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Collins appoints two new Authority members

NZN 18/04/2017 Pattrick Smellie

Energy Minister Judith Collins has appointed two new members to the Electricity Authority.

Both have extensive knowledge of the Australian electricity system and one is a pioneer of New Zealand's wholesale electricity markets in the 1990s.

The appointment of former M-Co executive Allan Dawson and Australian utilities sector expert Sandra Gamble takes the authority up to its full quota of six members.

It has sat at four since the departure last August of authority member Elena Trout.

The EA is in the minister's sights at present as it wrestles with a two-decade-old issue relating to how much energy users should pay in different parts of the country for access to the national grid.

Its proposals, even when watered down, would see significant increases in costs for upper North Island, west coast South Island and some other regional users while southern electricity generators and users, including the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter, would face lower grid costs.

The Auckland business lobby, the Employers and Manufacturers Association, is lobbying hard against the proposals and Collins is understood to have written to the EA expressing her concerns after receiving a letter from national grid operator Transpower on their complexity.

However, the EA is statutorily independent, leaving Collins with no direct intervention powers but with influence over appointments to the Authority, which she is understood to have taken an active interest in.

However, while industry observers note one-third of the six Authority members are Ms Collins appointments, neither Mr Dawson nor Ms Gamble were seen as appointees with a track record of opposition to the transmission pricing methodology proposals.

They have both been appointed for terms of five years, starting on Tuesday.

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