Energy and Resources Minister Hon. Megan Woods today announced changes to the electricity market aimed to level playing field for smaller independent retailers, provide greater transparency over the big power companies, increase competition in the market and encourage consumers to shop around for better deals.
The Minister said that "too many people are paying higher bills than they need to and many people struggle with the cost of power". The overall impact on electricity prices of the changes remains to be seen, however, as the removal of the Low Fixed Charge and prompt-payment discounts could outweigh savings in other areas for many households.
The Minister has been quick to point out that she doesn't intend lowering of electricity prices to signal a slowdown in distributed renewable generation such as solar and has indicated that support for the sector could be on its way. Minister Woods has previously acknowledged the role of solar in New Zealand's energy mix and indicated support for increasing its uptake. Minister Woods is keynote speaker at the SEANZ 2019 Conference next month and these questions will be high on the agenda.
The changes announced today include:
- Supporting new and independent retailers by requiring the big power companies to sell into the wholesale market at affordable rates.
- Extending discount rates to all customers
- A pilot scheme to help customers who have not switched power providers before to shop around for better deals and requiring power companies to put information about how to switch on the communications they send consumers.
- Putting a moratorium on “win-backs” that companies use to stop customers switching between providers.
- Requiring greater transparency on the profits of the big gentailers.
- Introducing minimum standards for medically dependent and vulnerable customers