Increasing power prices are forcing some elderly to wrap themselves in a duvet and go to bed at 5pm in a bid to keep warm, says Grey Power president Neville Male.
The revelation comes as many Nelsonians struggle with sky high power bills, many blaming the use of heat pumps over traditional heating methods like wood burners.
Stoke retiree Olga Reid says her power bill in summer months is usually less than $100, last winter it averaged $130 but earlier this month she was lumped with a power bill closer to $350. She lives alone in a tiny unit and heats her home with a heat pump and eco-heater in her small hallway.
She says she was completely shocked by the amount of the bill and simply doesn’t have the money to pay it. “Super[annuation] goes in, super goes out. I don’t have $350 for any bill, let alone a power bill.”
Olga has resorted to putting up with the cold during the night and is furious that there is little help and wants the government to help out by double glazing homes like hers. She’s researched the cost of better insulating her home but the costs are too high for her.
Neville Male says the issue is across the board with families of all ages struggling to stay warm without blowing a huge hole in their wallet. “Up until this winter, over the past three years, power prices have gone up 27 per cent and they’re expecting they may go up another 7 to 10 per cent again this year so this is a constant issue.”
He says people have been encouraged to install heat pumps but they struggle to heat homes when the air temperature outside drops below zero and that accounts for a large chunk of the power bills.
With no regulation, he believes the power companies are free to hike prices as they see fit and he says things have got to change. “People wrapping up in duvets and going to bed at 5pm to stay warm. Well that’s just a totally an intolerable circumstance for our senior citizens. We as an organisation will keep fighting to see that change.”
Neville is a trustee of the Kiwi Energy Trust and he says that, along with other initiatives, will hopefully give locals an opportunity to get cheaper power for next winter.
The Nelson-based Kiwi Energy Trust was established earlier this year in an attempt to group users together and hopefully get a better deal.
Chair of that trust, Aldo Miccio, says things are moving along well and Nelsonians that sign up to the trust can expect to see cheaper power prices by next winter. He says as more sign up for the trust the better the end deal will be. “We know it’s going to work and now it’s just a matter of increasing our numbers so we can get those discounts of up to 20 per cent off power bills. That’s what we want to achieve.”
To find out more about the trust visit www.kiwienergytrust.org.nz.