As South Canterbury consumers' power prices continue to rise well above inflation, the Electricity Authority urges customers to keep shopping around.
Chief executive Carl Hansen said the average consumer in South Canterbury could have saved $180.30 last year by switching to the cheapest offer, which amounts to a 7.7 per cent saving on their electricity bill if it used the authority's "What's My Number" website.
Mr Hansen said the website tracked the cheapest prices according to the user demographics, so he could not recommend one particular company.
Recent figures from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment reveal that since 2008, the weighted average consumer has had hikes of nearly 4.4 per cent per year for the last five years - that means at 8000 kilowatt hours per year, power would have increased by $431 over the last five years. The weighted average annual bill was $2166.
The authority, which regulates the market's pricing structure, will release a report on the system in October.
"Our study will give the authority a better idea as to whether price changes have been reflecting cost movements," he said.
"People expect prices to rise when costs rise and to fall when costs fall, and so they want to know whether retail price increases over the last 10 years are justified."
Mr Hansen said national grid operator Transpower recently completed some major infrastructure projects, and local lines companies have undertaken enhancements in the past.
"Transmission and network costs make up a significant part of your power bill - up to 30 per cent - and increases in those costs are being passed on at the moment," Mr Hansen said.
Other factors, such as the price of gas and diesel, also affected electricity prices, particularly when thermal generation was the main "go-to" on the spot market.
"Thermal generation costs are obviously affected by fuel prices. Gas prices rose by nearly 95 per cent over 2003-2008 but have since declined substantially," he said.
Asked whether South Canterbury was able to "take advantage" of the fact it had the hydro lakes in its catchment, Mr Hansen said the system was integrated nationally.
"South Canterbury is generally an exporter of power and the price on the spot market reflects the best price available. "It's basically a pool of electricity which all generators, including those in South Canterbury, supply and consumers draw from," he said.
The Commerce Commission allowed Alpine Energy to increase its annual lines charges by 11 per cent - about an extra $50 per customer - for the coming financial year, after it reviewed its pricing structure.
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