Power cuts are rare, but it’s best if you are prepared. Find out what to do and why planned and unplanned power outages occur.
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What to do in a power cut
Power cuts happen from time to time in New Zealand. Even though power companies aim to supply constant electricity, it cannot be guaranteed.
Does your health depend on electricity?
If you, or someone in your household is or could be medically dependent, you must let your power company know immediately and apply for 'medically dependent consumer' status. Contact them yourself or ask the account holder for your household to tell the power company on your behalf.
If you choose to switch to another power company, you will need to notify your new power company. They will not know you are medically dependent if you don’t tell them.
Even if you are medically dependent, a constant electricity supply cannot be guaranteed. Your health practitioner should agree an emergency response plan with you. This provides you with instructions on what to do to stay well if the electricity supply fails for any reason.
If there’s a power cut and you’re medically dependent:
- Follow your emergency response plan if the power cut puts you at risk of harm.
- Notify your power company immediately so they are aware you do not have an electricity supply.
- In a medical emergency, call 111.
What should I do if there’s a power cut?
If there’s a power cut, you should:
- Switch off electrical appliances that shouldn't be left unattended for when the power comes back on.
- Leave a light on, so you know when power has been restored.
- If it’s a cold day/evening, check to see if your neighbours are okay and wrap up warm.
Planned power outages
Planned power outages can be scheduled to complete necessary maintenance work on distribution networks or Transpower’s national electricity transmission grid. Affected properties may have their power cut if there is no way to reroute the supply of electricity.
You would be advised of a planned outage by your retailer, local lines company or Transpower.
Unplanned power outages
Unplanned power outages can occur when:
- distribution or transmission infrastructure is damaged from bad weather, natural disasters or equipment failure
- there is not enough electricity generation to meet supply. However, this is very unlikely and would typically only happen when demand is particularly high and there are failures of one or more major generation or transmission assets.
If there is time, the system operator (Transpower) will warn New Zealanders of the risk of power cuts and will work with lines companies to switch off hot water systems so cuts aren’t necessary.
It also may ask people to conserve power until the situation is resolved or the power shortage passes. Some of the ways you can help during these times are:
- turn off heaters and lights in rooms you are not using
- don’t use washing machines and dishwashers
- don’t charge electronic devices and electric vehicles.
If it is cold, you should stay warm by continuing to heat the rooms you are using, but consider turning down the temperature slightly.
If power cuts are necessary, they will likely be short and will be a last resort. However, in severe cases like a natural disaster, a power cut could last for days in some places, so make sure you are always prepared.