Energy sector heads and experts meet in Auckland today for a major three-day conference with one notable absentee - Energy and Resources Minister Gerry Brownlee.

Instead Labour's Charles Chauvel will be the opening keynote speaker, a slot traditionally taken by the Energy Minister.

The $1300-a day Power and Electricity World Conference takes place as a major shakeup of the electricity market looms, concerns remain over generation capacity and retail prices are rising again.

Brownlee said he did not rate the conference - now in its 12th year - as important as it used to be.

He revealed his electricity strategy for the year but reforms unveiled last year were at the select committee stage.

"We've got a process that is happening that I don't want to get over the top of. This conference is focused on electricity and I'm very happy that the select committee is going about their work at the moment," Brownlee said.

"If I've got something to say next year then I'll think about it."

Among other key speakers are World Energy Council chairman C.P. Jain, Transpower chief executive Patrick Strange, Electricity Commission chairman David Caygill and Solid Energy chief executive Don Elder, who is also chairman of the World Coal Institute.

The opening of the conference two years ago was marked by a terse exchange between Elder and the former Energy Minister David Parker while Brownlee was greeted more warmly last year by the conference.

Organisers say there will be more than 50 experts from around the world addressing the conference on how to improve market performance.

A survey of 150 participants after last year's conference showed 87 per cent considered market reform the priority, then improving security of supply (86 per cent) and transmission infrastructure (85 per cent).

Labour's energy spokesman Charles Chauvel welcomed the chance to speak in Brownlee's absence.

He said it was disappointing the minister was not prepared to attend just 16 months into the job and he didn't accept his excuses.

"It's an excuse for not wanting to take questions about what the legislation is about or whether there's any kind of master plan here."