This week the Electricity Authority – New Zealand’s supposed power watchdog – decided it wasn’t keen on being stuck in the middle of public and private interests anymore, so it picked a side.

Three guesses about which side it picked.

Against a backdrop of huge public outcry, the authority ruled that a controversial move by Hawke’s Bay lines company, Unison, to charge its solar users an extra fee for choosing to use sunshine to power their homes, was not in breach of any regulations.

What are they, vampires??



To keep things “fair” it did give naughty kid Unison a mild telling off, saying the tariff (read: Tax) isn’t as clearly service-based and cost-reflective as it could be, and doesn’t offer sufficient choices to consumers.

But really, let’s not be fair: New Zealand’s electricity watchdog has just decided to go off leash and crap all over our front porch.

A ruling like this essentially now gives lines companies throughout the country the green light to follow Unison’s lead and start taxing solar.

And believe us when we say they’re already lining up to do so.

It’s no secret that the Electricity Authority has never been a big fan of solar. It’s even publicly advised New Zealanders not to rush into installing it in the past. No doubt it was well aware that by giving the nod for Unison to penalise solar, it could potentially kill the uptake of solar in our near future. Pretty crafty, really.

And while all this is going on, the power companies are jumping up and down and saying we can’t call the solar fee a tax.

We say: “If it looks like a duck”.

To be clear, this is a targeted and compulsory levy imposed on solar users in order to raise revenue for the lines company. As the deliverers of a public service, these companies are the functional equivalent of a governmental body. Residents in the regions they serve have no choice but to use their services - there are no other alternatives.

The Government set up this monopolised business model of the electricity industry during the energy market reforms, and it was a deliberate policy that resulted in the private profits of the electricity sector taking precedent over national environmental and social interests.

And because solar is cheap and gives us the independence to generate our own clean energy, it threatens the profits of these big power companies. They want to keep ripping us off with high power prices and using dirty energy like Huntly’s coal power. It’s not exactly in their five-year plan that we become independent from them.

But the purpose of a watchdog like the Electricity Authority should be to serve the interests of us and not those companies, especially on the back of the Paris Climate Conference where NZ pledged to curb our dirty emissions.

We must bring New Zealand’s electricity watchdog to heel. All burning of dirty fuels like coal, oil and gas has to stop within a few decades if we want to avoid runaway climate change. Every renewable energy option that helps this must be rolled out, and solar is a crucial part of that.

When enough people stand up and disrupt the agenda of an industry that puts profit before people, these energy fat-cats are going to have no choice but to adapt or be made redundant.

And we’ll have more control over our own power, about how we get it, and how we pay for it.

It would be choice if you could be part of that fight with us. Sign this petition. Use the cute little buttons to share it with your friends. Talk to your family about what’s happening with power in New Zealand.

And stay tuned, because we’re just warming up.

Let’s get this freak back on its leash.