Energy Minister Collins appoints two new Electricity Authority members
Energy Minister Judith Collins has appointed two new members to the Electricity Authority, both with extensive knowledge of the Australian electricity system and one 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, having 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 Collins appointments, neither Dawson nor Gamble were seen as appointees with a track record of opposition to the transmission pricing methodology proposals.
Dawson and Gamble have both been appointed for terms of five years, starting today.
Dawson was an executive with the fledgling M-Co, which set up New Zealand's first wholesale electricity market in the 1990s and moved from there to Singapore to be chief executive at the Energy Market Company, a business established by M-Co.
He then became chief executive for the Independent Market Operator in Western Australia, whose operations have more recently been folded into the national electricity regulatory and market framework. He is currently customer manager for New Zealand Trade and Enterprise.
Gamble is a non-executive director, advising the audit and risk committee at Sydney Metro, is a director at the Woodville Alliance and is a former general manager for business strategy and resilience for the Sydney Water Corp.
"Allan brings extensive knowledge of the New Zealand electricity market as well as understanding of the global energy environment and its impact here," said Collins. "Sandra brings significant experience of working within the energy and water sectors and has insight into the critical issues facing the New Zealand industry."