11 Jul 2017

Labour's power policy gets electricity retailers' approval

5:31 pm on 11 July 2017

A Labour Party plan to help people pay their winter power bills has some merit, but wider issues around power affordability remain, electricity retailers say.

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Photo: 123rf.com

Labour has unveiled a $374 million a year policy that would provide up to $700 a year to help with electricity bills.

The payments would go to superannuitants and people receiving main benefits and would be paid along with their normal pension or benefit.

The payment would be $700 for couples and parents with kids at home, and $450 for single people.

The Electricity Retailers Association said this measure could make an immediate difference to some people.

But the association's chief executive Jenny Cameron said wider issues should be considered for a long-term solution.

"We can see Labour's measure as maybe making an immediate difference to some of the people who need it the most," Ms Cameron said.

"But wider issues also need to be considered for a long-term solution primarily related to the quality of the housing (especially rentals), and energy-efficient appliances.

"It's encouraging to see Labour addressing those factors also, and looking at the causes and not just the symptoms."

Ms Cameron insisted her own industry was innovating and she said New Zealand had the eleventh lowest power prices of 32 OECD countries.

Meanwhile the Labour Party plan has been faulted by retail experts for lump sum payments payable to people without any assurance that the money went to their heating bill.

The party has said this was being for administrative efficiency.

No one in the retail industry was willing to comment publicly on the policy, but off the record several representatives said electronic payment systems targeted to a particular supplier were common, and sometimes cost just a few cents to administer.

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