Aurora Energy’s ranking as the best of New Zealand’s electricity distribution businesses has rankled Central Otago and Queenstown Lakes district’s mayors.
The lines company was placed “top of the class” when the Electricity Authority released its findings regarding “pricing scorecards” last week.
The scorecards are the result of updated distribution pricing principles introduced by the authority in 2019 and the annual scorecards monitor, and evaluate distribution pricing methods and plans, highlight good practice, identify weaknesses and gaps and suggest opportunities for improvement.
In summarising this year’s review, the authority noted Aurora and second-placed Wellington Electricity had demonstrated leading practice in a number of areas and had significantly improved from last year.
The fact improvements had been made was not denied by Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan or his Queenstown Lakes District counterpart Jim Boult, but both questioned the cost to consumers.
Mr Cadogan said he would like to know if the authority gave this award on an average over the whole network.
“Because there would be huge irony in that, as standardised pricing over the whole network was what we sought from them and were not given.”
Mr Boult said the Aurora team had lifted its game and that was “pleasing”.
“A large part of the issues we have relate to shareholder behaviour and not to Aurora itself.
“That said, we are far from satisfied with the outcome of the recent pricing debacle.”
Mr Boult said Aurora had much to do to restore the “faith with folk in our district”.
“My annoyance at this lies with the Electricity Authority’s actions in frankly insulting our community.
“While the view from some technocrat’s desk in Wellington might see the process Aurora adopted as technically lovely, try telling that to some of our older residents, or young families struggling to pay the bills we cannot share their enthusiasm.”
He was surprised and disappointed at the ranking.
A release from Aurora said the authority’s annual review was designed to encourage and monitor progress towards more efficient pricing.
That was important because it benefited customers in the long term by allowing them to make efficient choices about how they used the electricity network and make energy-related investments like solar panels, batteries and electric vehicles.
Following public feedback last year, Aurora reviewed its approach to regional cost allocation and developed a pricing strategy and roadmap for the future, the release said.
“The company will be publicly consulting before the end of the year with the goal of seeking feedback on these important documents.
“Aurora Energy also wants to help customers understand more clearly how pricing works and ways they may be able to reduce their bills through behaviour change and personal choice.”
Aurora Energy general manager regulatory and commercial Alec Findlater said he would lead work across the Otago region and was eager to demystify pricing for the everyday person.
“We’re really keen to ensure that our pricing information is accessible, clear and understandable by all of our customers, and we will be consulting with the community on aspects of our pricing methodology and pricing strategy later this year.”
Aurora is New Zealand’s seventh-largest electricity distribution network by customer connections, supplying electricity to 91,600 customers in Dunedin, Central Otago, and the Queenstown-Lakes District.
It is owned by Dunedin City Holdings Ltd, on behalf of the Dunedin City Council.
Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins could not be contacted for comment.