Research Note: What happened on Black Monday?

Carl Hansen, Former Chief Executive of the New Zealand Electricity Authority (2010 – 2018)
Research Note
18 August, 2021

Last week, on Monday 9 August, very cold weather over most of the country meant national electricity demand reached a record high. About 35,000 consumers (1.75% of consumers) experienced power outages between 7 – 9 pm.

The New Zealand electricity system is generally considered outstanding by world standards. The International Energy Agency (IEA), for example, stated in its recent review of New Zealand that we had a world leading example of a well-functioning electricity market and the market-driven rise in renewables was a world-class success story among IEA member countries.[1]

How, then, could we have a shortage of electricity last week? The reality is no electricity system is perfectly reliable. Almost all countries experience shortages at some stage. Although Monday’s event was serious, it is important not to overreact.

This report provides a brief overview of electricity sector arrangements relevant to Monday’s blackout. The events of 9 August are then outlined, followed by brief comments about the investigations underway.

[1] “Energy Policies of IEA Countries,” International Energy Agency, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, 2017, 3.

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