Households will be socked with power bill increases of as much as 24 per cent next month and power companies and network operators are pointing the finger at each other over who is responsible.
Households around the country have been receiving notification of increases from major retailers including Meridian and Genesis in recent days. In many cases, daily fixed charges are rising by more than 80 per cent offset somewhat by small decreases in per unit costs.
The net effect means individual customers will see their bills increase by varying amounts, depending on their plan but in a letter from Meridian to one Wellington user sighted by the Herald, the annual increase is estimated at 24 per cent.
A Meridian spokeswoman said lines company Wellington Electricity had restructured its charges. "Once you add GST into the equation this amounts to an increase of around $300 per year, which relates solely to the changes to the way network charges have been restructured."
Wellington Electricity has lifted its standard daily fixed charge from 15c to 90c, offset by a small decrease in its share of per unit costs.
Genesis customers in Auckland have also reported big increases in their fixed daily charges. Genesis spokesman Richard Gordon said in Auckland lines company Vector's household daily fixed charge was going up by 87.3 per cent, a figure disputed by a Vector spokeswoman. "Genesis are incorrect."
Wellington Electricity chief executive Greg Skelton also disputed Genesis' claims that higher lines charges would push average Wellington customers' bills 5.8 per cent higher.
The Electricity Authority this week said it would be checking electricity retailers' claims about reasons for their price increases.
"It is unacceptable that different parts of the electricity industry blame each other for price increases," chief executive Carl Hansen said.
The authority is working on improvements to the quality and transparency of retail price and billing information.
Labour Energy spokesman David Shearer this week said he would put forward a private member's bill "that will unbundle power bills to show Kiwis exactly where costs come from - the power company, the lines company or wherever".
Through a spokeswoman, Energy and Resources Minister Simon Bridges said: "The Government believes electricity prices are a reflection of the current environment, with significantly increased investment in transmission and infrastructure."
Cut your bill
• Shorter showers: Five minutes - instead of 15 - could save a family of four about $950 a year.
• Lighten the load: Save $100 a year by replacing the five most-used incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient ones.
• Heated towel rails: Use only when needed. Four hours a day - rather than on all the time - could save $180 a year.
• Seal the heat: Draw curtains at dusk, try DIY window-film kits if double glazing is too expensive, put draught-stopping tape around windows and doors.