Removing the low fixed tariff regulations is essential for creating a fairer playing field for all New Zealand households. And while all households are expected to benefit in the long term from the regulations being removed, some households may face higher power bills.
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Your power company can help
Anyone struggling with their power bills or who has questions about their pricing plan is encouraged to contact their power company in the first instance.
Power credits scheme
A $5 million power credits scheme has been developed to support low-use households who are struggling to pay their power bills during the phase-out of the low fixed charge regulations.
The industry-funded scheme opened in June 2022 for households experiencing energy hardship, and who have been on a low-user plan within the last 6 months.
Contact Energy, Genesis Energy, Mercury, Meridian Energy and Nova Energy are the electricity providers currently participating in the scheme. Other electricity providers may join the scheme and customers are encouraged to check with their electricity provider for more information.
Retailers can apply a $110 credit to customers who are experiencing energy hardship and who are on a low-user plan, or have been in the last 6 months.
Customers should contact their retailers if they are struggling to pay their bill to discuss the support options available, including power credits.
Customers who have received professional budgeting advice may be eligible to receive a second power credit in the same year. Customers can receive a maximum of 2 credits per year. Power credits are only available to eligible customers for their primary residence.
The funding of the power credits scheme is split equally between the Electricity Networks Association, which represents all electricity distributors, and the Electricity Retailers’ Association of New Zealand, whose members collectively sell electricity to about 90% of New Zealand homes and businesses.
There are other government programmes already in place to help households make their homes more energy efficient and lower their power bills. These include:
Warmer Kiwi Homes – pays 80% of the total cost of ceiling and underfloor heating, and an approved heater for low-income home owners.
Warmer Kiwi Homes(external link) – Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority
Winter Energy Payments – extra payments for beneficiaries to help with energy costs from May to October every year.
Winter Energy Payments(external link) – Work and Income
Support for Energy Education in Communities (SEEC) Programme – Nearly $8 million has been committed to expand the existing network of community-level support services that help people experiencing energy hardship achieve warmer, more energy-efficient homes and lower their energy bills.
Support for Energy Education in Communities Programme
Free budgeting advice and support – there are finanical mentors who can help households manage their finances.
Building finanical capability(external link) – Ministry of Social Development
Consumer Care Guidelines - electricity retailers following the Electricity Authority’s voluntary Consumer Care Guidelines will proactively work with their customers facing payment difficulties to help them access and afford a constant supply of electricity to meet their household’s needs.
Under these Guidelines, consumers can also nominate a support person to help them work through issues relating to their electricity supply with their retailer. Retailers should also make information easy to access and provide advice to help them make informed decisions about the best options to meet the needs of their household. All electricity retailers are expected to be following the guidelines by the end of the year at the latest.
Consumer care guidelines – Overview for domestic consumers [PDF 335KB](external link)
Longer-term initiatives to reduce energy hardship
The government recognises energy hardship is a very real problem in New Zealand and is laying the foundation for further initiatives to better support people struggling with their power bills.
For example, MBIE is undertaking work to develop an agreed definition of energy hardship and associated indicators to assist with measuring and tracking energy hardship over time. This will assist with identifying those in energy hardship and assessing the effectiveness of initiatives aimed at addressing energy hardship.
The independent Energy Hardship Expert Panel has been established to recommend policy priorities and actions to alleviate energy hardship in New Zealand.
MBIE has also established an Energy Hardship Reference Group to provide a forum to share information and encourage coordination across industry, NGOs and government agencies. The Group will help government work with others in its work to alleviate energy hardship.