Trust Takes Monitoring of Unison Very Seriously

June 05, 2015 11:13 AM

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

On behalf of the Hawke’s Bay Power Consumers Trust, I wish to respond to the letter by Mr Ewing Robertson, of which two other members of our community — J T Moynihan and A G Parker — have expressed similar sentiment.

The trust takes its role in monitoring Unison very seriously and, being a community-owned business providing essential services, both the trust and Unison welcome public scrutiny.

However, there have been a number of incorrect claims made in these recent letters that need to be addressed.

For example, Mr Robertson claims the fixed daily charge on his power bill of $2.13 is solely the lines charge.

In fact, Unison’s contribution to the fixed component is $1.15 per day.

The difference relates to retailers’ costs. Unison also charges variable charges and complete disclosure of this information is available on Unison’s website, and published annually in Hawke’s Bay Today.

We encourage customers seeking clarification of their charges to talk to Unison or their selected retailer.

Similar to other infrastructure businesses, Unison does indeed carry debt.

However, contrary to your correspondents’ claims, this debt, which was raised to purchase the Taupo and Rotorua networks, as well as other investments made to grow the business, is not “harming Hawke’s Bay consumers”.

In the 2013-14 financial year, for example, these investments have contributed $23 million (before interest and tax) to Unison’s group profit, which more than covers Unison’s interest costs, demonstrating these investments enhance the group return to the benefit of consumers, and not to the detriment.

But the benefits are not just financial.

With additional scale, Unison has been able to develop a smart grid, which not only provides improved power quality, but also longterm cost savings to the business—and therefore to consumers.

Your correspondents compare Unison to the likes of water or sewerage schemes and query why Unison’s charges are higher.

These are not reasonable comparisons to make with the conveyance of electricity, given the complexity, the cost of the assets and the safety requirements of managing such a network.

It is important for all consumers to know that, in addition to oversight from the trust, Unison is a highly regulated company. Its overall price changes are within the permitted allowances set by the Commerce Commission and reflect the investments Unison has made in its network to improve the power quality experienced by its customers, and to ensure it is sustainable and resilient for the future.

John Newland
Chairman, Hawke’s Bay
Power Consumers Trust