Background to the survey

In late 2022, we commissioned our first survey of residential consumers and small businesses across Aotearoa New Zealand. Our goal was to better understand what these groups think of our electricity sector.

We were particularly interested to learn more about their:

  • thoughts on the affordability of electricity
  • experiences with the electricity market
  • attitudes towards the electricity market
  • behaviour around switching plans and providers
  • knowledge about the electricity market.

We commissioned Kantar Public to conduct this research on our behalf, with the goal of:

  • gathering information to provide a baseline for our future research
  • better understanding small consumers’ views regarding electricity in New Zealand, and
  • creating a high quality and robust survey to build on our understanding of the current situation, and inform our future work.

Kantar Public talked to 1026 residential consumers and 500 small businesses across the motu between 25 November and 20 December 2022.

Survey findings

We found that small electricity consumers rank affordable electricity and a resilient network as their most important concerns.

When thinking about affordability:

  • 80% of residential consumers and 86% of small businesses believe electricity needs to be affordable for all New Zealanders
  • 69% of residential consumers and 57% of small businesses are concerned electricity will become unaffordable for some over the next 10 years
  • 52% of residents and 39% of small businesses worry electricity will be unaffordable for them over the next 10 years.

With regards to resilience:

  • 74% of residents and 84% of small businesses say ensuring the electricity system is resilient to extreme weather events is important
  • 57% of residents and 59% of small businesses are concerned the system will not be resilient to power outages caused by storm events over the next 10 years.

Other findings

  • The cost of electricity is a key concern for 58% of New Zealanders. This is on par with the concerns they have about mortgage or rental costs, and comes second only to concerns about grocery and petrol costs.
  • 42% of residents and 28% of small businesses find it harder to pay electricity bills now than they did a year ago.
  • About 1 in 3 were not confident the market is delivering fair prices to consumers. A similar number doubted the market would provide better value for money over the next 5 years.
  • 10% of residents experienced payment pressures in the last 12 months. These consumers had to:
    • go on pre-pay
    • borrow money to pay a bill, or 
    • make special arrangements with their retailer because of financial hardship.

In response to these findings, Our Chair, Deborah Hart noted that “Most consumers do not have confidence in the electricity industry to provide affordable power and a reliable supply.”

“Electricity retailers should be worried that so many consumers are unhappy with prices and the state of the sector today. Consumers are the ones ultimately funding the industry, and their concerns can’t be ignored.”

Next steps

Our goal is to build on these findings by conducting more regular surveys over time. The learnings they provide will help strengthen our ability to:

  • better advocate for the change consumers need within the energy sector, and
  • ensure our electricity network is affordable, resilient and sustainable.