Taxpayer support for New Zealand Aluminium Smelter not an option, says Energy Minister Megan Woods, as owner considers closure

Taxpayer support for New Zealand Aluminium Smelter not an option, says Energy Minister Megan Woods, as owner considers closure

By David Hargreaves and Jenée Tibshraeny 

The Government isn't prepared to put more money towards helping keep the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter open. 

New Zealand Aluminium Smelters' (NZAS) major shareholder, Rio Tinto, has announced the smelter could be closed, pending the outcome of a strategic review about to get underway. 

The review will also see it talk to the Government and energy providers in the hope of finding a "pathway to profitability".

"Under current market conditions and with high energy costs, we expect the short to medium outlook for the aluminium industry to be challenging and this asset to continue to be unprofitable," Rio Tinto said.

The uncertainty created by the announcement from Rio Tinto saw the Meridian shares hammered on the NZX on Wednesday. Its stock fell in morning trading by 42c, or 7.75%,  to $5. The prospect of a surplus of power being created by the smelter closure saw other big generators hit too, though, with Mercury Energy dropping 31c (5.7%) to $5.14, while Contact Energy shares dropped 62c (7.3%) to $7.90. 

NZAS employs around 1000 people. It's New Zealand's largest electricity user, comprising 14% of demand. 

Energy and Resources Minister Megan Woods said: "The New Zealand Government has had a clear position since 2013 under the Key/English Government that there will be no more financial assistance from taxpayers for Rio Tinto, which is already supported by Meridian for the power it uses. This hasn’t changed."

The National Government in 2013 contributed $30 million towards the smelter to keep it operating. It was undertaking a partial privatisation of state-owned power generators, including Meridian (which supplies the smelter with energy), at the time. 

"This review is a commercial process by a commercial operator," Woods said.

"We hope that these discussions and work by NZAS and Rio Tinto result in the smelter remaining open and continuing to back the Southland economy by trading on its position as producing the world’s greenest, low-carbon aluminium.

"We note Rio Tinto’s own assessment is that the fundamentals for the aluminium market are still strong, and should see a return to higher prices over the medium term."

Rio Tinto said its strategic review would "consider all options, including curtailment and closure" and will be complete in the first quarter in 2020.

Meridian said it had offered to make concessions on its contract with NZAS, but these didn't go far enough for NZAS. It said it already offers very low-cost electricity and remains open to negotiations.

NZAS can currently fully terminate its contract with Meridian, or reduce electricity consumption from 572MW to 400MW, provided it gives a year's notice. 

Meridian's share price fell by 7.75% on the news.

NZAS is a joint venture between Rio Tinto (79.36%) and Sumitomo Chemical Company Limited (20.64%).

The closure or non-closure of the smelter is an issue that keeps raising its head. See earlier articles here.

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Here's Meridian's full statement:

Smelter owner Rio Tinto initiates strategic review

Meridian Energy has been advised by New Zealand Aluminium Smelters Limited’s (NZAS) major shareholder Rio Tinto, that they intend to initiate a strategic review of the smelter. The review will consider all options for the future of the smelter, including the option of closure. Rio Tinto has advised Meridian that it will provide the market with an update on the strategic review by the end of the first quarter in 2020.

The electricity contract between Meridian and NZAS allows for full termination or for NZAS to reduce consumption from 572MW to 400MW, in both cases on 12 months’ notice to Meridian.

Chief Executive of Meridian Energy, Neal Barclay, says that the parties have been in dialogue for some time and “NZAS officials have advised us that the economics of the smelter have been challenged due to volatile international prices for aluminium, relatively high energy and transmission costs and an upcoming refurbishment bill to keep one of the potlines operational.” During that time Meridian had tabled a number of proposed changes and concessions to its existing contract with NZAS. “NZAS has advised Meridian that the changes we had offered to date on our contract fall short of the pricing for delivered energy that NZAS needs to re-establish its position as an internationally competitive aluminium smelter,” says Barclay. “We remain open to negotiating with NZAS and its shareholders on the long-term requirements for the smelter.”

History of the smelter contract and remediation

The contract between NZAS and Meridian runs to 2030 and provides price certainty for the smelter on 572MWh per hour (5,011 gigawatt hours per year) of electricity.

Meridian and NZAS entered into the current contract following a renegotiation in 2013. That renegotiation provided the smelter with greater flexibility in its operations, meaning it could reduce its contracted volume from 572MW to 400 MW on 12 months’ notice. The deal also gave NZAS the provision to terminate the contract completely on 12 months’ notice.

In the 2013 renegotiations the parties agreed to a reduction in the previous electricity price but also allowed for price increases should the NZ dollar value of aluminium rise above agreed levels. This provision was to assist NZAS to establish a competitive cost position for the future.

Meridian agreed a new and separate electricity contract with the smelter in May 2018, providing NZAS with price certainty for an additional 50 MW (438 gigawatt hours per year) of electricity that was utilized to open the smelter’s fourth potline.

In the event of closure, the smelter owners would incur significant remediation costs, recently estimated by NZAS to be in the region of NZ$256 million.

Here's Rio Tinto's full statement:

Rio Tinto will conduct a strategic review of its interest in New Zealand’s Aluminium Smelter (NZAS) at Tiwai Point, to determine the operation’s ongoing viability and competitive position. Under current market conditions and with high energy costs, we expect the short to medium outlook for the aluminium industry to be challenging and this asset to continue to be unprofitable.

Rio Tinto intends to hold discussions with the Government of New Zealand and energy providers to explore options and identify economically viable solutions to find a pathway to profitability for the asset.

Rio Tinto Aluminium chief executive Alf Barrios said “The aluminium industry is currently facing significant headwinds with historically low prices due to an over-supplied market. This means that many aluminium providers are reviewing their positions.

“Rio Tinto will work with all stakeholders including the government, suppliers, communities and employees in order to find a solution that will ensure a profitable future for this plant.”

The strategic review will consider all options, including curtailment and closure and will be complete in the first quarter in 2020. NZAS is a joint venture between Rio Tinto (79.36%) and Sumitomo Chemical Company Limited (20.64%) and employs around 1000 people. 

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

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Shut it down...use the excess power for a new hydrogen plant, then sell that overseas or use for domestic fuel for hydrogen cars...

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Wasting that power to make hydrogen would be one of the daftest ideas out there..

Better option would be to internalise the benefit by selling the (cheap) power back to Housing New Zealand & Social Housing renters, reducing the overall cost of carrying beneficiaries and the less fortunate.

Potentially, this could be applied to people claiming the accommodation supplement to reduce their cost of living and corresponding supplement.

It is time to stop subsidising multi national business now, because it wont happen under National.

How about letting the Electricity market sort out what it is going to do with the excess generation (if the smelter does actually shut, unlikely IMO) instead of more state intervention?

I had an interesting discussion with fleet manager last week (140 trucks). There was discussion about electric trucks, but also acknowledgement of my comment that heavy payloads won't be delivered by electric trucks. That elicited the comment that hydrogen is what they are looking at to save them. A lot in that statement. I have different beliefs as to the outcome.

what hydrogen cars?

Toyota are committed to hydrogen powered cars ... refill time is just minutes , far faster than EVs recharge time , and standard hydrogen cars get twice the distance on a tank than an EV gets on its batteries ...

... as NZ has 80 % electricity produced by renewables , we are ideally placed to embrace hydrogen car technology .....

Gummy get you hard hat, let's go mining crypto!
There's money in them thar server farms!

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Hydrogen cars will never be an economic or energy efficiency proposition due to a few basic laws of Physics. The whole process from power generation to the wheels are 23% and 69% for Hydrogen and Battery based cars respectively.

https://phys.org/news/2006-12-hydrogen-economy-doesnt.html

Toyota have swung their focus away from Hydrogen and are about to announce a solid state lithium battery next year. When fully developed, this will be a total game changer and I suggest that it will be the end of any thoughts of Hydrogen.
I suspect that Toyota and the Japanese have been playing a bit of a cute game with the world with Hydrogen to lead their competition down a blind alley. They certainly sucked in the Chinese who listened to them and now think that Hydrogen is the future. Unfortunately our rather naive NZ leaders have also taken the bait also.

https://www.motorauthority.com/news/1111715_toyota-accelerates-target-fo...

Eion Musk who who has the most credible chops on the subject of electric cars (by one hell of a margin) has always said the Hydrogen power is totally stupid.

https://www.businessinsider.com/elon-musk-hydrogen-cars-are-incredibly-d...

Hydrogen could work for industrial and heavy vehicles and machinery where the energy density and recharge time of batteries is just too low.

But it makes no sense for light vehicle (or bus) transportation.

charge time for an electric car:
Park car in Garage/carport, walk to side of car, plug in lead. Go inside and get on with life. Next morning leave for work etc as usual, walk to car, unplug lead, get in and go. Total time wasted.. about 20 secs.

refill time for a hydrogen car:
Drive to nearest $1million+ filling station, stop car at pump, go to terminal and do payment details to enliven pump, plug in hose, wait for it to fill, hang hose up, leave.. Total time 2-15mins depending on where the filling station is.

Yeah, nah, Hydrogen cars make as much sense as a modern Hindenberg..

Could just encourage the uptake of electric cars in the area through cheap electricity.

cheap electric cars would be needed first

You can buy second-hand Nissan leafs for around $12k.

So not cheap. And for those that need a truck or ute or van for their work?

Don't buy an electric car, obviously.

Cheap and decent electric cars are getting closer, still another few years yet tho I reckon. Catching up with a mate that bought a Tesla Model 3 Performance tomorrow night, will see how happy he is with it.

Whats the $$tag on that ?? It seems the technology is improving exponentially at the moment. I agree itll be a few years off but its a matter of when rather than if

Model 3 Performance is >$100k to buy I think.

Another good plan would be to invite corporations to build data centres down there. Abundant renewable power, cooler temperatures, new undersea cable making international connectivity solid and reliable, and decent supply of IT talent in NZ.
Plus, this could boost the economic potential of the deep South and the diversify exports away from agriculture and tourism into knowledge-intensive services.
We could, for a change, exploit our secluded location as an advantage for hosting backup and redundancy storage systems.

back up on an earth quake prone, difficult to access, island? really?

.. good points ... we don't wanna risk data centres or productive corporations in such a place ... someone or something expendable, unneeded, easily missed , ought to be relocated down there .... WINZ ... IRD . .. NZTA ... Phil Twyfords office . ..

May I add to the list...Par-liar-ment, Bank-sters, Gang-sters, Munny-Lawnderers, Speculators, Really Estate Agencies, Remotely Possible Prisons, Remotely possible House Cheap builders and Plumbers, Tobaconists & Smokers, Illegal Drug Dispensers, Lime Scooters for one and all. Oh and Font-error, until they see the error of their Waste and over priced Cheese factors and factories...and Creaming off the top for their own personal Benefits to our personal Cost. Mistakes are one thing, coining it...anuvver.
Protectionism......so remotely stupid.

Must we pay...yet again.?? .(YES).....

Oh no!! I have a solution and econo-misseds...to pay for it all...instead....Bernanke can lead by example.

Phil Twyfords office. YEH YEH

"We could, for a change, exploit our secluded location as an advantage for hosting backup and redundancy storage systems."
That's smart thinking, Advisor.

I agree. Our secluded location is always touted as a disadvantage. Be good to actually embrace it and use it

Often thought that Twizel would be a good place for a data center - plenty of land, close to a stout power grid, maybe even passive cooling care of those big aquaducts nearby. There's probably a few fibre lines running along the transmission corridors too.

That said, what about Manapouri itself? The generator hall could be expanded to squeeze in a modest data center that would be the most resilient and secure facility in the country - self contained and redundant power, no shortage of cooling water, and quite impenetrable.

Be careful what you wish for.

Transmission costs are currently allocated ion volumes or power.

No smelter means their $ 70 m / annum transmission cost is allocated across all other users.

Power may go down - transmission up - net effect not so much.

more bluff from Bluff,job losses or else,Key folded and paid the ransom.maybe we should go for the greater good and get cheap reusable energy for our future and stop thinking short term.

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Actually Key socialised the debt.

It's what those folk do.

And kicked the can down the road.

Please explain how the debt was socialised ?
Contract since 2013 is probably worth $50-$100M to NZ power industry per year.

A subsidy is a subsidy.

Without it, the energy could have been used elsewhere on the grid and would likely lead to lower power prices for everyone; reducing the cost of living and need for family support and/or accommodation supplements. These support payments are either paid for by increased taxes or increased government debt.

Cheaper energy for electric cars would speed up the transition away from petrol use also, and reduce the need for oil we have to otherwise import from the cartel that manipulate prices to their liking. Might help out with the trade deficit too, which at last look oil represented some $7 billion in imports.

You’re right, a subsidy is a subsidy. We’re subsidising tens of thousands of deadbeats every day in this country. I vote to cut subsidies to both now.

Yep, kill the pension!! Get those old bums off teh couch and earn your keep you bloody bludgers!
(/sarcasm.. mostly)

.. what debt ?

Who are " those folks " ?

.. was it Baldwin Street in Dunedin .... so much fun to kick a can down that road ..

So do we reckon the Aussies will allow closure of Tiwai Point? After all, they export all the raw materials to the plant for processing from NT and Qld, and given it's obviously the cheapest alternative, would they want their export figures crimped?

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4 of Australias 6 aluminium smelters are still operating ... the PRC has in excess of 140 aluminium smelters ... some of which have 3 times the production of Bluff ....

... Bluff is nothing more than an electricity subsidised job scheme for Southland ...

Seems pretty obvious what the course of action should be then! On the other hand, I'm not a politician...

800 people are employed at the smelter ... indirectly , another 3000 jobs are connected to it ... it accounts for 8 % of Southlands GDP ... shut it down ? ... NO !

.. on the other hand , the smelter uses 570 MW of electricity ... 13 % of the nations consumption ... equivalent to 680 000 households ... shut it down ? ... YES !

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It's not Bill English's electorate anymore, so Labour can shut it down if still in power

... the smelter has been breaking even for 10 years ... theres a worldwide glut of aluminium.

. If the owners threaten to shut it down , unless Taxcinda offers them a subsidy .. taxpayers aren't gonna blame Labour if she tells the owners to piss off .. not being Wild Bill's electorate is the key to that power ..

If businesses cannot count on getting a handout of taxpayer money it's no wonder their confidence is in the doldrums. First Mediaworks looking for more taxpayer help, now Rio Tinto...what's the world coming to when a good, own-two-feeting capitalist can't access taxpayer funds when desired?

China can out compete the high cost countries, in fact even low cost countries.

https://aluminiuminsider.com/china-hongqiao-planning-new-aluminium-smelt...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XN8lK-xqlUQ

Countries that punch above their weight (and population size) in aluminium production cannot exactly be classified as low-cost economies.

Canada, Norway and Iceland ranked 4th, 7th and 11th by output in 2018.

those countries with cheap Hydo electricity.
All we need now is more demand from the West and all is rosy again.

And when Bill Gates gets his gen4 nuclear power plants delivering.
Energy crisis/affordability and climate change sorted in one go (see it doesn't matter if climate change is real or not now).

At 572MW, against a NZ-wide peak demand that is not far short of 6GW (varies, live Transpower data here), Tiwai Point consumes around 9.5% of peak demand or if NZ load is averaged across the year at say 5GW, 11.44%. But before anyone gets too excited about alternative uses of that dispatchable generation capacity, if TP were to exit stage left, there is insufficient transmission capacity running north of Manapouri to convey it elsewhere, without some serious capex.....

That's why I'm thinking Tim Shadbolt could be all over this with "pretty radical" plans for the deep South. Run everything on cheap electricity, get the bogans of Invercargill out of Toranas and into Teslas, and be a pioneer region in electric trucking and farming vehicles.

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Legalize marijuana and set up large scale growing industries. Can power plenty of 500w UV Grow Lights on 572mw.

The Southland economy will be blazing ahead in no time.

Smokin' !

Build another High Voltage DC link from the Southern Lakes to Auckland. Make it big enough that it can also cater for the Onslow Manorburn pumped hydro scheme then there would be nothing stopping NZ achieving a low cost 100% renewable electricity system.

Then go big on promoting NZ transforming to zero carbon industries and transport options.

You mean....use Government money to stimulate the economy? I'm sure I heard someone crying out for that the other day...

Goverment money? You mean taxpayer money

Or (tongue firmly in Right Cheek), import a large electric dragline, or, as the Green Germans do, a large bucket-wheel excavator, plus (in either case) a sturdy extension cord, and point it at the Waimumu lignite fields, and pass the lignite through the Fischer-Tropsch process to generate liquid fuels for a transition period.....there's 78K petajoules in those lignite fields....

I think that you may be working on old figures there. After the second tunnel was built and some tweeking of the turbines the total possible capacity rose to 850mW but in practice is limited by their resource permit to 800 mW.

Chris-M, 572MW was the smelter demand from the article, not Manapouri gen capacity as such. There's a older but possibly still good paper on transmission constraints here.

Sorry. Yes you did say demand. Just that the number was very close to the old Manapouri maximum output.

Not a good idea to be totally reliant on China for Aluminium nor is allowing 1,000 immediate job losses with trickle down and supply chain effects.

Put up a tariff on overseas aluminum imports and protect the industry.

All a tariff would do is push up the local price of aluminium and stick the rest of the economy with the cost. Might as well increase taxes and give the money to the smelter.

Rio Tinto & Sumitomo have deep pockets ... if they're blackmailing us again for even cheaper electricity , or for another handout ... we have the power to call their bluff ...

And they have the power to move somewhere else

Transmission should be looked at - regardless of which method(s) is/are used, displacing FF in transportation would be a good use for the power.

As for Southland, they should thank Hugh "The greatest achievement of my career was persuading Comalco to build their smelter in New Zealand" Watt for their halcyon bonanza - then move on. Otago dodged that bullet.

Could the farmers down there do a bit of intensification down there with all that cheap electricity for the milking machines and irrigation.
Or should us Dorklanders just all move nearer the power source, taking our Teslas and our heat pumps with us.And get out of the (flaming) traffic?

If the place is shut down the next big industry in Southland will be remediation of Tiwai Point. It's going to cost millions.

. . after Rio clears off , install some partitioning , desks and chairs in the old smelter ... and relocate some government department there ...

Hmmmmmmm ?

... hey guys ! .... anyone object to IRD being transfered lock stock and two smoking tax forms to Tiwai Point ?

So long as it doesn't break the May Oyster Festival.

The govt's role ends with the pull the subsidy bit... the rest is up to the power co's.

... there are hundreds of aluminium smelters around the world .. . Many of them are heavily subsidised by the local government ... more the fool them...

When Rio come to us with their begging bowl held out , and threats of a shut down .. . It's long beyond time that we steeled our nerves , and told them to get lost !

@GBH .....And end up with a surplus of electricity going to waste ............

Run some electrification up to al the Fong-Terror milk drying plants in the south island and stop importing/digging coal for them. Not the best use of the power, but if there is no other demand for it its a decent enough option.

This is becoming a bit of a game with Rio Tinto. May be it is time to call their bluff. The government wants to lower the price of power. Here is their best chance.

If the smelter closes power prices would drop and everyone would have cheap power. We also would not have to think about substantial power generation projects for a while either. Although some new infrastructure might be needed to get the power out of the area. It would be more effective that the proposed regulation.

IIRC it's a $2B job to build the necessary distribution lines to get all of the power to places it can be used.

If the power co's want to pay $2Bill to get it up north or sell it cheaper down there ...then that's their call. A free market is what it's called - known to be the most efficient way to do things.

The net benefit to the economy of more than a decade of cheap power would exceed $2b.

The PGF still has plenty in the kitty.

Our current Finance Minister has that in the surplus. And they have an election to win....so.....

Once the network is built to distribute this power, then the cost will needed to be paid back by the customer. Generation is not the biggest part of the cost of retail electricity. The line is. Based on this fact, I dont think flooding the market with electricity (most of which is not needed other than specific peak hours), will affect the retail prices. The challenge is if you upgrade your whole network for 20% peak time use and then significantly under usage in other times, it will be a financial disaster to balance.
This power is going to waste, the smelter knows it thus why they are so aggressive about it. They are in a position to negotiate the price (as a significant consumer located where they actually can consume it).

Its a good time to take the smelter into local ownership. We need an onshore ali recycling plant instead of shipping overseas we can do it all here. I can't imagine we'd need all the potlines for that so if we had excess electricity we could electrify the rest of the rail network or even re nationalise the entire electricity sector and reintegrate it so it actually works properly....

Um, the smelter consists of electrolytic pots which have bauxite as their feedstock. The electrolysis accounts for the electricity needed. These pots cannot recycle Al (which requires only process heat)......

Wheres the vision. I'm not talking about Keys brighter future either...simply take the smelter back as an SOE and accept a less than rapacious dividend, the sky wouldn't fall in! The potential to our economy from cheaper energy to the rest of the country and perhaps establish an engineering centre of excellence off the back of the services pipeline the smelter needs, like Glenbrook before we stupidly sold it in the neoliberal rape of this country...think of what we could acheive!

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Could we turn the smelter into a large convention centre?

What should happen is the extra 14% of generation capacity can be used by the rest of NZ and lower the entire nations energy bills and kick start economic growth. It’s like giving the entire country a tax break....

No it won't due to DC capacity constraints in the cook straight, it can't all be pushed to the north island.
It would require massive investment to add new links.

So just keep it in the South Island and give companies a reason to move here.

What particular industries (or otherwise energy intensive businesses) you have in mind that can benefit from cheap(ish) electricity that can move down to shout island and the saving from this cheaper electricity can justify their additional costs? the smelters are a legacy, they are already there. I doubt that there would have been a case for opening a new one if it was not already there.

It might go some way to compensating those of us that will be screwed over if the Labour govt plan to get rid of low user power accounts and stiff us all with the high line charges of the standard rates (which only 40% of the population is on)

First of all, this is likely just more saber rattling to get a better deal from the Govt/meridian so I’d say about 20% chance of that actually happening.

Second, if the smelter closes it will be tough for the power companies but there is an opportunity here to supercharge the uptake of electric cars. The government could further improve the link with the north island and the power companies could band together to provide additional incentives and infrastructure for electric cars. They can be masters of their own destiny.

There has been talk of a silicon smelter using Southland silica deposits, that would be a good fit to the local skills and use 100 megawatts.

Incredible, a comment thread with largely intelligent debate and full of useful information with no mention of house prices.

That's probably why, in fact.

If smelter closes then house prices in Invercargill will fall. Sorry - couldn't help myself :-)

That's a potential outcome, agreed. But then people will relocate to other centres for work pushing prices/rents up there. Sorry - couldn't help myself!

Going to be terrible for Southland house prices, get out now! Will drop at least 40%. Don’t try and catch a falling knife.

Jokes.

Invercargill has seen three freezing works close, maybe 2000-3000 seasonal jobs go, and they just trucked on.

Seasonal jobs aren't great for paying mortgages, whereas the permanent jobs and their pay rates for the smelter workers are.

I was only joking.

OK I got it. Use the excess power to heat glass houses to grow cash crops year round - Avocados etc. Everyone hates high Avocado prives! Or grow hemp/cannabis if it is legalized. Bluff can be the weed capital of New Zealand...

This is a very difficult problem

If there is going to be a 14% surplus of electricity , the price will certainly drop as the industry fights for customers and engages in a price war to maintain profit and sales

Good ! you might say , but it would be deflationary and may have unintended consequences .

Genius at work

In 2013 John Key gave RIO a $30 MILLION grant to keep Tiwai open

NB: $30 million - pocket fluff

Dr Megan Woods minister for energy announces there will be no more subsidies for Tiwai Point Rio Tinto

Wanna Bet ????

At 11:am today the value of the shares of the Gentailers on the NZX were down $1½ BILLION
At 12:pm today the value of the shares of the Gentailers on the NZX were down $2 BILLION

The S&P/NZX50 index is currently down 2% or 221 points (and falling) - that's a lot-a-money

Watch this space

The nabobs like Milford Asset Management Bryan Gaynor and NZ Super fund Matt Whineray will be lobbying right now - phones will be running hot - the big investment funds will not be happy

Milford has Contact Energy and Meridian I think.
I have Milford

All of a sudden I believe in subsidies to produce the most carbon friendly aluminium and save the planet...

Ah you sound like a Senator.

ICON- when you put it like that it's not such an easy decision. How much of that loss today affects the govt/taxpayers What is it they own of the gentailers? Isn't it 50%.
Therefore 30 mill versus half of the loss today is a no brainer much as I hate the thought of RT getting away with it again...

Yes, but that $30M is on top of a crazy low price for the power.

Key and his bunch used to say it would wreck the power market by which he meant consumers would pay lower prices. We can’t have that, give Rio Tinto $30M.

Well, well. If we shut down Tiwai and electricity goes down in price (as if) then this would obviously be very good as the savings will allow us to bid up house prices. We will then think we are very clever, the ploticians will think they are very, very clever and everything will be wonderful....

Does that mean if we close all businesses that use elecricity, we can further inflate house prices with all those power bill savings?? I'm in.

Not only is there an issue with insufficient transmission capacity out of Manapouri to the north, there is a logistical problem- the further you try to shift power down a line the less you get out the other end. This is why NZ's power is shunted north. If Tiwai Point closed and we were able to send the power north to where the main markets are we would probably just get enough to boil a jug by the time it got to Auckland. Rio Tinto knows this which is why they periodically play hardball. If the government won't come to the party then TP's supplier will wear it. Meridian is still half owned by the Government isn't it? So it's government in the crosshairs one way or another.

Its easy, just make meridian the majority shareholder and over time take full ownership just like the govt did with Air NZ. In accepting a less rapacious dividend the govt could own a pretty good moneymaker. Maybe repurpose a potline or two for smelting aluvial gold from southland deposits?

I will be banned from this site for life if I was to write what I think of Megan Woods ...........

The markets have already rendered their verdict on her comments: all gentailers down by (it varies) 5-12%, total loss of market cap around the $2B mark. Evidently loose lips sink dams as well as ships....