New power monitoring will 'hide' price rises, say Greens

TOM PULLAR-STRECKER
Last updated 05:00 21/03/2014

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The Green Party has accused the Government of trying to "mask rising power prices" and the consequences of partial privatisations by changing the way electricity prices are monitored.

Stakes in Meridian and Mighty River Power have been sold and a stake in Genesis Energy will soon be sold. The Government is retaining a controlling stake of at least 51 per cent in all three.

Energy and Resources Minister Simon Bridges said the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) had previously reported the "rack rates" for power in a quarterly survey.

The new approach would see prices collated from information provided by electricity companies. It would take into account any discounts, loyalty rewards and prompt payment discounts they offered, he said.

But Green Party co-leader Russel Norman said prompt-payment discounts were already included in the ministry's quarterly reports, as were any discounts consumers received for paying their bills online.

Because the new pricing data would be privately supplied by electricity companies themselves, it would also no longer be independent, he said.

MBIE's latest quarterly survey, released yesterday, found residential electricity prices had increased by an average of 2.9 per cent over the 12 months to February 15. The "average" household, using 8000 kilowatt-hours, would have paid $2206, $63 more than in the preceding 12-month period.

"The changes will prevent analysis of the price that each retailer charges for power," Norman said. "That looks like an attempt to hide the effect of [partial] privatisation because the former [wholly] state-owned enterprises previously had lower power prices than the private companies."

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- Fairfax Media

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