New analysis shows 110,000 households unable to afford to heat their homes

Published: 27 June 2023

About 110,000 households could not afford to keep their homes adequately warm for the year ending June 2022, with Māori and Pacific households, renters and low-income households more likely to experience energy hardship, analysis released today shows.

Report on Energy Hardship Measures by the MBIE compares data across 10 years from 1 July 2012 to 30 June 2022 and draws on MBIE’s recently released list of 5 measures of ‘energy hardship’ and its earlier released definition. Developing a definition of energy hardship and ways in which it can be measured were recommendations to government by the independent Electricity Price Review. 

The measures include:

  • putting up with feeling cold a lot to keep costs down
  • a major problem with dampness or mould
  • not being able to pay utilities bills on time more than once.

MBIE Head of Evidence and Insights Daniel Griffiths said the data demonstrated levels of energy hardship had decreased slightly since 2012 across all 5 measures, while also highlighting key demographic groups who were more likely to be affected.

“Overall, about 4% to 6% of households reported experiencing at least one of the 5 energy hardship measures. However, the proportion of households that experience each of these measures rises considerably for Māori and Pacific households, renters, and for crowded households,” Daniel Griffiths said.

“The most recent data also showed about 110,000 households could not afford to keep their homes adequately warm.

“10.2% of all Māori households reported not being able to afford to heat their homes. The same measure is 14.4% of all Pacific households, compared to 5.8% for the total population. Notably, 12.2% of renters reported not being able to afford to heat their homes, compared to 2.5% of owner-occupiers. Households that were crowded or relied on a low-income were also more likely struggle to heat their homes.

“This is just one of the 5 measures we looked at, but the story is similar across the board.

“Data also showed 74,000 households said damp or mould was a major problem. Dampness and mould are indicators of poor housing quality. Damp homes require more energy to heat, which could put further financial pressure on households.

“Energy hardship can harm households in various ways. If people are unable to properly heat their homes, or they’re living in damp and draughty conditions, it can have a detrimental effect on their mental and physical health.

“The Ministry will release data and insights every year going forward to provide a snapshot of energy hardship levels nationally and amongst key demographic groups. This will provide insight into the effectiveness of existing polices or intervention programmes, and help new initiatives target those who those most in need,” Daniel Griffiths said.

Report on Energy Hardship Measures draws on data from Stats NZ’s Household Economic Survey.

Other key findings:

  • renters are between 4 and 6 times more likely to report experiencing measures of energy hardship
  • around one-third of low-income households could not afford to keep their accommodation adequately warm
  • around 12% of Pacific households and around 9% of Māori households put up with feeling the cold a lot to keep costs down. This compares to around 5% of households for the total population
  • crowded households are about 3 times more likely to experience measures of energy hardship compared to non-crowded households.

The Report of Energy Hardship Measures is available below, with further information on the Report of Energy Hardship Measures webpage.

Report of energy hardship measures [PDF, 921KB](external link)

Report of energy hardship measures webpage

MBIE media contact