Power prices hitting women

By Brendan Manning brendan.manning@hbtoday.co.nz


At-risk Hawke's Bay women are struggling to stay warm with constantly rising power prices.

Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) figures show power costs for an average Hawke's Bay household increased by $110 in the 12 months to February.

Figures are based on an average household using 8000kWh per annum on an all-inclusive rate.

One-in-three Kiwis cannot afford to adequately heat their homes in winter, with Generation Y and women struggling the most, a new survey has found.

The survey showed 41 per cent of women found home heating in winter a challenge, compared to 29 per cent of men.

Hastings Women's Refuge services manager Julie Hart said often alongside the domestic violence women suffered was financial abuse.

"So [for] somebody who's controlling the finances, it's a toss up between a box of Cody's or the power bill ... the box of Cody's often wins out.

"The power bill, however, is most likely in her name, so the bad debt is incurred by her."

Women living on benefits, particularly those living alone, simply did not have enough money, Ms Hart said.

The Canstar Blue survey quizzed 2060 consumers about their power usage.

Canstar general manager Derek Bonnar said 45 per cent of younger people were facing a chilly winter.

"Gen Ys top the results for being unable to heat their homes adequately."

New Zealand Union of Students Associations president Pete Hodkinson said home heating was a big issue for most students.

"Rental prices on average around New Zealand over the last year or so have gone up around 4 per cent.

"For the most part, that isn't ever really matched by an increase in the quality of flats, and the winters certainly aren't getting any warmer."

Warmer flats were more expensive to rent but heating poorly insulated homes often ended up costing even more, Mr Hodkinson said.

"With rising costs of living, dropping student support from Government each year and often narrow part-time work opportunities, anyone would struggle to pay the bills."

A warrant of fitness for student housing had been rolled out in Wales, which would be well received here, Mr Hodkinson said.

Nearly three-quarters of the survey's respondents had changed their behaviour to limit their electricity use.

The World Health Organisation recommends homes be heated to a minimum of 18C and states that the risk of ill health increases once the temperature drops below 16C.

Consumers had been shopping around to find a better deal, with 17 of the survey's respondents switching electricity providers in the past 12 months.

More than 9000 consumers in the Hawke's Bay region switched power companies in the 12 months to April 30, according to Electricity Authority figures. Funding for home insulation has been extended for another three years.

The Government has also agreed to develop a warrant of fitness scheme for Housing New Zealand properties, which may later be extended to private rentals.

EnergyWise tips to save on power bills include using heated towel rails only when needed, switching appliances off at the wall, shutting curtains at dusk and washing clothes in cold water.

Cold comfort

$110.82: Electricity price increase for an average Hawke's Bay household in the 12 months to February.

9849 consumers in the Hawke's Bay region switched power companies in the 12 months to April 30.

Source: MBIE, Electricity Authority

- Hawkes Bay Today

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