$138 power price hike

By Teuila Fuatai


The average Tauranga power bill jumped by more than $130 this year. The rise comes amid soaring petrol and food costs and record unemployment.

Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment figures show average Tauranga power costs rose by $138 in the 12 months to November 15.

Nationally, power bills rose by an average $117 - though some people were hit by increases of more than $400.

Locally, Energy Online customers saw the biggest hike in charges this year as the company increased its power prices by $178.

Company spokesman Richard Gordon said higher network costs had contributed to the price rise.

It had also been two years since Energy Online had reviewed its prices in Tauranga, he said.

"In that time, there's been significant increases across the board in network charging and other costs."

Mr Gordon suggested a "price review" was not needed last year as the firm had very few Tauranga customers.

Haven of Grace director Casey Fredericks knows what it is like to struggle with power bills but hadn't had trouble since making the switch to Energy Online a year ago. The mum of four relies on her husband's income to keep their family afloat because she does not get paid for her charity work.

Ms Fredericks said one of their most expensive power bills from the past year had been between $400 and $500 but she accepted that with four children and one on the way, her household used a lot of power. "You need power to survive and so they can pretty much charge anything they want.

"It's extremely hard."

Ms Fredericks signed up to a payment plan to stay on top of payments. The less power used in summer meant more money was left over for winter's more expensive bills.

According to the ministry, about 1 per cent of Tauranga power consumers were Energy Online customers in the 12 months to November 15.

The region's largest energy provider - TrustPower - increased prices by $142 for the period, affecting 71 per cent of local power consumers.

Local Meridian Energy customers experienced the smallest hike in power $138 power price-rise hike

[Next year] most households should pay similar to what they're paying this year.Ari Sargent

Powershop chief executivecharges ($71). Powershop chief executive Ari Sargent said energy companies' price rises were mainly due to higher transmission prices and more expensive retail costs.

He expected power prices to edge up next year as costs linked to the national power-grid update filtered through to consumers.

"On average, I think most people would expect to see relatively flat prices, maybe a slight increase," Mr Sargent said.

"You expect from an end user customer point of view that most households should pay similar to what they're paying this year.

"They shouldn't be expecting a large increase in most cases."

Households in the King Country were least affected by power hikes - average bills rose $28 in the past year.

Far North residents were hit with the biggest rises, with average power prices jumping $306.

Last month, 29,246 customers nationwide switched power companies, according to the Electricity Authority. About 1800 of these were from the Bay of Plenty.

Mr Sargent said "timing" played a large role in price changes. Power companies decided for themselves when to pass increases in lines charges on to their customers, he said.

"About 90 per cent of what a customer pays is fixed either through ... the wholesale energy costs or transmission and distribution charges."

Customer servicing costs, the profit margin set by power companies and GST made up the rest, Mr Sergeant said.



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