasional outages to be expected over the coming weeks:

    Customers may experience occasional outages over the next few weeks. These could be as short as 5-10 minutes but may last longer and may be more frequent at peak times. We urge customers to be prepared – guidance on preparation for outages can be found on Unison’s website at: Electricity outages - be prepared (unison.co.nz)

  • Conserve power where possible:

    We ask customers with power, to please conserve it while Hawke’s Bay is on limited supply. Switch off lights when they’re not in use, air dry laundry, if possible, unplug devices if they’re not charging, turn appliances off at the wall when you’re not using them, use a microwave or air-fryer to heat food instead of the oven, and only run the washing machine with a full load.

  • Hot water:
    All customers who reside in an area that is now reconnected to Unison’s network (areas coloured green on Unison’s online restoration map) should have their hot water back on. If a customer in these areas has no hot water, they should log a fault at www.unison.co.nz/outages. Customers in generated areas (areas coloured orange on Unison’s online restoration map) may have no or limited hot water, and we ask that they please bear with us while we work to get them fully reconnected.

  • Please respect and stay clear of Unison crews as they work

    Unison crews are working hard to repair sections of the power network: Our crews, contractors and those of Transpower are working long hours in challenging and dangerous conditions to restore power as quickly and safely as possible. Many of them have also been impacted personally by Cyclone Gabrielle. Please keep your distance, and respect crews as they focus on completing repairs. 

  • During power outages, Unison regularly advises the following safety precautions:
    • Check for fallen or damaged electricity lines and treat lines as live at all times. Never touch wires or lines lying on the ground, hanging from poles, or objects such as tree branches that may be touching them. Fallen lines or wires may still be carrying an electrical current and could shock, injure or even kill if touched. Unison is urging anyone who sees a power line down to report these to www.unison.co.nz/outages
    • Turn off the power at the main switch if you suspect any electrical damage in your home. If the power goes out, turn off all electrical appliances to prevent possible damage by a power surge when the electricity supply is restored.
    • When the electricity network is damaged, it might take some time to get reconnected, so make sure you have a battery-operated radio, a torch, spare batteries, and a full gas bottle for your BBQ as part of your emergency kit.
    • Medically dependant customers are advised to prepare for the likelihood of no power and make alternative arrangements in advance.
    • Outages should be reported at www.unison.co.nz/outages in the first instance, as we are experiencing high call volumes through our call centre, which can still be used for those who do not have access to the internet - 0800 2 UNISON (0800 2 86476).
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