Strength through numbers
While many of New Zealand’s 29 electricity lines networks retain local community ownership, they also gain strength and resilience through active collaboration with other networks around the country.
Necessarily, local electricity networks are physically rooted into the local geography as well as the local communities they serve. This of course also has the benefit of ensuring that management of the networks is underpinned by a deep, geographically-based, local knowledge.
But each electricity distributor enjoys strong working relationships with its sister networks – both those neighbouring their boundaries and networks throughout the country.
Through this, local electricity networks enjoy the best of both worlds: local knowledge combined with practical collaboration and sharing of resources with the 29 networks throughout the country.
Collaboration takes many forms - from backing each other up in times of emergency, to sharing and pooling resources for activities such as cost-effective purchasing of equipment.
Through the association to which they all belong (the Electricity Networks Association or ENA), the local distributors collaborate on developing effectives health and safety policies and capturing the benefits of innovation for the benefit of all consumers.
The distributors jointly pursue better regulations and present a common voice on issues such as improving national tree regulations to ensure there are less outages in storms due to damage done due to trees being too close to power lines.
Collectively, they work with local and central government organisations to assist with resource planning and urban development.
With more than 30 electricity retailers, the distributors’ national association (the ENA) is a crucial liaison point at an industry level between those who sell the power to consumers and those who deliver it into people’s homes.
As a group the distributors are able to form a common countrywide position on issues such as more effective, responsive pricing strategies, giving retailers and consumers both more flexibility and a closer alignment to the actual cost of network usage.
While residents appreciate – and often applaud - the efforts of local lines company staff working through the adversity of storms or other emergencies to restore their power as soon as possible, they also reap the benefits of all the local lines companies working together as an effective national team.
Even if this collaborative activity is not always as visible as the valiant linesperson up a pole in a snow storm – ultimately, it is just as important for keeping the lights on for all the communities throughout New Zealand.