Energy hardship to be targeted
The Government has accepted the electricity price review’s recommendations on energy hardship and will establish a cross-sector energy hardship group to help ensure “energy hardship initiatives are well-considered, carefully co-ordinated and properly implemented”.
Minister of Energy and Resources, Megan Woods, said she expects this group to “build on, or link up with” ERANZ’s existing cross-sector working group “which already has regular engagement with MBIE, Ministry of Social Development, Housing New Zealand, Ministry of Health, Electricity Authority, Gas Industry Company, Utilities Disputes Ltd, and FinCap”.
The Government has directed officials to start work developing statistical indicators of energy hardship.
This will assist the measurement and tracking of energy hardship over time, to assess the effectiveness of measures to reduce hardship,” Megan Woods says.
ENA supports this initiative. Better defining and quantifying energy hardship was one of the recommendations ENA made in its response to the EPR issues paper.
Again, also in line with ENA's submission, the Government has agreed to establish a nation-wide network offering “credible, independent, electricity-specific advice and support services to those in energy hardship”.
It notes that energy hardship support services must join up with existing community-based services, “including those relating to public health, healthy homes and financial capability”.
Megan Woods says that operational funding for contracted community services could be significant “and I expect this initiative will need to be built progressively, over time, with the opportunity to pilot and evaluate different approaches, learning through the iterative sharing of information about successful and unsuccessful practices”.
The cross-sector hardship group will play a key role in designing, monitoring and steering the development of community-level energy hardship services, the Government says.
“An important first step for the energy hardship group is to undertake a stock-take of existing community-level services, including pilot services, to help identify opportunities to join and leverage them.”
Such existing initiatives include local community initiatives such a Canterbury’s Community Energy Action, Wellington’s Sustainability Trust and ERANZ’s Energy Mate – which is already working with Unison, Wellington Electricity and Vector in its pilot programme.