If New Zealanders are asked over the next few years to reduce power use or face blackouts, the responsibility will fall squarely on Energy Minister Gerry Brownlee, says Labour’s Associate Energy spokesperson Chris Hipkins.
“Just days before Christmas, while everyone was distracted by other things, Gerry Brownlee announced that the Whirinaki power plant will be sold and the reserve energy scheme put in place by the previous government will be abolished,” Chris Hipkins said.
“Mr Brownlee is placing blind faith in the market to ensure that there are no electricity shortages in the future, despite the market’s proven inability to do so in the past.
“Max Bradford carved up the electricity system in the late 1990s and promised us that power prices would go down and the security of supply would be improved,” Chris Hipkins said.
“Those reforms failed on both counts. Power prices rose exponentially and Kiwis were repeatedly asked to conserve electricity during drier winters when lake levels were lower.
“The last Labour government recognised this market failure by putting in place a reserve energy scheme that would be there should we need it,” Chris Hipkins said. “Now, after a few wet winters, Gerry Brownlee has decided to do away with it, meaning that the next time we have a dry winter, the responsibility for any electricity shortages will fall squarely on his shoulders.
“The announcement that the Whirinaki plant will be sold also amounts to another broken promise from the National government. Before the election they promised Kiwis they wouldn’t sell any state assets during their first term, yet now they’re putting a multi-million dollar power plant on the auction block.
“Gerry Brownlee’s short-term, visionless approach to energy policy will cost all New Zealanders in the long term,” Chris Hipkins said.
“Despite National’s promise to lower power prices before the last election, they continue to rise. Now Kiwis face the increased prospect that a dry winter will lead to calls for them to cut their power use. New Zealanders deserve better than to have their security of supply undermined by such failed and outmoded ideology.”