12 Aug 2009

Government advised to replace Electricity Commission

7:02 pm on 12 August 2009

The Government has been advised to replace the Electricity Commission, allow lines companies back into retailing and to compensate consumers during public conservation campaigns.

These are some of the recommendations in a report looking at the best ways to curb escalating power prices.

The report concludes that price rises, especially in the domestic market, have been excessive and more competition is needed in the market.

Lines companies have been prevented from getting into the retail side of the market so they could not discriminate against competitors.

Energy Minister Gerry Brownlee says more competition is needed and allowing lines companies back into retail would be one way to acheive this.

Mr Brownlee says there are provisions in the report that would avoid anti-competitive behaviour and it is a recommendation worth further consideration.

The report also suggests the re-allocation of assets of state-owned generators between the likes of Meridian and Genesis so that thermal and hydro can be called upon when there is a shortage of supply.

Other recommendations include: compensating customers during public conservation campaigns at a minimum of $10 per week, in part to reduce reliance by power companies on during dry years.

It has also been suggested that the Electricity Commission be replaced with an Electricity Market Authority to improve governance in the sector.

The Green Party says it doubts allowing electricity lines companies back into the retail market would encourage anti-competitive behaviour.

It says that, during the electricity reforms of the 1990s the main problem was not the line companies, but rather allowing big generators to buy the retailers.

The public has five weeks to provide feedback on the contents of the report.