The release of the Electricity Price Review options paper has been well received by local energy distribution company, WEL Networks.
The paper was published last week and signalled a strong interest in new technology, network resilience and greater customer choice - all aimed at reducing energy poverty in New Zealand communities.
Chief Executive Garth Dibley says the company is pleased to see that consumer advocacy, fairness and reducing energy hardship were core themes.
“WEL Networks has a strong community alignment through our sole shareholders, WEL Energy Trust. Our core purpose is enabling our communities to thrive and energy hardship is a nationwide problem and a reality in our own backyard, so it’s important that we support any action which will help improve the health and wellbeing of our consumers.”
He says one option favoured by the panel and supported by WEL was a push to look at community-based programmes which would improve energy efficiency.
“The Trust has delivered various energy efficiency and breathe-easy programmes, including installing heat pumps, insulating electric water heaters, replacing fluorescent lights and an energy efficiency homes retrofit project that ran for several years primarily for customers with a community services card. Our staff play an important role in these programmes, completing the installations or assessments on behalf of the Trust.”
“We’ve also partnered with the Trust to complete energy efficiency audits of all primary and intermediate schools within our network area.”
He explains that WEL is supportive of any measures taken to improve the fairness and transparency of the electricity market for consumers, including a distribution pricing reform where prices more closely align to costs and customers benefit from efficient investment in new technologies.
“We want to ensure our communities can make informed decisions about their power and pricing, and that those most in need are supported.
“We’ve transitioned the majority of residential and small business connections onto Time of Use price plans which take advantage of newer ‘smart’ electricity meters. The meters are capable of recording how much power is used at different times during the day, ensuring that price plans more closely reflect the cost to serve during different time periods. This also helps reduce peak load demand.”
And that’s not all. For the second year in a row the company will reduce its residential lines charges.
“Last year we reduced residential lines charges by $6m (six million dollars) providing an average saving of $77 (seventy-seven dollars) to residents, with an additional $70 (seventy dollars) forecast for the year ahead. This complements a move to provide $20m (twenty million) per annum to be invested into the community via WEL Energy Trust.
Dibley says while WEL and the Trust are taking steps to help combat energy hardship in the Waikato community there are other ways for residents to reduce their power bill even more.
“Check out powerswitch.co.nz, a free service that helps you work out which power company and pricing plan is best for households, or the Electricity Authority website, whatsmynumber.org.nz.”