Power bill subsidies for lower-income families, under Greens' power policy
More than half a million houses will have their winter power bills partially paid for under a new Green Party policy to slash bills by up to $300 a year.
The "Winter Warm Up" payments were one part of a new Green Party power policy, unveiled today. The party has also set a goal for 100 per cent renewable energy by 2030, and new rules to encourage competition and transparency within the electricity industry.
Released by co-leader James Shaw and the party's energy spokesman Gareth Hughes, the policy would commit $112 million for bill subsidies and require New Zealand's 29 lines companies to consider joint ventures and mergers.
"It is unacceptable that so many Kiwi families are getting sick because they can't afford to switch the heater on," Hughes said.
The subsidy would cover 75 per cent of the average winter cost increase, and would vary region to region. Households in Christchurch could expect to receive $328 per year, to pay for power, while a household in the warmer Auckland climate could receive a total winter payment of $206.91.
In order to achieve 100 per cent renewable energy generation, the Greens would place a ban on new fossil fuel generation. Shaw said some of the companies the party consulted with in developing the policy did not believe the target was necessary or realistic.
"Setting a goal for 100 per cent renewable electricity generation is bold, achievable and the right thing to do for our planet," said Hughes. There were economic opportunities for the energy sector.
"We'll make sure lines companies consider affordable batteries (to store power), and other new technology alternatives before they build expensive new power lines."
Regulation changes would also require retailers to provide itemised power bills to customers, so they could see whether any increase in price was being driven by investment in new transmission networks, new power stations or something else.
The Greens would encourage industry and third parties to develop market platforms and technology solutions to enable person-to-person trading of electricity.
And the 29 lines companies, operating in New Zealand, would be encouraged to operate joint ventures or merge where it was deemed appropriate.
The policy has noticeably scrapped the platform Labour and the Greens stood on during the 2014 election campaign - to establish a national "Pharmac style" purchaser, to buy all electricity generation on behalf of the country.
But the Green's new policy does call for an investigation into the wholesale national market "to make sure innovative retail companies can compete with the big-generator retailers."
Hughes said the investigation would be independent, but there was no intention to revisit the "NZ Power" purchasing model.
Public health professor at Otago University Philippa Howden-Chapman said there was a "sad causal chain" between people not being able to afford to heat their home, to not being able to afford food and ultimately ending up in hospital, seriously unwell.
Business NZ manager for energy, environment and infrastructure John Carnegie said the policy was a "thoughtful reassessment of the NZ Power proposal".
"They've been working with us and the rest of the sector, to get their views on board. So we think it's a steady solid, return."
There were parts of the policy that "pushed the edges".
"The proposal to ban new thermal power stations in an effort to get to 100 per cent renewable energy - but other than that, we're pretty happy."
- Audio courtesy of Radio NZ.
Proposed regulations around bill transparency were not unwelcome.
"We're all for greater transparency, obviously the devil will be in the detail as to how they work that through with the industry.
"In terms of the lines companies - it seems to add a fair bit of cost and risk to the system, so we think it's a sensible idea that there's a closer look at seeing how they can work closer together."