Increased Number of Energy Disputes

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Increased Number of Energy Disputes

Over the past year, more than 5,500 people contacted Utilities Disputes, a free and independent complaints service. As released in the organization’s 2017-18 Annual Report, most of the complaints were regarding electricity or gas.

Complaints…By the Numbers

Out of a total of 5,528 people who contacted Utilities Disputes last year, 5,232 were about electricity or gas. The remainder was about broadband shared property disputes (236) and water (3).

The majority of the complaints were about billing, which increased by approximately ten percent compared to the previous year. Other issues included customer service, disconnections, meter issues and supply issues.

Genesis Energy had the most complaints but also has the greatest market share.

Utilities Disputes Works Hard to Keep the Energy Market Fair for Consumers

Although the organization has nothing to do with setting energy market prices, Utilities Disputes does work diligently to ensure citizens are treated fairly.

The organization can investigate issues such as billing problems (including whether the person is on the most appropriate plan), customer service experiences and lack of notices.

It’s those issues and more that can create considerable stress, causing people to reach out to Utilities Dispute for assistance.

Poor Communication is One of the Biggest Concerns

Often times, better communication is needed between power companies and consumers. Many complaints received by the organization involved communications’ matters including placement of equipment on property, inadequate communication about tree trimming, promised rates not being received and phone calls not being returned.

Since there are so many different providers offering various energy plans to consumers, energy companies need to practice effective communication methods.

Better Awareness of Utilities Dispute is Needed

Recent consumer surveys revealed that general awareness of Utilities Disputes’ services was low. The organization is working hard to change that perception.

Last year, Utilities Disputes won a Plain English award – a huge step towards building better visibility for the organization.

People are encouraged to complain first to their energy company, giving them an opportunity to resolve the matter. If unresolved, the complaint can be brought forward to Utilities Disputes.

Complaints can lead to Positive Change

The complaint process handled by Utilities Disputes often leads to proactive change by utility businesses.

For example, better complaint management and more proactive customer service are two ways that complaints can lead to businesses improving their practices. The process assists consumers with making more informed choices, too.

Switchme, New Zealand’s largest, non-government funded switching site, also helps consumers make smart energy choices! Complete a comparison on our website today to see the retailer options available.

Warming Kiwi Homes

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New Grant Programme Launched to Help Keep Kiwi Homes Warm

Even though winter may be about the end here in New Zealand, the cold temperatures will continue to be felt by many Kiwis – especially those with low-income.

But thanks to the government’s new “Warmer Kiwi Homes” insulation programme, low-income homeowners can soon receive assistance with keeping their home warm for future winters.

$142 Million Investment into the New Kiwi Homes Grant Programme

The new grant programme can cover two-thirds of the cost of ceiling and underfloor insulation and ground moisture barriers for eligible homeowners.

The program helps to meet the promises outlined in the Coalition and Confidence and Supply Agreements with New Zealand First and the Green Party.

Grant Program Will Help Kiwis Enjoy a Warmer, Healthier Winter

Managed by The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA), the four-year government grant programme is designed to help keep Kiwi homes warmer, drier and healthier.

Because the EECA is encouraging community organisations to contribute funding, the overall costs for homeowners will be as low as possible in many areas.

Although the grant’s first year is focussed on insulation costs, heating grants will become available in July 2019.

Grant Programme Will Help Ease Health System Pressure

Not only do cold temperatures bring health conditions that are costly to families, but they add strain to the country’s health system, too.

Recognizing the need for a solid solution to this problem, the government raised the level of funding per grant from 25 percent to cover two-thirds of the cost.

Are You Eligible for a Grant?

The grant programme helps bring warmth to cold, damp homes that lead to rheumatic fever and asthma – thereby targeting Kiwis who need it most.

Designed to help people who live in low decile areas or have a health condition, the grant eligibility criteria (as listed on the EECA’s website) includes:

  • Being the homeowner (owner-occupier) of a home built before 2008 AND
  • Having a Community Services Card or SuperGold combo card OR
  • Owning and living in a home in an identified lower-income area OR
  • Be referred by the Healthy Homes Initiative

To find out if you’re eligible for a grant, visit

In the meanwhile, want to ensure you’re saving as much money as possible on your energy costs each month?

Complete a comparison on Switchme today to compare and switch energy providers. Contact us today for more details about our services!

2018 Entrust Dividends

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2018 Largest Dividend Process Begins this Month by Entrust

If you’re one of 327,000 Kiwis who is an Entrust consumer, you’ve probably received your dividend payment preference form by now.

The form allows people to receive a payment option that they prefer for the annual dividend which will be paid in late September.

Last year, the dividend was $350. Not only did the amount help support many households, but it also boosted Auckland’s economy by more than $110 million.

Do You Qualify for an Entrust Dividend Payout?

If your name was on the August 2 power bill for a home and/or business in the Entrust district (encompassing Auckland, Manukau, northern parts of Papakura and eastern Franklin) that is connected to Vector’s electricity network, you will probably be receiving this year’s dividend.

Entrust has a 75.1 percent shareholding in Vector. When Vector pays a dividend, almost the entire dividend is passed on to Entrust consumers.

Choose the Payment Option that Suits You Best

Payment method options on the form include cheque, direct credit to your bank account or a credit to your electricity bill. The most convenient way, via direct credit, allows consumers to receive the money without waiting for a mailed cheque or visiting the bank.

For the most part, only people who want to change their payment method will need to respond to the letter.

Ensuring the Payment Process Goes Smoothly

Want to guarantee that the payment process will be a smooth one in September? Check that the following two tasks are completed:

  • Ensure the name of the Entrust form matches the name on your bank account. If it doesn’t, get your electricity retailer to update your account name.
  • If you want to change the payment method, return the form by Monday, August 6.

What Will You Do with Your Dividend Payout?

What to do with your dividend, which is normally a significant amount for most households, is entirely up to you!

Whether you choose to pay off a bill, put it aside for Christmas or enjoy a weekend away, go ahead – enjoy!

Any Questions?

If you have not received your form by now or have any questions regarding the dividend process, check out the help page found here.

As the payment comes via the lines company, it is not affected by the retailer you use. So ensure you’re paying the best rate for your household’s energy costs! Contact Switchme today for a comparison and more details about our energy switching services.

Government’s Review of Electricity Prices

The Importance of the Government’s Review of Electricity Prices

Prior to last year’s election, Labour, the Greens and NZ First government parties all promised thorough reviews of the country’s energy sector.

And now’s the time that we see those promises come to fruition.

The New Zealand government announced that it will be conducting an energy sector review. This review will examine the price of electricity and determine what (if any) changes need to be made to keep the market fair for customers.

The Importance of a Review

Have you been noticing your power prices steadily increasing over the last several years?

If so, you’re not alone.

Over the last few years, New Zealand’s power prices have increased faster than inflation – a cause for concern to our country’s leaders.

The problem has been recognized for some time and certain solutions have been implemented already. For example, the “winter energy payment” option that the government implemented has helped lower-income New Zealanders heat their homes during the winter.

However, the reason why power prices continue to increase has never really been thoroughly examined, which is what this review intends to do.

What's Involved in the Review?

Even though you pay only one price on your energy bill, the cost of getting that power to you is much more complicated!

Power costs arise from various stages: generation (hydropower, geothermal or wind), transmission, distribution, retail and consumption. The review’s main purpose – to investigate the causes of the rising electricity costs – will examine all five of these stages.

At the same time, the review will determine if changes need to be made to the rules and regulations surrounding the energy industry.

The review will also look at how new technologies such as electric vehicles and solar panels can be better managed by the sector.

The Implications of the Review

With the increasing use of these new technologies, the government needs to ensure that our energy sector will be able to successfully handle the influx.

Plus, the review aims to ensure there is greater transparency surrounding energy bills and fair pricing for customers.

More competition and consumer benefits will also likely be a result of the review.

Getting Ready for the Future

The last decade alone has seen New Zealand make huge advances in the energy sector. Having a review completed at this stage will help ensure we are prepared for the future!

To see if you’re currently getting the best price for your household’s power consumption, check out Switchme and complete a comparison today.

Recommendations from Utilities Disputes about Setting Up a Flat’s Power Supply

We get it – there’s a lot to do when you move into a new flat.

Between packing up all of your things, arranging for movers and cancelling any services at your old flat, moving can quickly become an overwhelming task. It’s easy to understand how one key step in the moving process gets overlooked!

Many times, new tenants forget to take a picture of the meter when they move into their new flat. But forgetting to do this one key task can end up costing you a lot in the future.

Complete Due Diligence to Prevent Problems

The Utilities Disputes Commissioner, Nanette Moreau, can recall numerous cases of new tenants receiving high power bills after moving into a new flat. Normally, this is due to previous tenants not properly closing their accounts. The new tenant suffers by receiving a super high bill and possibly even a disconnection notice.

New tenants that complete their due diligence can save themselves a lot of headaches down the road.

Moving? Complete Your Due Diligence

The best way to avoid the stress and headaches involved with a utilities dispute is to open and close your account correctly in the first place.

Here are some other tips from Utilities Disputes, who is responsible for investigating electricity and gas complaints:

  • Upon moving in, snap a photo of the meter display. Make sure the numbers are clearly displayed in the photo.
  • Compare energy rates on from different providers. Use the online comparison calculator to instantly see what your options are regarding energy providers.
  • Choose which energy provider you will be going with and set up your new account.
  • Sit down with your flatmates and decide how paying power bills will be handled. Document this arrangement in writing!
  • After receiving your first bill from your energy provider, review it carefully. If you have any questions, contact your provider.
  • When you decide to move out of the flat, take a photo of the meter display. Call your energy provider to properly close your account.

Make the Proper Payment Arrangements with Your Flatmates

Remember: the person named as the account holder is responsible for all future bills. That’s why it’s important that you document your payment arrangements in writing with your flatmates.

If the account holder moves out, ensure the account holder details are updated with your provider.

How Does Electricity Get to My House?

    How Does Electricity Get to My House?

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    As effortless as it may seem when light appears after flicking on a switch or heat dissipates after turning on an electric heater, the work that goes on ‘behind the scenes’ to get the power to where you use it is actually quite extensive! To better understand the process behind getting power to where you need it in your home, check out the step-by-step outline below:

    • Generating Electricity in New Zealand

    The majority of New Zealand’s electricity generation comes from renewable sources. Although most is generated from hydro-electric stations, some electricity is also produced from gas, geothermal, coal, wind, diesel and solar.

    • Hitting the Wholesale Market

    The wholesale market is where electricity retailers buy their power from. Every half hour, prices are calculated to be sold on the wholesale market. These prices can vary widely depending on supply and demand.

    • Transmitting the Power

    Transpower, which owns and operates New Zealand’s national transportation grid, transmits the power from where it is generated to the local transmission grid. This electricity is transmitted at high voltages – up to 220,000 volts! Not all industrial sites get their power this way; some of the larger ones connect directly to the national grid.

    • Distributing the Power to Your Home

    Using overhead wires and underground cables, the power is delivered to homes and businesses using local distribution networks that are connected to the national transmission grid.

    • Buying from the Retail Market

    Since New Zealand has a competitive retail market for power suppliers, consumers are given the choice to buy their electricity from various companies. There are a wide range of retailers and electricity plans available to choose from, depending on what’s available where you live. To get the best rate possible, consumers are advised to check out all their options prior to committing to a certain retailer.

    • At Your Home

    The electricity meter at your home records the amount of electricity used, so consumers can be billed accordingly.

    Lower Your Energy Costs!

    Now that you understand the process behind getting the energy to your home, are you interested in learning how to lower your energy costs? Switchme is New Zealand’s largest non-government funded energy switching site. By processing energy comparisons and giving free, independent advice, we help customers get a better deal on their energy bill. Contact us today to learn how you, too, can save money on your energy costs!

    On a Wholesale Electricity Plan? Be Wary Of Price Hikes This Winter

    The Electricity Authority is currently investigating a price spike that hit early in June which was the highest spike in three years. It comes amid concerns that consumers who are on wholesale price-based plans could be in for an pricey winter.

    Nigel Brunel, director at commodity firm OMF, said prices between 6pm and 7.30pm were near $4000 per megawatt hour (MWh), compared to an average $52 per MWh in the South Island.

    "For a consumer who is on a wholesale price plan and was heating their house and cooking dinner at this time they would have paid an extra $20 for electricity last night," he said.

    Companies such as Flick offer consumers power based on wholesale rates. This means they can achieve good savings when power is plentiful but are exposed to price hikes like this. Following the closure of the Otahuhu and Southdown power stations last year there is less supply to meet demand on cold winter days, which makes price spikes like this more likely.

    Power Bills To Rise For Some Consumers Under Electricity Authority Review Plan

    Consumers in 14 regions around the country can expect to pay more for their electricity, as a result of an overhaul of pricing for the national grid.

    But this also means good news for 15 other regions who should pay less under the proposed changes.

    The Electricity Authority (EA) has released its preferred option for a fairer way of paying for the national grid. Access to the grid, provided by state-owned monopoly Transpower, makes up about 10 per cent of the average household power bill.

    Under the EA's preferred option, released on Tuesday morning, some regions will have to pay more for the benefit of better infrastructure. The overall impact on residential prices would be an increase of 0.5 per cent, or $11 per household per year.

    The biggest increases would be worn by those in Auckland, Northland, Ashburton and the West Coast.

    Lower prices: Invercargill, South Canterbury, Central Otago and Dunedin, Hawke's Bay, East Coast, Queenstown, North Canterbury, Marlborough, Tasman, Christchurch, Western BOP/Taranaki, Tararua, Southland, Rotorua, Waikato North, Wellington.

    Higher prices: Ashburton, West Coast (Westport), South Auckland, Eastern BOP, Waitaki, Whangarei, Waikato, Northland, Auckland, West Coast (Hokitika).

    No change, or not yet clear: Horowhenua, Otago, Hamilton.


    Electricity Industry Shake-up On The Cards

    A big change for the electricity industry is in the pipeline, with an important announcement from the Electricity Authority due at 10am tomorrow 17 May 2016.

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    At stake is who pays the $1 billion a year that it takes to run the national grid.

    At present, 9.9 percent of a typical power bill goes to Transpower to meet that cost.

    That percentage is the same for all consumers, whether they live at the far end of a 1000km power line or just down the road from a hydro dam.

    A paper presented last year by the Electricity Authority took exception to this, suggesting that people who benefit most from a service should pay the most for it, and that cross subsidies can hinder sensible investments.

    The paper suggested reforms could produce better efficiency by providing incentives so that the right investments occur at the right time, and in the right place.

    That paper was opened up to submissions, and the Electricity Authority's response to them will come out tomorrow.

    Andrew Harvey-Green of the broking and research firm Forsyth Barr said industry response to the proposed changes was favourable and it was likely the one-size-fits-all model would be changed.

    In its proposal last June, the authority estimated some power bills would fall and some stay the same. However Auckland and Northland would pay 4.5 percent more and the Far North and the West Coast 10 percent more.

    But it said consumers in the North should remember they were the beneficiaries of more than $1.3 billion of transmission investment in recent years.

    As a result, Auckland had higher levels of reliability than the rest of the country, which was costly to provide, and Aucklanders were clearly the beneficiaries of that reliability.

    Consumers in the South Island will save money from the changes, including the aluminium smelter, which could save $50 million a year.

    However, Forsyth Barr's Andrew Harvey-Green suggested a compromise version could cut the smelter's benefit to $30 million.

    This week's announcement is expected to support the principle of change, but hone down several options to a preferred one, which will then be opened for further public debate.

    However whatever is finally chosen could be challenged in the courts and could take years to implement.

    Source: Radio NZ