WEL discounts make way for higher grants

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WEL Mark Ingle

WEL Energy Trust chairman Mark Ingle.

This year’s discount to residential power customers of WEL Networks Ltd will be the last.
Instead, customers can expect a reduction in lines prices and there will be an increase in WEL’s community grant programme.

The final discount, which totals around $18 million per annum or on average $158 excluding GST per residential customer, will be paid in April or May, the company says.

In 2019 the discount will finish, but the $7 million price reduction on WEL’s residential lines charges to retailers will continue while the community grant programme and investment in the community will increase.

“By ending the discount programme there will be greater transparency for customers, lower lines prices for residential customers and more investment in the community now and into the future,” said WEL Energy Trust chairman Mark Ingle.

“We’re finishing a discount programme that was relevant to the old system, but isn’t relevant today,” he said.

WEL Networks Ltd is 100 percent owned by the trust on behalf of the community. The company is now much more than a lines company and this decision would ensure more return to the whole community while reducing lines prices for residential customers.

“The trust and company believe that savings for electricity customers opting in to new initiatives, and ways of buying their electricity, could see savings of more than double the average discount today,” WEL Networks Ltd Chairman Rob Campbell said.

The trust currently grants approximately $2.5 million each year into more than 250 community organisations. The trust also supports energy efficiency initiatives and look to build business and economic development opportunities in the region.

From 2019 community grants and other investments in the community made by the trust should increase to more than $10-million annually, more than double the present investment.

“Electricity prices are too high,” Mr Ingle said. “Lines pricing is only one part of the electricity bill. We’ve supported discounts for over 15 years and prices keep going up. We need to do things differently to get a better outcome for customers and the community.

“What we need to do as a community is to embrace technological change, enable customers, and support systems change that will bring lower prices for consumers overall.”

Mr Campbell described the discount as “a blunt instrument to benefit customers”.

“It limits our strategic options and future opportunities. We are investing in ways to reduce peak load demand, to reduce power charges”.

“We’re developing ways to disrupt the sector so total power prices are reduced.”

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