Electra Trust chairman Chris Turver says it’s time the government forced the big power retail companies to justify their price increases instead of making it more difficult for many power users on low incomes to make ends meet.
He was echoing concern by delegates to an Energy Trusts conference about the cost and complexity of ‘information disclosure’ faced by lines companies like Electra which works hard to deliver power at least cost to its 43,500 consumers in Kapiti and Horowhenua.
“Lines companies are forced to justify what we spend and the prices we charge under a regulatory regime which does not require the same compliance from the big power retail companies,” Mr Turver says.
The conference formally called for improved electricity regulation, saying the 21 energy trusts are ‘very concerned at the growing intrusiveness of regulation for (lines companies) for limited consumer benefit’ while leaving the big retailers untouched.
Mr Turver says compliance costs for Electra in information disclosure for the Ministry of Commerce and the Electricity Authority peaked at $500,000 a year — and still run into hundreds of thousands a year.
He adds: “The big power retailers justify prices increases on the basis of the commercial investment they make into maintaining and upgrading their retail networks – and they get away with minimal regulation.
“What is overlooked is the massive and constant reinvestment by lines companies in their line networks to minimise power disruptions, meet population growth, and maintain high safety standards.”
Electra alone spends $8 million a year to safeguard and its services to consumers, he says.
At the conference, Mr Turver asked a Commerce Commission speaker why the Commission doesn’t put as much compensating effort into working out how to reduce compliance costs as it does into inventing even more complex rules.