Hamilton Grey Power president Roger Hennebry is "absolutely livid" that WEL Networks Ltd is dropping the annual discount it gives residential power customers.
Hennebry says the move will seriously affect Hamilton's 2000 Grey Power members and thousands of other power users on low or fixed incomes in the Waikato.
The company announced last week the final discount, which totals around $18 million per annum, will be paid in April or May. Instead, customers can expect a reduction in lines prices and there will be an increase in WEL's community grant programme.
The company is totally owned by the WEL Energy Trust on behalf of the community.
Hennebry says the trustees had no mandate to get rid of the discounts.
He says it is his understanding that "matters of significance" required consultation with not only the capital beneficiaries — Hamilton City and Waikato and Waipa District Councils — but with consumers.
Trust chair Mark Ingle said last week that 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.
"We're finishing a discount programme that was relevant to the old system, but isn't relevant today," he said.
For the trust chair to describe the rebate as "irrelevant" shows how out of touch the trustees are, Hennebry says.
"I will be inviting Ingle to come to our next available Grey Power meeting to explain to members the benefits they will get in losing a $300 plus rebate annually and to pay an extra $7 per month on their power bills."
Hennebry's father, the late Ken Hennebry was at the forefront of community protest at the sale of the company to an American power company in the 1990s and the communities fight to successfully buy the company back.
In 2002 he was part of a group who formed the Power Rebates Team. The team won a majority and were successful in achieving rebates averaging $127 for every consumer in the first year (depending on usage) rising to $300 plus.
"Ken would roll over in his grave knowing that the original shareholders in the company were to lose their power rebates and end up paying more," Roger says.
Margaret Evans who was Mayor of Hamilton from 1989 to 1998 says she was always opposed to the discounts policy as faulty economics.
"Why take $20 million plus from the people in electricity charges, clip the ticket, then give it back to them a year later as discounts," she says.
"The original policy required a successful company and public benefit through publicly accountable grants.
"I'm delighted that's where they seem to be going. And I'm among those who consider our energy prices unnecessarily excessive," she says.
On the matter of community consultation the trust said in a statement it had worked with the company to establish clarity around overall return to the community, and to ensure the current structures are the best fit for purpose for both the company success and in terms of providing the best pricing to electricity customers and benefits to the wider community.
"This has required a broader look at the WEL Networks Distribution Policy overall, including the annual discount," the statement said.