What caused the January CBD outage?

Media Releases Network Updates

Vector has recently completed an investigation into the circumstances that led to a brief 48-minute power outage in pockets of Auckland’s central business district (CBD) on January 23, 2020. 
Vector CEO Simon Mackenzie said, “We acknowledge that the CBD outage was an inconvenience for many customers and we have since carried out a full investigation to understand the root cause. Our electrical engineers have taken steps to minimise the probability of an outage like this occurring again.” 
Minutes after the power outage began at 12:55pm, Vector’s electricity operations centre was able to remotely redirect power to most homes and businesses affected. Unfortunately, several hundred premises were without power for the full 48 minutes.  
Vector’s investigation in the January CBD outage confirmed there was a combination of factors that caused the protection system to activate, automatically shutting down power to parts of the city.   
Vector’s Head of Capital Programme Delivery, Minoru Frederiksens explains, “The way the network was configured at the time – a temporary measure to enable maintenance to Transpower’s network – caused a type of magnetic interaction which made the protection system think there was too much pressure on it given additional demand due to the hot weather.  However, the load was in fact well within the limits of the system. 
“Our investigation confirmed the outage was not caused by equipment failure or any other kind of network quality issue, but rather a protection setting that activated due to this cable configuration. 
Since completing the investigation, we have taken steps to adjust the configuration of the circuit and return it to its normal state to reduce the likelihood of a similar outage in future,” said Minoru.  
Simon said the timeframe for full restoration was also influenced by the time it took for Vector’s response crews to get to the Quay Street substation site.  
“Anyone who has travelled through the Quay Street area lately will know how heavily congested the area is due to large amounts of civil works underway. We are constantly looking for new ways to reduce outage duration - one of which involves advocating for changes to Land Transport rules to allow our crews to use flashing lights on their response vehicles.  
“Flashing lights would enable our crews to move more quickly through traffic, allowing them to get to the site faster to restore power - something that would prove particularly beneficial in electrical and gas emergencies that require coordination with first responders,” he said.   
Additional information: 

  • Vector successfully restored power to all CBD customers within 48 minutes of the initial disruption. All customers affected by a related outage in Parnell had their power restored within 1 hour and 33 minutes.  

  • The CBD outage was not related to any equipment failure or network reliability issues. 

  • At Vector our work is focused on investing in the electricity network to keep pace with Auckland’s relentless growth, while also facilitating the rapid uptake of new energy technologies, such as electric vehicles. 

  • ​Ensuring our networks remain safe and reliable through this transition is always our top priority, and we are currently investing $6 million dollars a week to achieve this. 

  • Our published service standards explain criteria for customer compensation after an outage.   

  • For fast updates on power outages may be affecting you, visit our Outage Centre on vector.co.nz/outages.  

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