First meeting of Transpower's consumer advisory panel

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First meeting of Transpower's consumer advisory panel

13 Nov 2018 | BusinessNZ

Transpower's newly convened consumer advisory panel is a unique tool that will help the national grid operator shape the energy future, according to a panel member.

Business NZ Energy Council senior policy advisor Tina Schirr tells Energy News that the new panel will allow Transpower to be better positioned to plan at least 30 years in the future.

“The energy sector can change quickly and Transpower must have a really good understanding of what consumers – and in my case – what business cares about.”

The panel is keen to contribute to the discussion on a just transition to the new low carbon economy and ensuring everyone benefits from it, says Transpower’s consumer engagement manager Nicki Sutherland.

“The initial meeting also marks the first step of Transpower engaging more closely with consumers on the price/risk trade-offs made in its next round of regulatory funding.”

The meeting mostly focused on the panels’ scope and structure. Transpower chief executive Alison Andrew attended part of the all-day meeting and impressed upon members the value of honest and frank discussion, says Schirr.

New thinking

Announced in September, the panel aims to equip Transpower’s leadership with greater insight and understanding about a diverse range of consumer interests.

The idea of the consumer advisory panel spun out of Transpower’s Te Mauri Hiko Energy Futures project released earlier this year. The project looks at how New Zealand can provide a sustainable and secure energy supply to 2050.

Transpower views the panel as a vehicle to inject new thinking to the grid operator’s decision-making process.

“It’s not just about Transpower focusing on sustainability or access to electricity and technology or electricity prices,” Schirr says. “It’s also about removing any silo thinking and understanding connections between different parts of the business and how it affects the constituencies of the panel members.”

This new thinking will be integrated in strategic and operational decision making across Transpower including capital investment, and resilience measures to ensure security of supply.

Transpower is not obliged to follow the panel’s recommendations or advice.

“The panel is an advisory body. Transpower will consider its advice and input in addition to any other advice or information available to Transpower, including its own analysis, and is not bound to give effect to any panel recommendations,” says Sutherland.

Diversity

Panel members were recruited to bring a diversity of views, across sectors and aspects of society.

The current panel line up is: Community Networks Aotearoa chief executive Ros Rice, Rural Women of New Zealand national president Fiona Gower, Generation Zero’s Luke Schwartfeger, Grey Power NZ’s energy chair Bern Sommerfield, retiring chief executive of Venture Taranaki and Economic Development board member Stuart Trundle, Consumer NZ head of product testing Dr. Paul Smith, and Tina Schirr.

Hinemaua Rikirangi will provide the Tikanga Maori view to the panel and will serve as an independent member. She is from Ngati Ranginui and is the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment’s director of economic development and Maori strategy, policy and partnerships.

Maven Consulting chief executive Joanna Lambert is the panel’s the independent facilitator.

Sutherland says each member represents an organisation with expansive membership. They also have some background working on energy issues.

Transpower expects panel members will act as a conduit into their membership and develop partnerships that result in good information flows in both directions.

“Transpower are already highly engaged with major gentailers and major consumers of electricity across the country,” Schirr says. “This panel represents an add-on to allow Transpower to engage with smaller consumers.”

The panel will meet at least three times a year. The next meeting is scheduled for next March. Panel reports will be published on a dedicated page on the Transpower website commencing next year.

Craig Greaves - Tue, 13 Nov 2018