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ETNZ release on flawed report on NZ energy

Supposed expert group’s report on New Zealand a mix of factual errors, unsourced ‘concerns’, and unsubstantiated insinuation

The International Energy Agency periodically sends a team out to review the energy policies of member countries. Last year it produced a lengthy report on New Zealand that included a special focus section on our electricity distribution system.

Alarmed at the IEA report’s more obvious errors and the lack of analysis underlying many of its recommendations, the Energy Trusts Association asked Professor George Yarrow to review it independently. Professor Yarrow is a leading authority on electricity policy. He chairs Hertford College, Oxford’s Regulatory Policy Institute.

ETNZ Chair Karen Sherry says that Prof Yarrow’s critique of the IEA’s work “is disquieting, to say the least.” ETNZ are left wondering who’s agenda the IEA was working to in making sweeping recommendations that, if accepted by the Government, would stifle electricity distributors’ efforts to embrace the various new technologies that are transforming power supply.

“Professor Yarrow’s report should be compulsory reading for all commentators and policy makers involved with electricity issues. Not only is it a very easy read, it exposes the vulnerability of countries that rely on once over lightly analysis by bodies such as the IEA to define policy.”

In his concluding remarks Prof Yarrow sums up one of a range of flaws he sees in the IEA’s approach; “The IEA is barking up the wrong trees in the first place and it is clearly no fan of diversity and experimentation. I would not, however, use [the] label of rational bureaucrats as a label for its agents, because there is little that is rational about moving from ‘concerns’ to recommendations with minimal contact with evidence and reasoning on the journey between the two.”

The full report from Professor Yarrow accompanies this release.

The IEA report on New Zealand can be viewed at:
(Chapter 7, beginning on page 127, focuses on the electricity distribution industry.)

Appendix 1

Professor George Yarrow: Summary CV

Born: Sunderland, UK, 27/02/48 Education: St John’s College, Cambridge University
Degrees: MA (Cantab), MA (Oxon)

Current positions: Chair, previously Director, Regulatory Policy Institute; Emeritus Fellow, Hertford College, Oxford University.

Previous and other academic positions: University of Warwick (faculty 1969-71, later visiting); Newcastle University (faculty 1971-8, later visiting); Oxford University (faculty, later Emeritus, 1978-); Queen Mary and Westfield College, University of London (visiting); Harvard University (visiting); University of California (San Diego, visiting); University of Urbino (visiting); International Institute for Management, Berlin (visiting); Jagiellonian University, Krakow (visiting).

Research activities: Principal area of work has been the economics and political economy of competition, regulation and privatization. Secondary areas include: monetary theory; environmental policies; corporate objectives and the market for corporate control; aspects of industrial organization theory; health economics; and the reform of social security.

Best known works are "Privatization in theory and practice", Economic Policy, 1986, variously reprinted including in the International Library of Critical Writings in Economics, and, with Professor Sir John Vickers, Privatization: An Economic Analysis, published by MIT Press in 1988, and subsequently in Spanish and Chinese editions. Most recent major paper is Brexit and the Single Market (July 2016).

Other academic: Served as nominator for the Nobel Prize in Economics and was a member of the editorial boards of Economic Policy, the Oxford Review of Economic Policy, the Journal of Industrial Economics, Applied Economics, and Applied Financial Economics.

Government panels, reports and advisory: A wide range of activities over the years for virtually all major UK government departments and regulatory agencies concerned with micro-economic policy issues. The most enduring was an association with Ofgas, then Ofgem, extending from 1993 to 2009, first as a member of the Ofgas academic panel, then as economic advisor to Ofgas/Ofgem, finally as a Member of the Gas and Electricity Markets Authority. At the international level this strand of activity has encompassed work for the European Commission (including on issues of transition in Central and Eastern Europe (1989-95), the Republic of Ireland’s Dept of Transport (serving twice on the Aviation Appeals Panel) and Commission for Communications Regulation, the Australian Commonwealth Government and AEMC, the NZ Commerce Commission, the Government of Japan (Ministry of Finance), the Government of Hong Kong, World Bank, OECD, UNCTAD and the UN Development Programme.

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