Bid to get cheap power for elderly

By Matthew Martin, Kiri Gillespie, Cassandra Mason


Rotorua's elderly are struggling to pay their power bills as Grey Power attempts to negotiate a deal for cheaper electricity for its 64,000 members.

Grey Power Rotorua president Rosemary MacKenzie said some elderly were not heating their homes because it was too expensive.

"I have members who are simply too frightened to turn the heater on," she said. "One told me just the other day she was walking around in her dressing gown all day because she could not afford to have her heater on to keep warm."

Increasing power prices were a major problem in Rotorua.

Figures from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment show the average annual power bill for Rotorua and the wider Bay of Plenty rose $83 in the past year, or 3.5 per cent from the previous year.

The figures also reveal the average annual power bill has gone up $478, or 24.5 per cent, since 2008.

The issue is so serious Grey Power New Zealand is in negotiations with an unnamed power company in an effort to make power more affordable for senior citizens.

Mrs MacKenzie said a discount power deal would help Rotorua Grey Power members.

"We are waiting with bated breath for something to happen with our prices."

It was particularly hard for those who lived alone, she said, as it cost the same to heat a room whether there was one person in it or two or more.

"You try living on 33 per cent of the average wage in New Zealand. It's especially difficult for single people," she said.

"There is energy poverty in New Zealand, the worst thing they ever did was privatise our power companies.

"Many of us worked and paid our taxes for 45 years to put these companies in place," she said.

Grey Power's negotiations are being run by the national president, Roy Reid.

He said he was advising members to avoid signing up for long-term contracts in anticipation of the deal.

Mr Reid said it was the first time Grey Power had entered into negotiations of such magnitude and significance.

"We think it will be in the members' interests."

Mr Reid said negotiations were commercially sensitive and he was hoping to be able to make an announcement in the coming days.

However, TrustPower community relations manager Graeme Purches said he could not see how a discounted power deal for a group could work.

The company had a payment option offering slightly cheaper power over a long-term contract, Mr Purches said.

"The only way it could work is to have a similar deal, that's where they agree to be our customer for four or five years for a discounted price," Mr Purches said.

Residential power prices in all regions have increased in the past year, from $17.19 in Dunedin to $182.36 in Gisborne.

Ari Sargent, chief executive of power retailer Powershop, said price increases were being driven in large part by lines company charges, but this meant little to households struggling to pay their power bills.

"We're paying record prices at the pump, checkout and now for power. Energy poverty is becoming a real issue in New Zealand and there needs to be a government-driven solution to support those families who can't make ends meet."

According to Electricity Authority figures, 25,064 Bay of Plenty customers switched power companies in the last year.

 


Saving money on power



  • Close curtains as sun sets, keeping the warmth indoors


  • Keep doors closed to heat a main room


  • Turn off electrical appliances at the wall when not in use


  • Replace light bulbs with energy efficient bulbs


- ROTORUA DAILY POST

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