Rural round-up

15/03/2019

Farmers feeling nervous in regulatory environment – Sally Rae:

A high level of nervousness is apparent in the rural sector around the regulatory environment farmers are facing, Alliance Group chairman Murray Taggart says.

Both Mr Taggart and chief executive David Surveyor were at the Wanaka A&P Show last week, meeting farmers.

With strong commodity prices – apart from strong wool – and low interest rates, normally farmers would be quite positive, but they were not seeing that, Mr Taggart said. . . 

No land insurance means farmer pays in the aftermath of Nelson bush fire – Carly Gooch:

In the aftermath of the Pigeon Valley fires, one farmer’s land has been left a mess due to fire breaks covering the pasture – so who’s going to pay for the clean up?

Pauline Marshall was one of the first residents evacuated from her Teapot Valley home, along with her son, Simon Marshall. They were unable to return to their properties for 17 days, with the exception of getting access a few hours a day, at best. 

The Marshalls were “extremely grateful” to the fire crews for saving their homes, but after those unsettling times, now the Marshalls are facing the unknown cost of rehabilitating the pasture before winter hits.  . . 

Future Angus leader learns from conference – Ken Muir:

reminder that farming is not just about profit was one of the important takeaways for Rockley Angus stud farmer Katherine McCallum after she attended the GenAngus Future Leaders programme in Sydney in February.

”The programme is designed to support the younger Angus breeders in Australia and New Zealand to grow their business and develop the skills to become future industry leaders”, Mrs McCallum said.

”It was an honour to be chosen from among the New Zealand applicants.” . . 

Fonterra making a move to environmentally friendly fuel option

–  Angie Skerrett:

A new diesel biofuel made from an agricultural by-product is helping power Fonterra’s milk tanker fleet, and it’s hoped more transport operators will follow suit.

Z Energy has built New Zealand’s first commercial scale bio-diesel plant, using a process which turns an unwanted tallow product, usually exported to make soap and candles, to make the high quality diesel. . .

Red-fleshed kiwifruit to be tested in NZ – Maja Burry:

A red fleshed kiwifruit variety is being tested on New Zealanders.

As part of a sales trial, the kiwifruit marketer and exporter Zespri will release 30,000 trays of Zespri Red to both national supermarket chains and selected retailers over the next five weeks.

The company said it wanted to know what consumers and retailers thought about the shelf-life, taste and colouring of the kiwifruit before it decided whether to move to full commercialisation. . . 

130,000 bees go under the microscope :

Sampling has been completed for the largest and most detailed study of honey bee health ever undertaken in New Zealand.

More than 60 beekeepers have participated in Biosecurity New Zealand’s Bee Pathogen Programme.

Biosecurity New Zealand senior scientist, Dr Richard Hall, says the research will provide a wealth of valuable information to the beekeeping industry. . .

Air New Zealand, Contact Energy, Genesis Energy and Z Energy join forces in carbon afforestation partnership:

Air New Zealand, Contact Energy, Genesis Energy and Z Energy have today announced the formation of Dryland Carbon LLP (Drylandcarbon), a limited liability partnership that will see the four companies invest in the establishment of a geographically diversified forest portfolio to sequester carbon.

Drylandcarbon will target the purchase and licensing of marginal land suited to afforestation to establish a forest portfolio predominantly comprising permanent forests, with some production forests. The primary objective is to produce a stable supply of forestry-generated NZU carbon credits, but the initiative will also expand New Zealand’s national forest estate. These credits will support the partners to meet their annual requirements under the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme. . . 


Rural round-up

02/10/2017

The wheat and chaff of synthetic food – Keith Woodford:

It has become fashionable for agri-food commentators to talk of disruptive change. In particular, in recent months there has been much talk about industry disruption that will supposedly occur from synthetic food, with much of that grown in a laboratory.

Until now, I have steered clear of discussing synthetic food, despite often being asked my opinion. But now, I have decided to venture forth.

The simple answer is that synthetic food does not need to be a big concern for New Zealand farmers. The important proviso is that New Zealand farmers, and the associated value chains connecting through to markets, need to focus on consumers who will pay premium prices for products that are the ‘real McCoy’. . .

Hawea Flat water table levels lowest on record:

The Upper Clutha Farmers Group are becoming increasingly concerned about the drain Contact Energy is having on the Hawea Flat water supply.

Lake Hawea’ s water level follows a seasonal cycle which is controlled by Contact Energy to provide electricity supply when demand is at its peak. The Group’s concern stems from Contact’s move to lower operating levels in lake Hawea to generate more electricity.

Traditionally spring is when the lake’s level is at its lowest, however the current level is the lowest since monitoring began. The farming community believe with Contact change of operating levels it is having a far greater effect on the ground water flows through the aquafers in the Hawea Flat region. . .

Westland Milk Products breaks even for 2016-17:

Westland Milk Products has recovered from a loss in the 12 months ended July 31, 2016, to post a break-even profit before tax for the 2016-17 financial year.

The company, New Zealand’s second largest dairy co-operative, said the result represented a total payout to its 342 shareholders of $338.7million, a net average cash payout of $5.18/kgms. . . 

Technology could change the future of food – Alexa Cook:

Rapid change in the food sector could mean eight out of the top 10 global food companies out of business in the next decade, a researcher says.

The Te Hono Stanford University Bootcamp is a week-long intensive programme and this year the focus was how to accelerate New Zealand’s food production in the global marketplace.

Plant and Food Research chief operating officer Bruce Campbell said the message from the US was clear.

“There’s quite significant disruption coming for the food sector. . .

NZ scientists aim to breed super berry – Alexa Cook:

Scientists are investigating the potential for a new commercial crop of a “super” hybrid blueberry.

Plant & Food Research is trying to breed a fruit that combines the taste and growing characteristics of blueberries with the colourful flesh of bilberries.

Bilberries are a small berry from Northern Europe with dark blue-red flesh, but with a thin skin they’re too delicate to grow commercially because the fruit is easily damaged in transit. . .

Ballance Farm Environment Awards give farmers place to share their good stories:

The environment, water quality and urban perception of farming is more important than it’s ever been, says 2017 Canterbury Ballance Farm Environment Awards finalist Lyndon Matthews.

“This election has been polarised around water quality. My belief is farmers are doing great stuff but we’re not so good at telling our story. That’s one of the reasons these awards are so important – telling the stories.

“Personally we’ve always been happy to put ourselves up for scrutiny. If it’s a good story we want to share it and if it’s not, we want to learn. Some people are worried about putting their head above the parapet but farmers have to be prepared to open ourselves to scrutiny. More farmers need to show what they’re doing.” . .

 


Rural round-up

26/07/2017

Battle wounds and wisdom shared through Dairy Connect:

Seeking guidance from other farmers has helped Chloe and Matt Walker make the switch from city living to dairy farming – a move that came sooner than expected.

Back in 2012, Chloe and Matt were running start-up companies in Wellington and considering a move to Matt’s parents’ dairy farm near Taupo. However, after getting married in February 2013 and a change in the dynamics of their respective start-ups, they decided to take the plunge earlier than planned.

The Walkers left their city jobs and started afresh on the 133ha farm four seasons ago, with Matt taking up a role as farm manager. They had little on-farm experience but were quick to apply what they had learned in city jobs to their new careers. . . 

Deluge misses southern hydro lakes – Pattrick Smellie:

(BusinessDesk) – Last weekend may have been Oamaru’s wettest since daily rainfall records began in 1950, but the deluge that hit eastern coastal parts of the South Island over the weekend all but missed the southern hydro lakes, which remain at critically low levels for the time of year.

The managers of the southern catchments, Meridian Energy, Contact Energy and Genesis Energy, all reported either little or no additional rainfall, although national grid operator Transpower said lake levels now sit at 62 percent of the national average level for this time of year, compared with 58 percent before the weekend.

A Meridian Energy spokeswoman said the weekend weather “did not bring inflows  . . 

Otago $9m irrigation scheme given green light:

A new irrigation scheme in Otago will help transform dry, wasted land into productive land full of cherry trees and vineyards, the company behind it says.

But it comes at a time when questions have been raised about the sustainability of irrigation schemes in the region, in the face of expiring permits.

The $9 million Dairy Creek Irrigation Scheme, which will cover 1500 hectares of land in the Clutha catchment, has been given the green light. . . 

Blockchain the transformer – Eye2theLongRun:

Do yourself a favour and read this to “get it” about blockchain and why it matters… or try to make time stand still.

This from Kevin Cooney – ASB’s National Manager Rural:

It’s vital that New Zealand’s agri industry pays close attention to blockchain development and ensures we are well positioned to capture our share of new value this technology could unlock.

Mention blockchain and agriculture in the same breath, and the image of a heavy duty chain towing one farm vehicle behind another pops into my mind.

Turns out, that’s a handy analogy. Like a physical chain, blockchain connects parties directly with one another to enable fast, secure, and borderless transactions. . . 

‘Get on and do it’ culture contributing to farm accidents – Andrew McRae:

The high injury rate among farm workers has prompted a call for them to be more involved in health and safety decisions on the farm.

WorkSafe New Zealand’s farm sector analysis of injuries between April 2012 and March 2015 shows that for every 1000 employees, 20 suffered an injury requiring more than a week off.

For every 1000 employees in dairying 28 were injured, compared with 18 in sheep and beef, and 30 per 1000 in the shearing industry.

The sector leader for WorkSafe, Al McCone, said the figures were a result of the culture that has crept into the agricultural sector. . . 

New Zealand vanilla producer ensures steady supply in volatile market:

Soaring prices worldwide for vanilla beans have prompted New Zealand vanilla grower and manufacturer, Heilala Vanilla, to launch a new product to shield its customers from market volatility.

For the second year in a row, international prices have skyrocketed as demand outstrips supply. Spice traders predict the current market turmoil will continue into 2018. . . 


Three more years

03/08/2015

Tiwai Point smelter will stay open for at least another three years:

The Tiwai Point aluminium smelter will stay open until at least 2018, with a new agreement reached between owner New Zealand Aluminium Smelters (NZAS) and electricity suppliers Meridian and Contact.

The revised contract will see 572MW of energy supplied to the smelter until 2030, with NZAS able to reduce the load or terminate the deal altogether from 2018, depending on market conditions.

“We have crossed a hurdle today and now have more certainty about our immediate future,” says NZAS chief executive Gretta Stephens.

“The agreement provides short-term security for the smelter and allows time for market fundamentals to improve.” . . .

Aluminium is a commodity and like many others, including dairy produce, it is in the midst of a downturn.

The announcement the smelter will stay open will be a relief to the hundreds of people working there, the businesses which service and supply it and the wider Southland economy.

It is probably good news for Meridian and Contact shareholders too. Even though the smelter gets power at a discounted price, losing such a big customer would have hurt the companies, though it might have meant lower power prices for the rest of us.


Rural round-up

22/11/2014

The dairy robots are coming – Keith Woodford:

Milking cows is far from exciting. People milk cows for money and not for fun. What if it could all be done by robots?

Well, those days have come. Already there are at least 16 New Zealand commercial dairy farms with robot milkers and the number is increasing rapidly. In Scandinavia and the Netherlands in particular, but also elsewhere in Northern Europe, there are now thousands of these robots. They are also coming to America.

Robots are coming to Europe and the US faster than to New Zealand because of differences between their farm systems and ours. On Northern Hemisphere farms, it is typically just a wander down the barn of 50 metres or so for the cow to meet up with a robot. In contrast, on nearly all of our farms the cows graze pastures and it can be a kilometre or more back to the milking shed. For efficiency, each robot needs a steady supply of cows throughout the day and night, and does not want a whole herd turning up at the same time. . .

Business idea that turns pest pines into high-quality essential oils a winner:

Taking an environmental problem and turning it into a commercial success has seen Queenstown social enterprise team Wilding & Co awarded with the ‘most innovative idea’, the first of three $1,000 milestone awards from Contact Energy, co-principal partner of Ākina Foundation’s six-month accelerator programme, Launchpad.

Over the last century wilding pines, native to North America, have taken over much of the South Island and their eradication has become a focus not only for the government, but also for local communities in the area.

Wilding & Co plays its part by clearing and controlling the spread of wilding pines in the Central Otago region, distilling them into high-quality essential oils and finished products marketed for their scent, anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties. They have also secured orders for many tonnes of bulk oil from international buyers. . .

Frost-fighting gloves earn prize for innovation:

A project to keep green fingers warm in cold Southern winters earned Otago’s Sarah Fenwick a placing in yesterday’s Young Horticulturist of the Year innovation awards and a $2,500 scholarship.

Ms Fenwick – who qualified for the competition by winning the New Zealand Recreation Association (NZRA) Young Amenity Horticulturist of the Year award earlier this year – took out second place in the AGMARDT Market Innovation section for ground-breaking glove inners made of titanium lined limestone neoprene. Northland’s Patrick Malley took out first prize for a project to make kiwifruit traceable to the orchard of origin.

Ms Fenwick, a horticulturist working on Dunedin’s green spaces for infrastructure company Delta, says her project is “an innovative approach to guard against the loss of finger sensitivity. . .

 Patrick Malley Takes Out 2014 Young Horticulturist of the Year Title:

Whangarei kiwifruit grower, Patrick Malley, has taken out his third consecutive victory this year by winning the ‘2014 Young Horticulturist of the Year’ title at a ceremony in Auckland last night.

Earlier this year Patrick won the 2014 Bay of Plenty Young Fruit Grower competition in Mount Maunganui, and went on to win the NZ Young Grower of the Year at the national competition in Christchurch.

In addition to winning the overall title last night, Patrick also took out The AGMARDT Market Innovation Project Award; The Fruitfed Supplies Leadership Award; and The Primary ITO Career Development Award. . .

 ASB Farmshed Economics Report: A case of if, not when, for higher interest rates:

• Interest rates to stay low for longer
• Uncertain times ahead for dairy
• Meat prices continue to shine

Interest rates are staying lower for longer according to the latest ASB Farmshed Economics Report.

“Farmers have been keeping a close eye on the financial markets. With the RBNZ signalling a long pause on OCR rises in the current low inflation environment, it’s looking like interest rates will be staying lower for longer,” says ASB Rural Economist Nathan Penny.

“We expect the OCR to hold at 3.5% until September 2015 and now predict it will peak at 4%.”

It’s been a long hard road for dairy but whole milk powder prices may have finally hit their bottom. . .

New Commitment programme for Wools of New Zealand:

Wools of New Zealand has rolled out an annual wool commitment programme for its growers which it believes is an industry first.

The STAPLE® programme is the latest initiative for the grower owned wool marketing and sales company following implementation of its successful Direct to Scour (D2S) model and more recently, its Stable Price Mechanism, a model aimed at minimising wool price volatility between growers and clients.

Wools of New Zealand Chief Executive Ross Townshend says “the aim of the programme is to provide certainty of supply to customers direct from growers, allowing planning and confidence of meeting contracts. It’s an important tool in reducing price volatility and improving sustained, predictable returns and commercial certainty to our shareholders’ and customers’ businesses.” . . .

Growing dairy heifers – a focus on what good looks like:

A Northland heifer-rearing focus farm is being established along with four others around the country as part of a DairyNZ-led initiative to provide graziers with the tools, knowledge and resources to grow dairy heifers more effectively.

An open day will be held at the Northland focus farm in Okaihau, owned by Alister and Lyn Candy, on November 26 from 10.30am to 2.00pm.

Both graziers and dairy farmers are encouraged to attend with key topics including target weights and feed planning, animal health issues, managing the grazier-dairy farmer relationship and setting calves up for the run-off. . .

Qualified veterinarian and animal health executive joins Simcro as CEO:

Dr Roger Wakelin has been appointed as the new CEO of animal health delivery systems company Simcro. From December 1, Dr Wakelin will assume responsibility for all of the day to day operations. Current CEO Will Rouse will assume the role of Executive Chairman, while continuing to be a director and significant shareholder.

Dr Wakelin’s experience has spanned both production and companion animals. He worked for more than a decade in production and companion animal veterinary practices in New Zealand, Ireland, UK and South Africa. He moved into the animal health pharmaceutical industry and held technical, market development, marketing and senior management positions with companies such as Pitman Moore, Bayer and more recently Merial USA. Rouse says that Simcro’s Board of Directors are pleased and excited about their latest appointment. . .


No change good, change bad

19/03/2014

Share market investors put their money on yesterday’s poll results:

The NZX 50 Index rose to a new record, following a global rally, paced by power companies after recent political polls put the government ahead, helping dispel fears the opposition parties will be able to overhaul the electricity sector. MightyRiverPower, Meridian Energy and Contact Energy rose.

The benchmark index rose 47.638 points, or 0.9 percent, to 5135.664. Within the index, 27 stocks rose, 12 fell and 11 were unchanged. Turnover was $167 million.

Better than expected US industrial production figures kicked off a global rally in equity markets which carried on into Asia. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was up 0.5 percent in afternoon trading, Japan’s Nikkei 225 index advanced 1.4 percent and Australia’s S&P/ASX was up 0.5 percent.

Power companies paced today’s gains after a New Zealand Herald’s DigiPoll survey put the governing National Party at 50.8 percent support ahead of the September election. Labour, the main opposition party, garnered 29.5 percent. A key election policy of the opposition parties is to regulate the electricity market, creating a single state-owned wholesale electricity buyer. . .

“The electricity sector is up, and I’m going to put it down to the Herald DigiPoll results which were published, because they’re up across the board,” said Greg Easton, investment adviser at Craigs Investment Partners. “If there is no change in government, then that sector could really outperform after the election.” . . .

If no change in government good the obvious implication is that a change of government would be bad – and not just for energy companies and the stock market.


Trashing family silver

24/10/2013

The opposition harps on about selling the family silver when criticising the partial sale of a few state assets.

They’re wrong these energy companies are not national treasures.

They are however, investments for the state and individuals and Matthew Hooton points out that Labour and the Green Party are damaging them:

. . . No doubt as intended by Green/Labour, there has been vast destruction of value in these four companies and it is likely only to get worse if the polls continue to trend towards Green/Labour. Ironically for parties who tell us they want to save the family silver, the main loser from the destruction of wealth has been the state. All the wealth destruction so far in Meridian and Genesis has been suffered by the Crown and at least half of it in the case of MRP. Even with Contact, both ACC and the Cullen Fund are among the top 20. . . .

Labour and Greens regard SOEs as family silver but they’re not only trashing them they’re devaluing public and private savings.

It would also damage other companies:

If Labour and the Greens imposed their proposed power policy Contact Energy would be forced into a complete restructure, chief executive Dennis Barnes says.

Earlier this year, the parties announced plans to set up a single buyer, NZ Power, to buy all electricity generation at a fair price, promising to cut the average New Zealander’s power bill by up to $330 a year.

Speaking to The Press after the company’s annual meeting in Christchurch today, Barnes said the policy would require a structural change for Contact’s business and the electricity industry.

It would “change the face of Contact from a risk manager and a retailer to a business which has got the Government as its customer”, he said.

“It’s likely that a lot of the people we have working in the risk aspects of our business wouldn’t be needed anymore. I believe that innovation would stop and the Government would have to fund that.

“The biggest change is that the Government then becomes responsible for security of supply development of the industry rather than the market; that’s a whole different dynamic.”

Barnes indicated that power price increases in the last couple of years did not come from generators and retailers such as Contact Energy.

“A lot of the prices increases that you experience as a whole are transmission and distribution and charges that the generators and the retailers are not responsible for.” . . .

 

The threat of the policy is already doing damage, it would do even more damage should they try to implement it.


LabourGreens steal from us all

20/04/2013

JB Were says the LabourGreen power plan will sap energy from the local market:

The Labour/Greens announcement on electricity sector reform concerns us on two fronts: firstly, the move to a state buyer of power risks being a retrograde step for the New Zealand economy. Secondly, we believe it will prove damaging for New Zealand capital markets, and comes at an unfortunate time given the significant progress made here since 2010. We detail these two concerns below: . . .

The damage to capital markets has already started.

Share prices in energy companies  fell yesterday in the wake of the LabourGreen plan to power us back to the socialist seventies.

TrustPower, which is 50.7 percent owned by Infratil, fell 5 percent to $7.18, leading decliners as fallout from the opposition parties’ plan to centralise buying of electricity and split generators from their retail arms weighed on utilities.

Contact Energy fell 2.8 percent to $5.31 and lines company Vector slid 2.1 percent to $2.82. Infratil dropped 1.3 percent to $2.30. . .

Those shares aren’t just owned by the wealthy the left hate.

They’re also owned by people of modest means who have worked hard and put something away for a rainy day.

They’re also owned by community trusts and other philanthropic organisations which fund charitable projects.

They’re also owned by insurance companies, including ACC.

They’re also owned by Kiwisaver and the Superannuation Fund.

The LabourGreen power plan is in sabotaging the value of investments is stealing from us all.


The Clutha’s still there

16/07/2012

We drove down the east side of Lake Dunstan before crossing over it at Cromwell on Wednesday evening.

The lake was formed – more than a little controversially – when the Clyde Dam was built.

It interrupts the flow of the Clutha River but the river is still there, feeding and in turn being fed by Lake Dunstan.

We crossed the Clutha again north of Luggate on our way home yesterday. The water looked just as it always has, even though it’s dammed at Hawea a few kilometres above the bridge.

I have no doubt it looks the same below the  Clyde Dam too even though both dams are owned by Contact Energy which, is a publicly listed power company.

In case that’s not clear, that means the state doesn’t own the dams and hasn’t for sometime.

Private ownership of the power companies operating on the Clutha River hasn’t affected the water and whoever may or may not own it. Why would the partial float of other energy companies have any affect on the water they use?


No more Clutha dams

02/05/2012

The grapevine has been saying for several months that Contact Energy no longer wanted land along the Clutha River.

The logical conclusion from that was that the company was giving up its plans to build more dams on the river and that has been confirmed:

The energy company has spent the past three years investigating the options at four sites, Luggate, Beaumont, Queensberry and Tuapeka Mouth.

It says the costs were much higher than the expected $300 million to $1.5 billion per dam, meaning none of the options are viable in the foreseeable future. . .

Other factors contributing to the decision include the unease within communities living along the Clutha and the cost of transmission, including future upgrades of the Cook Strait cable.

The company has bought land along the river. This decision could mean there will be several farms for sale.


Silly dam(n) mistake

19/10/2011

On Q&A some weeks ago Guyon Espiner asked a Labour MP if he knew which power company he used.

I can’t find the link but I think it was David Cunliffe. Whoever it was struggled to answer as many people will unless they’re the one who pays the household bills.

Many people would also not be sure who owns the power company which supplies them. That’s not surprising when it’s not who owns it but the price they charge and service they provide which concerns most of us.

However, if you’re a party opposing the Mixed Ownership Model for State Owned Enterprises, you ought to know which companies are publicly owned and which ones aren’t, if only to stop you using a photo of one which isn’t to illustrate your campaign.

Whaleoil has a copy of Labour’s brochure campaigning against National’s policy to sell minority shares in a few state owned companies. It’s illustrated with a photo of the Clyde Dam which isn’t owned by the state, it’s owned by Contact Energy.

That’s a silly dam(n) mistake which doesn’t do anything for the credibility of the party or its policy.


Consumers flee Contact

25/10/2008

Contact Energy customers are taking their business to other electricity companies in the wake of its decision to increase its prices and the pool of money available for directors’ fees.

Electricity retailers yesterday reported a flood of inquiries during the past two days from Contact customers considering switching suppliers.

Many were from the South Island.

Meridian Energy reported a 200% increase in calls to its call centre on Thursday, a pace which continued yesterday.

TrustPower had 800 callers on Thursday inquiring about changing, equivalent to the normal volume of callers it received in a month.

A Genesis Energy spokesman said inquiries through its call centre on Thursday and Friday were nearly 50% higher than forecast.

Mercury Energy began its marketing push into Dunedin at 3.30pm on Thursday and confirmed its first customer in the city at 3.33pm.

Mercury retail manager Richard De Luca said an average Dunedin household would pay $200 less a year for its electricity than it would from Contact.

I’ve never been 100% convinced about the merits of competition for utilities because of the hassle involved in changing suppliers.

If I don’t like the service or price at one supermarket it’s easy enough to go to another. Changing power or telephone companies is more complicated and usually requires dealing with call centres which I approach with great reluctance.

However, this story proves me wrong, if customers are disgruntled enough with one electricity supplier they will go to the trouble of finding another. Only time will tell if they’re better off for doing it.


They give with one hand . . .

30/09/2008

It’s taken Labour nine years to allow us to keep a little mroe of our own money, but the day before the tax cuts finally happen we’re faced with power price rises.

On the eve of the Government’s tax cuts some Contact Energy customers have been lumped with a 10 percent hike in the cost of electricity.

The increase in Wellington, Nelson and Dunedin takes effect on November 1 – but is expected to be rolled out nationwide in the coming months.

The company is defending its decision to hike prices, a month after posting a $237 million annual profit, blaming a lack of new generation and problems transporting electricity to the South Island.

Raewyn Fox from the Federation of Family Budgeting Services says many people were hanging out for tax cuts, and this increase will make a big dent in them.

And as the government owns the company, the tax cut we get with one hand will go back in power bills paid to the other.

Correction & Apology: : As The Double Standard and Poneke have pointed out Contact is a private company. no excuses, I didn’t check my facts I apologise and I’m sorry.

However, the give and take still applies because Meridian which is an SOE and Mercury which is owned by an SOE are putting up their prices too.


Govt says no to Clutha dams

14/08/2008

Energy Minister David Parker says the Government won’t support Contact Energy’s plans to build more dams on the Clutha River.

“I am confident we’ll have alternatives which don’t require us to dam even more of our ever-dwindling number of unmodified rivers.”

He may be right but he also needs to be fast because one of the reasons New Zealand’s carbon emissions have gone up so much is our growing reliance on fossil fuels. We don’t have enough hydro and wind generation to satisfy demand so the need for carbon-friendly alternatives is urgent.


Contact’s eyeing the Clutha

09/08/2008

Contact Energy is investigating more dams on the Clutha River.

Contact Energy’s Wellington-based communications manager Jonathan Hill said the power company was “taking a close look again” at old proposals which had been on the back burner, such as those involving sites at Beaumont, Luggate and Queensberry.

… Mr Hill said Contact did not have any firm plans in place and was simply looking at all of its options.

“However, we have a clear preference that any new hydro developments should be on rivers that already have hydro schemes on them, to avoid altering virgin rivers.”

Beaumont, Luggate and Queensberry on the Clutha River had all been proposed as possible sites.

Mr Hill said they were the only river schemes that Contact was actively looking at as the plans had already been drawn up by the previous owner, ECNZ.

“I think its a very important point to make that if we do identify a project that we would like to advance, the first steps will be to discuss it with local communities.

“The role of new, large-scale hydro projects will be particularly important in an environment in which there is growing concern around climate change and sustainability and in which traditional thermal fuels such as gas are becoming increasingly expensive,” he added.

The increase in thermal generation has been a major contributor to the increase in our carbon emissions. But the difficulty of getting through the Resource Management Act makes the development of new wind and hydro generation a long, involved and expensive process.

The Environment Court appeal against Meridian Energy’s  application consent for its Project Hayes windfarm in the Lammermoor Range has been adjourned until January.

Its Project Aqua on the south of the Waitaki River never got to the consent stage but the company is now looking at a scheme on the north bank.

This winter’s power crisis was avoided by conservation measures and timely rainfalls, but at great cost to businesses and the economy.

Conservation measures can only do so much, if we want to be a first world country with a first world economy so we can afford first world social and environmental initiatives, we need first world power supplies and that means more generation.

If the past is any guide there will be fierce oppostion to more dams on the Clutha. But if we have to reduce carbon emissions and nuclear generation is neither popular nor practical then we have to accept more wind and/or hydro schemes.


System not meter readers at fault?

31/07/2008

On Sunday I wrote about the shocked customers  who received power bills for much larger sums than usual and then blamed meter readers for misreading the figures. 

However, it might be the system, not the meter readers, that’s at fault because rural meters are read only every three months and it is possible that estimates made in the other two months were well below actual usage so there was a huge jump when the actual usage was measured.

The Southland Times says the system needs to improve:

Contact Energy is not necessarily to blame if power bills are big and people have trouble paying them. But it is very much to blame if it is operating an estimates-reliant billing system that is needlessly blowing the budgets of southern households to bits by building up ridiculous log-jams of bad news that explode in a huge catch-up bill…

Actual readings, rather than estimates, occur every two months in urban residential areas and every three months in rural areas. The estimates are based on historical usage. The suspicion is now acute that the system is in sore need of recalibration because it is proving a budgeting nightmare…

Meantime, common sense cries out for consumers to read their own meters and phone through the results so that their bills do regularly and accurately reflect the actual consumption. Frankly, it’s easy to learn, easy to do and it saves a whole heap of budgeting trouble.

Mercifully, it also looks like the meter reader has a finite future in any case. Electricity companies, including Contact and Meridian, are installing smart meters nationwide — technology that allows meters to be read remotely. Roll on the day that this chore becomes automated.

For that matter, who among us wouldn’t welcome an environment when there was more widespread competition between electricity retailers outside the major cities, and more use of comparative tools like the PowerSwitch online calculator which, since 2002, has been helping consumers shopping around for the best electricity deal.

A recent Electricity Commission survey found just 13 percent of respondents had even heard of it.

You can find it here.


Zapped by shocking power bill

26/07/2008

Garston cafe owner Tony Corbett got a shock when he saw his latest power bill. Contact Energy charged him  $1100 when his normal monthly power bill is about $200.

His sister Tess Corbett had a similar problem in Kaiwaka – her bill from Meridian Energy is usually about $34 a month but the last one was $394.

The cause of the problem appears to be the meter readers’ inability to read the meters. They’d given a six-figure killowatt reading instead of a five-figure. The sixth digit on the meter is a unit counter and was read as a unit of kilowatt power so Mr Corbett’s 177 kilowatts had been recorded as 1770.

Memo to staff trainers: meter readers need to know which numbers they are supposed to read and record.


Still No Crisis?

01/07/2008

Hawea people are losing patience  with the Government’s refusal to admit there’s a power crisis.

The Government must bite the bullet and tell the nation to make a 10% savings on power or endure public shame if it is not achieved, the Lake Hawea Community Association chairman Errol Carr says.

Lake Hawea residents are on high alert as Contact Energy begins this week to draw down Lake Hawea to the emergency level of 336m for the first time in 20 years.

Mr Carr said the lake level was stable at about 338.1, but a public demonstration was likely if residents’ concerns about low lake levels and environmental damage were not heeded.

“If told, I think the South Island would buckle in and do what they can. The Government is saying there is no crisis, but why are we going to emergency generation?”

Because it’s election year and Labour doesn’t want power cuts.

Lower South Island residents have saved the lowest percentage of electricity, recording 3.2%, according to Transpower statistics.

Upper South Island residents have saved the highest percentage nationally, at 4.1%, and the national average savings is 3.6%.

I don’t know how much power is the difference between 3.2%, 3.6% and 4.1%, nor why the Upper South Island beats the national average. – But it’s easy to explain why savings are lower in the lower south: it’s winter, and the further south you go the colder you get. Here,  around the 45th paraellel, yesterday’s frost still hasn’t thawed from shady places and it’s only .5 degrees outside right now.

Mr Carr said while he did not want older people and those with limited heating sources to suffer, the national average was “pretty mediocre” and there was a lot more that could be done.

He attributed the Government’s reluctance to take leadership to a desire to avoid bad news during an election year.

“We would like to see the Government telling the country there is a problem,” Mr Carr said.

And I’d like to see the Government explaining to the country why there is a problem.


If there’s no power crisis…

29/06/2008

… why is Lake Hawea  going to be taken below its minimum level to generate more electricity?

Contact Energy will lower Lake Hawea below its statutorily imposed minimum level of 338m above sea level in the next few days, and says it will use the extra water very carefully.

But that was questioned yesterday by the chairman of Lake Hawea Guardians, who said Hawea and its surrounds would suffer for years if the lake falls to 336m.

The company does have resource consent to take the extra two metres – but only when it’s in the national interest to have reserve capacity. Hawea locals are questioning how this condition can be met if there isn’t a crisis.

Guardians of Lake Hawea chairman Grant Fyfe called on the Government to acknowledge that New Zealand faced a power crisis and to take steps to protect the lake. He said an extra 2m would provide only 20 more days of draw-off.

The guardians vehemently opposed any reduction below 338m, he said.

“Hawea is going to suffer the consequences for months or years to come from having a lower lake, but the country as a whole isn’t making any sacrifice.”

Mr Fyfe said minimum operating levels were introduced in the 1970s when the lake fell to 327m, exposing river deltas and causing constant dust storms that carried as far as Ranfurly.

This wasn’t good for the environment or the people in the area. Nor for stock and the dust lowered the quality of wool on sheep which grazed near the lake.

Energy Minister David Parker said the situation at Lake Hawea was a reminder that the environmental consequences of electricity production were borne mostly by people in small, distant communities, rather than in cities.

We know that – but why is Lake Hawea being sacrificed with the consequent detrimental effect on the environment, people and stock, if there isn’t a crisis?


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