Power prices still going up - Shearer

CATHIE BELL
Last updated 07:12 27/02/2014

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Marlborough consumers had the fourth highest power price increases over the past three years, Labour's energy spokesman David Shearer says.

Information from the Powerswitch website operated by the Electricity Authority, which regulates the electricity industry, measured the cost of electricity to domestic power users between February 2011 and February 2014, using the prices charged by the cheapest supplier in each region at the time, Mr Shearer said.

The national increase over those three years was $243.70, while Marlborough's increase was $434.

Mr Shearer said that of the 45 areas monitored over the past three years, only one area had a decrease while all the others went up. The only area to decrease was Wairoa.

MPs had questioned Electricity Authority officials at a select committee hearing at Parliament, he said. Questions focused on a report by consulting firm Covec that said that despite consumers switching power retailers to get the best deal through the Powerswitch scheme, it was having no real impact on retail prices.

That report "delivered a body blow" to claims that switching power companies means cheaper power, Mr Shearer said.

"An independent report commissioned by the Government says consumer switching has a small effect on the level of competitiveness and ‘no significant effect' on retail prices.

"That is completely at odds with what Energy Minister Simon Bridges has been crowing about for the past few months.

"All of this just confirms what Kiwi consumers already know - that their power prices continue to go up. Switching power companies may have short term impacts but it won't fix a system that is dominated by power companies who want to maximise their profits at the expense of consumers."

Mr Shearer said the Government was backing the companies and not taxpayers.

Mr Shearer said the Electricity Authority was supposed to be the watchdog on power prices.

But it told the select committee that rising prices were not a good measure of whether a market was competitive or not, he said.

"If a competitive market is not about bringing down prices, what is it for?"

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- The Marlborough Express

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