In late March 2023, the Energy Hardship Panel (the Panel) published a Discussion Paper, ‘Te Kore, Te Pō, Te Ao Marama – Energy Hardship: the challenges and the way forward’.
The Panel has proposed 27 strategies within 5 key focus areas, or kete, to help tackle energy hardship in Aotearoa and better support households experiencing energy hardship. They have also made proposals on how we could build the supporting environment required to ensure these strategies have impact.
The Panel are seeking feedback on the strategies, as proposed in the discussion paper.
Feedback on the paper closed on 28 April 2023.
Our feedback on the discussion paper noted that:
- we broadly support of all proposed strategies, except strategy AC5 which we consider needs further discussion
- in relation to the proposal to expand the Warmer Kiwi Homes programme, we state that retrofitting measures need to be considered in conjunction with the affordability of electricity. In our view, energy hardship issues will persist unless power prices are affordable
- placing an obligation on retailers to inform customers whether they are on the best plan has the potential to help ensure the benefits of retrofitting are maximised
- retailers could also be given obligations to provide customers with information on potential energy efficiency improvements or direct them to independent sources of this information
- consumers need access to reliable information in order to assess options for their homes and help ensure energy choices are supported by good evidence. Benefits and costs must be clearly set out to ensure the information is useful for and used by consumers
- we consider bill changes should extend to requiring companies to inform customers whether they are on the best plan for their energy usage. We consider mandatory requirements are also needed to improve traceability of retailers’ pricing plans and enable better price comparisons
- work remains to be done to improve consumers’ access to their electricity consumption data. Recommendations made by the Electricity Price Review panel (recommendations C3 and E3) relating to this do not appear to have been fully implemented
- given electricity is an essential service, mandatory standards (the Consumer Care Guidelines) are needed to set out retailers’ obligations in relation to electricity supply and help ensure consumers are protected from unfair treatment
- we recommend the Electricity Authority’s public reporting of hardship indicators should be by retailer
- we recommend that flexibility providers and load aggregators should also be considered for inclusion in an expanded dispute resolution process.