Feedback sought on Aurora safety plan

The Commerce Commission is holding "a public drop-in session" in Dunedin this afternoon seeking feedback on Aurora Energy’s plan to make its electricity network safer and maintain reliability.

Aurora supplies electricity to Dunedin, Central Otago and Queenstown Lakes.

Associate commissioner John Crawford said Aurora had historically under-invested in its network, leading to an increasing number of safety incidents and unplanned power cuts.

To fix its network, Aurora had signalled it requires significant investment over the next decade.

In June, it made an initial application to the commission for $383million over the next three years, about double its allowances for the previous three-year period.

To pay for this investment, Aurora is proposing price increases to residential power bills of about $20 to $30 a month over the three-year investment period.

If the commission approved a default five-year investment period, this would result in further increases in years four and five of about $5 to $6 a month.

Aurora — owned by Dunedin City Holdings and the Dunedin City Council — had signalled it would make a second investment application for a period of five years to address longer term issues on its network.

The commission has identified a number of key issues it wants consumer feedback on, including options for minimising price shocks.

“We are considering if spending could be deferred, reduced or recovered over a longer period to soften price shocks."

The commission also wanted to know if consumers were willing to pay more in total due to interest costs in order to smooth the price increases over a longer period, he said.

The commission expected to make its draft decision in November and a final decision in March 2021, he said.

Aurora’s new revenue limits, reliability standards and consumer price increases would come into effect on April 1, 2021.

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