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Electricity Inquiry Fails Rural Consumers.

Rural electricity users are feeling badly let down by the Ministerial Inquiry into Electricity Industry according to Federated Farmers energy spokesperson Tom Lambie.

"Federated Farmers wanted the problem of monopoly line charges dealt with now. A quick reading of the report suggests that the Inquiry team has failed to grasp the need for immediate action," said Mr Lambie.

"Some general recommendations have been made, and amendments to the legislation recommended, but they are not specific, nor is a timetable set down."

Rural consumers have a vague promise that something might be done eventually. Promises of an Ombudsman and changes to the Consumers Guarantees act, while welcome, are not sufficient to protect rural users' interests.

"Rural users will be asking how much longer will they have to wait."

Prices for medium usage domestic consumers have varied wildly, ranging between 2.6 to 7.04c per kWh. For medium commercial users, the range has been 1.87 to 8.57c per kWh. The federation could find no clear or consistent reason for prices to vary so much.

"We had wanted this disparity to be addressed now," said Mr Lambie.

Federated Farmers wanted reliable supply with minimum disruption; for example, dairy farmers cannot be without power for extended periods with substantial impact on milking. The federation also sought consumer input into setting minimum quality standards, transparency of pricing regimes, and the ability to quickly switch between supply companies.

"Surprisingly, the report recommends changes to the operations of the wholesale market, which is the one area which would appear to be working adequately. Worse still, the Inquiry team recommended a bureaucratic structure that is likely to remove consumers from the decision making process," Mr Lambie concluded.

ENDS

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