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Govt Intervention Not Needed In Waikato Energy

MEDIACOM-RELEASE-WEL-ENERGY-TRUST GOVERNMENT INTERVENTION NOT NEEDED IN WAIKATO:WEL ENERGY TRUST

Government regulation of lines companies is not needed in the Waikato because local consumers already have a vehicle by which to influence the operations of the local network company, the Electricity Inquiry in Wellington has been told.

WEL Energy Trust representatives told the Inquiry that the Trust is well placed to balance the needs of consumers against the expectations of shareholders because it owns 95% of WEL Energy Group and hopes to become 100% owner on behalf of the community. Consumers are able to make submissions through the Trust's annual plan process which is similar to that for local bodies.

This allows "consumer-led" solutions to perceived network company problems, rather than "industry-led" as had been promoted by a number of submissions to the Inquiry.

Chairman Don Bethune and deputy chairman Russ Rimmington outlined a raft of ideas in the Trust's submission to the Inquiry, aimed at restoring the direct relationship between network companies and their customers, which included: * Making the return of electricity meters to network companies compulsory. * Returning the billing function to network companies, with clearly identified transmission and distribution costs, along with the actual electricity cost, all in easy to understand cents per kilowatt hour format.

Customers would still choose their electricity retailer, but would be dealing with a "one stop shop" once more. * Requiring the Government to provide a statement of intent in respect of the activities of network companies through the Commerce Act, but not imposing any prescriptive measures such as a CPI-x price regulation.

The WEL Energy Trust told the Inquiry that it did not favour a national electricity ombudsman because the needs of consumers would be met by restoring direct company-customer relationships.

"We believe our submission was well received and Inquiry members asked a lot of questions about the suggestions we put forward," Mr Bethune said.

"It was also interesting to hear the Inquiry was told that the WEL Energy Trust is the only organisation that has made significant steps towards growing the community's ownership in their local network company since the last round of electricity reforms."

ENDS

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