Lisa Hannifin, Chief Customer Officer of Meridian Energy explains how LevelPay aims to help Kiwi households avoid paying large electricity bills during winter.
Power jumped to its highest level in months recently as a cold front swept through the country and households pressed their heaters and electric blankets back into service according to Electricity Authority data*. It was a reminder winter is almost here, and with it, the prospect of higher power bills.
So why are power bills bigger for most households over the colder months, anyway?
Of course, it's likely you're using a lot more electricity to stay warm. Data from the Electricity Authority shows that Kiwi households used almost twice as much power at the peak of winter last year as they did in February**.
There are also times during winter when more electricity needs to be generated from non-renewable sources. This can be due to the higher level of demand or because there is generally less water flowing into hydro lakes during winter when precipitation falls as snow stays trapped in the Southern Alps until spring.
Generating from non-renewable sources is more expensive than generating power from wind, water or sun and most consumers are protected from these price changes as their retailer offers them a fixed price. However, consumers who have chosen wholesale or 'spot price' electricity suppliers can see their power prices go up when this happens.
With more people choosing to work from home either part time or full time this year, winter bill shock could be a reality for a larger number of households. Even if you're not planning to spend more time at home, it can still be difficult to budget for large monthly bills, especially if you're paid weekly or fortnightly. Fortunately, there's now a way for Meridian customers to ensure they won't be lumped with unexpectedly large bills this winter.
LevelPay is a service that lets you even out your bill over an entire year, so that instead of paying higher bills in winter and lower bills in summer, or vice versa, you pay a set amount each week, fortnight or month, whatever suits you.
These payments are based on your previous actual power use, and they're reviewed regularly so you don't get to the end of the year only to find out you haven't been paying for all the power you've used.
Winter energy payments also kick in from this month for superannuitants and people living on eligible benefits, providing additional help with heating costs until October. These payments make a real difference for low income households, and are paid automatically without requiring a separate application process.
There are a few practical things you can do around the house to lower your usage during winter, such as eliminating draughts and dampness as much as you can around the house. If you're a Meridian customer you can also use the app to check out your usage patterns as well.
But the best way to eliminate winter bill shock is to flatten your bill completely with smooth payment options.
After the unpredictable year we've been through, LevelPay is a great idea for households to take control of their electricity costs as we say farewell to summer and prepare for the winter ahead.
If you're a Meridian customer and interested in signing up for LevelPay, find out more.
This article was originally published in NZHerald 26 May 2021.