Switching can soften price blow

Last updated 05:00 03/03/2014

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Switching power companies is one way Taranaki consumers can have some control over how much they pay each month, but it's not necessarily making electricity any cheaper.

According to the most recent data released by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment regarding residential electricity prices, the cost of power in North Taranaki has increased by $200 since November 2010, which translates to a 3.3 per cent rise. In South Taranaki, prices increased by $187, a 2.7 per cent rise over the same period. Nationwide there was a 3 per cent rise in power prices.

Increased transmission and distribution costs were reasons given for the price hike.

According to a Ministry of Energy and Resources spokesperson, competition in the sector was still the best way to keep downward pressure on prices and consumer switching was an important part of that.

"In South Taranaki, the current difference between the highest and lowest cost retailer is $172 per year and in North Taranaki it is $508.

"There is also an on-going expansion in the number of retailers operating in New Zealand with a wide range of innovative offerings available to customers."

This view was supported by Electricity Authority chief executive Carl Hansen who said consumers were encouraged to shop around for their electricity to find the best deal to suit them.

One consumer spoken to by the Taranaki Daily News this week was Hawera's Robyn Brophy.

She said she was happy with her provider but knew of others who had noticed an increase in their monthly bills.

"It hasn't affected me," she said.

She said she had fielded calls from a number of electricity providers lately but none of them could match the deal she currently got for her gas and electricity.

"I won't change," she said.

Another couple content with their monthly spend are Hawera's Noelene and David Marshall.

They said they paid between $60-80 a month for their power.

"I thought that was okay," Mrs Marshall said.

Grey Power New Plymouth president Hugh Johnson said the launch of Grey Power Electricity last year had helped him and others keep up with the increasing costs.

"We're saving about $40 a month on our power bill," Mr Johnson said.

However, energy analyst Molly Melhuish said the ability for people to change electricity providers was only one part of a wider solution to rising power prices.

"That's something that has a partial effect," she said.

She said websites such as Powerswitch could be used by consumers to find out accurate information how much they could save or which electricity provider was cheapest.

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Labour's energy spokesman David Shearer said despite short term gains offered to people through their ability to switch providers, the overall price of power had gone up.

"If a competitive market is not about bringing down prices, what is it for?" Mr Shearer said.

- Taranaki Daily News

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