As a new report highlights huge hikes in power bills, it turns out Hawke's Bay consumers could have missed out on as much as $300,000 last year by not cashing in their annual "power cheque".
The release this week of a discussion document for the first stage of an independent Electricity Price Review shows power bills have risen by 79 per cent since 1990, and while Hawke's Bay will be at the centre of national discussions on how to tackle the problem later this year, more than 1000 consumers last year missed the chance to get $200 cash back.
Power consumers in Hastings and Napier were on Tuesday informed they would be in line for an increased annual dividend of $220 - up from $200 last year, from the Hawke's Bay Power Consumers Trust, which owns electricity distributor Unison Networks.
However, Hawke's Bay Power Consumers Trust chairwoman Diana Kirton encouraged consumers to make sure the same name was both on the power account and registered with the bank, as cheques would be addressed to the registered bill-payer at addresses connected to the Unison network.
"Around 1500 cheques of the near 55,000 went uncashed or were returned last year."
Kirton pointed out that while the trust had not had a chance to discuss the new electricity review discussion document, it did not appear to contain any major surprises.
"It is well known that power prices for the householder have risen 79 per cent since 1990, and that low-income families are usually unable to take advantage of early payment discounts.
"The interesting part will be what comes out of the consultation process and possible actions from the Government to address the issues.
"Electricity trusts throughout New Zealand are keeping a watchful eye on the process and the review has been the major topic of ETNZ conferences since it was announced.
"Hawke's Bay Power Consumers' Trust are hosting the ETNZ conference in early November and nearly every agenda item is based around the review. This is very much work in progress."
Kirton said the trust continues to do what it can to help support power consumers to manage their power bills.
Consumers receive an annual dividend from the trust, which received its own dividend from lines company Unison.
"In our recently adopted contributions policy we clarified that the priority of any contributions applied by the trust was: "to support consumers to better manage their energy use and consumption".
"To this end the trust allocate budget not exceeding 3 per cent of that year's dividend. The rest of the dividend is distributed directly to the power account holder.
"This year the trust is continuing to contribute to the home insulation project, which attracts a large portion of EECA funding, as well as electric blanket testing."
Energy and Resources Minister Megan Woods said the electricity review discussion document shines a spotlight on the problems pushing up power prices for Kiwi families.
"The report is a clear demonstration that the market is not working for everyone.
"While residential electricity prices have been relatively flat since 2015, they are 79 per cent higher than they were in 1990. Over the same timeframe commercial prices have declined by 24 per cent and industrial prices have increased by 18 per cent.
"For residential customers it appears that a two-tier retail market is developing. People who actively shop around enjoy the benefits of competition, and those who don't are stuck with higher prices."
Electricity bills have four main components: generation - 30.5 per cent (charged by electricity generation companies), transmission - 9.9 per cent (charged by National Grid operator Transpower), distribution- 26.2 per cent (charged by lines companies like Unison), and retailing costs - 16.2 per cent (charged by individual retailers), plus GST charges for residential customers (13 per cent).