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Thursday, May 6, 2021

Government’s winter energy payment should go into effect – but it’s still not enough, some say

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The government’s winter energy payment for beneficiaries and retirees goes into effect on Saturday, but some say it doesn’t go far enough to cover the rising cost of heating a home.

Seniors are already thinking about what to give up during the winter in order to pay their electricity bills, according to Central Otago Gray Power. File photo
Photo: 123RF

This means that low income people are already afraid of how they are going to juggle their budgets.

Gray Power Central Otago president Margaret Hill said older residents are already looking to give up so they can pay their electricity bills during the winter.

“We have snow on the hill right now with the storm that hit over the weekend and a snow blast that would cut you in half. I think today we hit 15 or 16 degrees and with the wind factor it probably looked like 10, ”Hill said.

“A lot [of people] who I spoke to, the doctor will probably be the first to go and the food will be reduced as well. “

Many retirees don’t have a woodstove, and instead rely on heat pumps – and this can be a problem for those with no income other than their superpayments.

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“People are just going to stay in bed or wrap themselves in a dozen diapers if they can put them on. And that makes things very stressful for some of them, especially those who live alone.

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Residents of Central Otago will pay a higher line charge this year due to the extensive lines of maintenance work Aurora has to do.

There is also an additional level of uncertainty with hydroelectric lakes at their lowest level in 25 years.

Natural gas shortages have also pushed up wholesale electricity prices.

Transpower Chief Operating Officer Dr Stephen Jay said Morning report he believed, based on the rainfall forecast, that the company would go through the year without blackouts or brownouts. He said hydropower typically accounts for 55% of the country’s electricity production. This figure had dropped by the 1940s, and the burning of coal and gas to generate electricity had increased.

“The thermal mix has gone from 16 percent to 22 percent,” he said.

However, he said whether consumers should pay higher retail prices due to the costs of burning fossil fuels was up to the market.

Jay said that in relative terms, the country’s supply was always clean.

“We have a very renewed system and most of the time it is between 80 and 84 percent renewables which is a very good position for New Zealand in terms of producing electricity from sources. renewable. “

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He said the upgrade projects would allow greater capacity to move electricity higher on the grid to meet industrial and residential demands.

“This work is well advanced and we see no challenge in getting electricity from south to north.”

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Electricity Retailers Association chief executive Cameron Burrows said it was not clear whether the increases would be passed on to consumers.

“Power companies play a vital role in protecting customers against fluctuations in wholesale prices. There are many different factors that determine electricity prices, so we cannot put a firm factor on what will happen during the winter.

Burrows urged anyone struggling to pay their bills to speak to their electric company as soon as possible.

On Saturdays, retirees and beneficiaries begin to receive the winter energy payment.

Single people without dependent children will receive an additional $ 20 per week, while couples and people with dependent children will receive just over $ 30 more.

Last year, because of Covid-19, the rate was doubled – but it was only once.

Age Concern Auckland chief executive Kevin Lamb said the money was a big help, but the support needed to keep pace with rising costs.

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“We have to make sure that every year when we get to the cold months – in Auckland the weather gets colder but it’s nowhere near as bad as in other parts of New Zealand – we really have to think that each year we provide assistance to vulnerable people to help them ensure that they can meet the basic heating needs of their homes. “

Brooke Pao Stanley, Auckland Action Against Poverty coordinator, said the standard rate was not enough.

“I know people are very aware of the energy they are using. People won’t turn on heaters or heat pumps because they know that at the end of the month they will just be too big. So people often do it. get cold, get sick in winter because of that. “

But Hill believed that permanently doubling retiree payments would discourage them from leaving.

“With just the one-size-fits-all rate, they feel free to go to the heated library, to the card afternoons where there is heat, and to other social places where they meet other people and there. there’s heat there that they don’t pay for. “

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