Hot tips to cool your bill

Power users in Northland will have to dig deep again this year as another hike in lines' charges has prompted electricity companies to increase their prices.

It's the fifth consecutive year that power charges in Northland have gone up, although the latest increase is small compared with previous years.

An average increase to residential users of about $24 a year in lines' charges by Northpower has been blamed by two power companies as justification for raising their charges.

Genesis' 16,000 residential and small to medium companies in Northland would be the worst affected from a 3.2 per cent increase from April 6, which equates to between $30 and $50 more a year.


The company is preparing for a partial float of its assets this month and since last week began notifying its customers of price increase.

"Distribution charges have increased this year by up to 14 per cent. These increases are outside of our control. Genesis Energy has been absorbing increased lines' charges for more than a year in some regions, however it is not sustainable for us," chief operating officer Mike Fuge said.

Contact last week wrote to its 5250 residential and small business customers in Northland about an average increase of 1.3 per cent, or $26 per year.

This year's price increase means Contact has raised its charges by a staggering 25.5 per cent since 2011.

A small number of its overall customers in Northland that belong to its wholly-owned subsidiary Empower will also face a similar increase in charges to that of Contact.

"These changes relate to the network and transmission portion of a residential or small business' electricity bill (approximately 40 per cent of the total electricity bill) only, and do not include any change to the energy or service related costs which Contact has committed to holding flat until at least April 2015," Contact chief executive Dennis Barnes said.

All other power companies supplying Northland have decided to absorb their costs without raising their charges.

Whangarei mother Steph Partridge, who is with Genesis, feels the persistent rise in prices is a "rip off".

A family of two adults and two kids, their power bill has risen from $60 a fortnight to about $72 and since they were behind in their automatic payment, Ms Partridge said another rise would be pretty hard.

"My husband wants to look at solar panels but they cost about $10,000 to put up which will make a difference to our power bill in the next five to 10 years," she said.

An Advocate reader who lives on a lifestyle block and relies on power to pump water from a tank to her house, and also has a borehole with a separate meter, had her electricity bill jump from $160 or cheaper in summer to more than $200.

"Just come off benefit due to back injury. If we were still on the benefit, there's no way we could afford the price rise."

Contact is now the cheapest electricity provider in Northland, leapfrogging Genesis which was the most affordable in previous years.

As of this month, a household of three to four people using electric water-heating, electric cooking, and a mix of electric and other space-heating such as wood burners or gas heating would pay Contact $2018. Powershop is the next best at $2127, followed by Energy Online $2142, Meridian $2149, Nova $2156, Just Energy $2161, Trustpower $2187, Genesis $2204 and Mercury $2251.

Ms Partridge's quick tips to save power:
- Switch off electricity at the walls;
- Unplug cellphone charger and jug;
- Try not to use heatpump.

Tips to save power on website:
- Turn off lights when leaving a room;
- Close curtains and windows at sunset during the winter;
- Repair leaky taps. One dripping hot tap could cost you $80 a year if you left it dripping that long;
- Turn down your hot-water cylinder - it doesn't need to be above 60C. This will save you around $25 per hot-water cylinder a year;
- Turn off that old beer fridge and save up to $120 a year.