Hawke's Bay organisations are stepping forward to help power customers deal with ever rising bills, with 450 low-income families receiving help to stay warm and healthy.
A new independent report into the electricity market found that nationally, 25,317 people had their power disconnected because on non-payment last year - a rise of 6211 people from the previous year.
Budget First manager Kristal Leach said even though the Labour-led Government this year introduced the $20-a-week winter power payment for beneficiaries and super-annuitants, affordability was still an issue for many.
"We still see clients coming to see us because of power disconnection because their power bills are high and they haven't been making regular payments.
"We get about 45 per cent of our clients referred to us from Work and Income because they are facing financial hardship and the most likely issues they face when they come to see us are power disconnection and arrears.
"Most of our clients don't even turn their heat pumps on. For many of our clients they just put extra layers of clothing on."
Leach said the organisation advised its clients not to try to heat homes by using an oven.
She also said Hawke's Bay District Health's Child Health Housing Programme also carried out outreach programmes for its clients to help give tips on how to keep homes warm and healthy.
Hawkes' Bay District Health health-improvement clinical director Nicholas Jones said over the 12 months to June last year, 450 families were referred to the Child Health Housing Programme.
"The overall aim is to prevent illness amongst lower-income families, who are living in cold, damp or otherwise unhealthy homes.
"The way it works, is one of our team makes contact with the family and our assessed. Usually, that looks at a number of different possible interventions that may be required - everything from needing to move into a new home through to needing to have modifications done to the home, such as insulation, ventilation and curtains."
Dr Jones said, to be eligible for the programme, referrals must either have been admitted to hospital for a respiratory illness, at risk of rheumatic fever, or be pregnant or have a newborn baby.
"One of the issues we find, is because a family can't afford to heat all the rooms, they are all sleeping in one room. So, what we're attempting to do there, is if there is no other solution, to ensure at least there are at least enough beds - sufficiently separated - to reduce the risks of illness by them all being in the same room."
The Electricity Authority also encourages consumers to change suppliers by checking online for a better deal.
Electricity Authority acting chief executive Rory Blundell said 1158 people in the Hawke's Bay region switched suppliers in July.
"We have potential estimates for how much households in the region could save, by calendar year. The estimate of average available saving per household for Hawke's Bay for 2017 was $142.74."
A spokeswoman for the nation's largest retailer, Genesis Energy, said the company was pleased to see the report identified that the issue of poverty in New Zealand was a national issue, not confined to electricity.
"Genesis is committed, as part of the industry, to play our part in addressing that.
"We know it's not always easy for customers to understand and manage their power bills. We're focused on helping customers with this, supporting increased energy literacy and greater bill transparency with product innovation with services like Energy IQ which help customers see, understand and control their energy use.
"If a customer is struggling to pay, the best thing they can do is get in touch with us to discuss a payment plan that works for them. Genesis offers a range of ways to pay such as our Control-a-bill product which allows a set amount to be paid each week, fortnight or month across the year – while still receiving the prompt payment discount."
Top Tips to stay warm:
Try insulating windows with bubble-wrap
Get rid of mould
Open windows for 20 minutes a day
Put a timer on a heater to heat homes for the coldest period between 5am and 7am
Keep heat pumps on a 20 degree setting and run for a few hours rather than heating homes to 28 degrees for a shorter period.