Emergency power generation to boost community resilience

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

The eastern Taranaki township of Whangamōmona is the first of four communities on Powerco’s network to receive an emergency backup electricity supply to boost rural community resilience.

Powerco is currently installing generation in a fenced-off area of a layby entering Whangamōmona, which is scheduled to be ready for operation mid-November. Generation is also being installed in the remote seaside Wairarapa communities of Castlepoint and Riversdale (due November), as well as in the Whanganui-Manawatū region of Himatangi Beach (due December). 

The generation to these communities is a Powerco initiative to boost resilience for remote rural communities that will include supporting the establishment of community hubs on its electricity footprint, General Manager Electricity Karen Frew says.

“Power to the Whangamōmona, Castlepoint, Riversdale and Himatangi communities is supplied by single feeders, which means we’re unable to re-route power from another feeder to restore supply if there’s an outage,” she says.

“With generation, there’s a resource ready to help power the community in the event of the electricity feed being unavailable. It also enables local communities to set up community hubs to supply essential services for people in the event of a natural disaster. 

“The isolated nature and difficult forestry block terrain, particularly for Castlepoint and Riversdale, has meant, at times, lengthy delays in supply restoration following storm events for our customers. This generation will enable lifeline supply for the likes of wifi, phone charging, fridges, freezers and food preparation to continue for these communities when they need it most.”

In addition to the community mains generation, Powerco is working with iwi and community leaders, initially in the Manawatū and Wairarapa regions, to establish community energy resilience projects. 

“In an emergency, local marae and rural halls become community hubs, which need to continue to be powered even if the rest of the region is without electricity,” Karen Frew says.

“While these marae and community halls may have access to generators, a sticking point has been the availability of a manual transfer switch which safely connects the marae or halls’ electrical circuits to the generator. To assist, we’re partnering with Manawatū District Council and Wellington Region Emergency Management to identify marae in Manawatū and remote community halls in Wairarapa. We’ll then fund an electrical assessment and installation of a manual transfer switch at each site.”

The company is also looking at options to deploy Base Power standalone power supply units to remote communities for backup supply. 

Powerco’s community hubs initiative complements a recent report for Electricity Networks Aotearoa that said establishing secure community hubs will be essential for electricity networks facing the next Cyclone Gabrielle. The Energia consultancy's report into the natural disaster recommended lines companies set up backup power and communications systems in rural and remote areas to improve resilience and help allocate resources to network recovery.

Click here for more information about the Whangamōmona, Castlepoint, Riversdale and Himatangi Beach generation.


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