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Govt Could Bring Down Power Prices If It Wanted To, Labour Says

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Charles Chauvel
Charles Chauvel

Wellington, Sept 30 NZPA - Labour says the Government could instantly bring down electricity prices if it stopped taking big profits from state-owned power companies.

Energy spokesman Charles Chauvel said Meridian Energy's $300 million dividend payment, announced yesterday, coincided with a Ministry of Economic Development prediction that wholesale prices would rise by 40 percent over the next 20 years.

Energy Minister Gerry Brownlee said the previous Labour government did nothing to bring prices down and took $3.1 billion in dividends between 2000 and 2008.

"I think they need to get with the programme -- we've actually done something and we're about to do more to help stabilise prices, something that didn't happen during their tenure," he told NZPA.

Mr Brownlee said Mercury had frozen its prices until April 2010 when they would be reviewed, not necessarily increased, and Meridian's prices were frozen until July 2010.

He said Mr Chauvel was a member of Meridian's board at a time when it raised prices by 72 percent over an eight-year period.

"I think it's a little bit rich for him to sort of say prices are out of control."

Mr Chauvel said wholesale prices currently represented around a third of retail prices, so there would be strong upward pressure on retail electricity prices for the foreseeable future without a policy change.

Labour leader Phil Goff told the party's annual conference earlier this month that a future Labour government would stop price-gouging state-owned power companies fleecing consumers.

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