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Cure Worse Than Disease

Cure Worse Than Disease

After two years of thinking, since the last generation emergency, the best the Government can come up with is threats to dismantle the market - but not for two years - and a `Grid Security Committee' which has now spawned its own `Winter Power Taskforce', ACT SOE Spokesman Stephen Franks said today.

"They know the market holds the solution now, but are too politically weak to say so themselves - they want the Committee to bring the bad news, Mr Franks said.

"Ministers Pete Hodgson and Michael Cullen are mincing around the real issue: just how to get away with the long-term power price increases for consumers, needed to justify new generation. But even in the shorter term they won't use the market tools they have to get us through the shortage without severe damage.

"Consumers use 65 percent of New Zealand's power, yet there are no pricing plans to reward them for saving power at peak load times. And no generator has asked them to share in profits from reselling power to businesses, which suffer under exploitative spot prices.

"Most consumers would love to share in the resale profits of power they'd otherwise use - especially when it's sold into the spot market at 5-10 times the price consumers are paying.

"At least one Government generator could have signed customers up to such a deal. The technology is available, developed in New Zealand. For less than half the cost of one new power station, all New Zealand consumers could be equipped with such meters. Trials show that consumers can easily save 10 percent of their consumption at peak times when they know there are shortages - especially if peak supply is charged at a different rate.

"Labour calls these SOE power generators, `strategic assets'. Why have none been contracted to trial such a scheme? Could it be the Government would rather keep the super profits it gets from high spot prices, to circulate back to its beneficiary voting support as `compensation' for increasing prices?

"As a father, I would love to use the `real savings and gains' argument to convince my children to turn off unnecessary lights and shorten their showers. In the meantime, they're correct to regard me as a mean whinger, when even the most careful saving would probably reduce an average family daily peak time bill by less than half the cost of an ice cream.

"I asked a Government Minister why a `strategic asset' wasn't being told to pioneer time-of-use metering. Plainly politics is the block; his answer was `only ACT could come out with something like that, which would directly affect consumers'.

"Politicians who want to own major businesses, then let them persist with inefficient pricing, are putting politics before everyone else's interests when there isn't enough power to go around", Mr Franks said.

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