Charges for lines set to rise

CHRIS GARDNER
Last updated 05:00 23/08/2012

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Electricity lines companies supplying some of the country's most remote areas, such as the King Country, could receive Commerce Commission approval to raise their charges by up to 15 per cent.

A draft decision released by the commission this week, which could be implemented on December 1, is expected to cost The Lines Company customers in the King Country an 8.6 per cent rise on the back of some prices doubling and tripling.

Far North-based Top Energy customers can expect a 13.4 per cent rise, South Canterbury-based Alpine Energy 6.3 per cent and Hawke's Bay-based Centralines 10.7 per cent.

Commission chairman Mark Berry said the commission wanted a balance between providing supplier incentives to invest in their networks, and ensuring consumers were charged prices more aligned with the cost of services.

The Lines Company chief executive John Anderson said the company was focused on decreasing costs rather than significantly increasing them.

"One of the best ways of doing this is to do more planned work with the power off rather than live-line work. If we can get approval from our customers and the Commerce Commission to do this then next year's price increase will be much lower than the 15 per cent. If we can keep future prices low, we will.”

It hopes to consult with customers in November regarding future price increases and the level of planned outages.

Nicole Middleton, of King Country Glass in Taumarunui, was among protesters who marched this month in protest at the rises. "The consultation, not happening until November, will be telling us what's going to happen. It's too late. People are up in arms."

She said she was disappointed with the commission's proposal and Energy Minister Phil Heatley's rejection of calls for a ministerial inquiry.

chris.gardner@waikatotimes.co.nz

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