OPINION: Having changed energy supplier from Meridian Energy to GreyPower Electricity (Pulse Energy), we anticipated enjoying some worthwhile reduction in our power accounts.
Twenty dollars a month and $400 a year were just two examples quoted for other parts of the county.
We were understandably disappointed when comparing two recent accounts against the same months last year and equalising the power consumption to find the difference was only marginal.
However, it was EIL's ''delivery/line'' charge that proved baffling. In March the energy charge was $46.51, the delivery charge $68. For April the energy charge was $63.68 and the delivery charge $98.85.
In both cases the delivery charge was approximately 50 per cent greater than the energy charge.
By comparison, Meridian's monthly accounts across the previous year showed network charges of between 45 and 55 per cent of the total account.
Hardly in keeping with the often repeated claim that EIL is the cheapest or among the cheapest line companies in the country.
I rang GreyPower Electricity (twice) and PowerNet (twice) - EIL doesn't have a telephone number - seeking an explanation.
The people I spoke to were very polite and sympathetic but as mystified as I was. ''We just bundle the charges EIL sends us'' said GreyPower Electricity. While PowerNet could only verify that the calculations were correct.
No doubt others will have also noticed this anomaly and would appreciate a response from the EIL directorate justifying these high line charges.
PowerNet chief executive Jason Franklin replies: Electricity Invercargill Limited has both a fixed and variable component to the line charge pricing.
The months that Mr Swallow refers to are low consumption months, so the fixed charge accounts for approximately $26 of the charge and the variable charge accounts for the balance of the line charge.
The majority of the retailer charges are all variable, so on a small consumption month their energy charges in proportion will be less than the total line charge for the month.
If Mr Swallow was to compare a winter power bill with much larger consumption he would see that the line charge proportion would be much less.
We have one of the most reliable networks in New Zealand, where we have undertaken significant capital investment over the years - such as undergrounding the lines - and our prices are among the lowest in New Zealand, specifically in the lowest quarter of all electricity network prices.
We have managed our network extremely well and continue to invest significant capital for the
future while balancing the impact on customer prices. We believe we get this balance right.
I am happy to discuss the issue further with Mr Swallow should he want more information on how the charges are calculated.
- The Southland Times