The partial sale of New Zealand's power companies will drive power prices up, the Green Party says.
State-Owned Enterprises Minister Tony Ryall denied that private electricity companies charge more than the publicly-owned companies on Q+A yesterday.
"I've seen those numbers that have been quoted by the Green Party in that case, and what's clear in that is there are a number of private companies that are cheaper than the state companies," he said.
However, Green Party co-leader Russel Norman said Ryall "needs to look again".
"On average, privately-owned electricity companies charge 12% (3 cents per kilowatt hour) more than publicly-owned electricity companies.
"That's around $275 a year more for the average household.
He said power company Nova was an exception.
Norman said if the Government pushes ahead publicly-owned power companies would be legally obliged to meet the interests of their private shareholders and increase their profits by lifting their prices.
There is also evidence that the publicly-owned power companies force the private companies to charge lower prices than they would prefer to remain competitive, Norman said.
The legislation, which would allow for the partial sell off of state owned assets, looks set to become law by the middle of August, despite the Greens collecting signatures to try to force a citizens initiated referendum against the move.
The Green Party needs to collect 300,000 names to succeed and has nearly 80,000 so far.