Northpower’s Network business has just recorded one of its most successful years to date.
System reliability has dramatically improved, with a 38 per cent unplanned SAIDI improvement recorded in the year to March, and an 85 per cent improvement since 2008.
Northpower credits a pragmatic and targeted operational and capital expenditure programme for the step change. Operational expenditure was down 6.3 per cent over the past year and has trended down an average of 4.5 per cent over the past four years. Capital expenditure for the period was up to $21 million, with the company undertaking a number of significant networks projects.
Network investment in the latest period included the replacement of almost 60 kilometres of overhead line, with Northpower utilising a tensile strength test machine to assess which conductors needed replacing. The company also replaced 76 manual and six automatic overhead air break high voltage switches with metal-clad SF6 insulated switches.
Northpower initiated a successful tree trimming programme targeted at reducing tree-related faults, which led to 60 per cent of all trees on feeders within the network being cut back.
In other areas Northpower has performed well, with the company’s contract for the rollout of Northland’s fibre network running within budget and six months ahead of schedule. At March 31 it was 70 per cent complete.
The fibre build – which Northpower was awarded as part of the Crown’s $1.5 billion ultrafast broadband strategy - represents another revenue stream for the company outside of its traditional lines and poles business.
Northpower’s Network arm is managing the project and has used its existing lines assets to make innovation gains in the fibre build. For example, passive optical network technology has been used to produce leaner fibre, which is competitive with copper but produces a superior technical performance.
The Northpower Network business operates the electricity lines distribution network in the Kaipara and Whangarei Districts.
Overall, a strong financial performance saw the group, which includes Northpower’s New Zealand and Australian contracting businesses, achieve a net profit of $11.5 million, up 17 per cent on the previous period. The lines company provided a line rebate to consumers of $4.7 million, and a dividend to the Northpower Electric Power Trust of $4 million, up 5 per cent on the year before.
The Lines Company of the Year award is sponsored by TE Connectivity.