The power industry should be re-nationalised.
A few weeks ago, while I was dozing on the couch, I chanced to see John Campbell explaining on Campbell Live how New Zealanders could save on their astronomical power bills simply by 'shopping around' for the best deal. To that end, he emphasised the importance of going to an online energy price comparison site to calculate what electricity company was offering the best deal for our own personal circumstances. Who knew cheaper power was just a website away?
I didn't take much notice of this item at the time but this week a local Christchurch talkback host, Newstalk ZB's Mike Yardley, was also banging on about shopping around for the best deal. He too suggested going to a on line site 'to see how much money we could save'.
Not coincidentally, the Electricity Authority have been running a campaign called 'What's My Number' to encourage people to check they aren't paying 'too much' for their power.
According to the Electricity Authority: 'New Zealanders now have the freedom to choose their electricity or gas provider. However, with a range of different electricity rates and gas rates available, making an informed choice is not easy.'
According to the 'What's My Number' website the average annual household saving by switching power companies is $150.
Shortly after the 'What's My Number' campaign was launched in late May Hon Hekia Parata, the Acting Minister of Energy and Resources, commented in a press release:
'Many Kiwi families are concerned about managing their cost of living - power switching to get the best deal for their electricity will help them manage a core component of their everyday costs.'
She went on to say:
'The Government is committed to improving choice for households and helping them put pressure on electricity retailers to give the best value for money.'
For Perata to babble on about 'improving choice' for New Zealanders when it comes to power prices is completely misleading given that prices are uniformly high. There is no choice but to pay through the nose for power.
To suggest that by 'shopping around' for the 'best' power prices it will somehow increase the pressure on the power companies 'to give best value for money' is basically abandoning consumers to navigate the mercenary waters of 'the market' in order to claw a few cents back from the rapacious power companies.
Does Ms Perata expect our elderly to do that, for example?
I've lost count of the number stories I've read about ordinary folk struggling with obscenely high power bills. Just this week my local Grey Power were reported in the local media that they were worried about the increasing number of elderly people, despite the fact that they we are now in the depths of winter, who were too scared to switch on any heating because they feared what it would do their power bill. Many elderly were simply staying in bed all day, said Grey Power.
Last month Labour's energy spokesperson David Parker commented that there was 'still a lack of competition in the electricity market.'
'Instead of taking steps to get the prices to go down, the Government's acted in a way that's allowed prices to continue to go up. We still don't have proper competition in the market and therefore the prices will continue to go up,' he said.
Of course Parker's got nothing to crow about since under the last Labour Government power prices went up a obscene 70 percent and Labour did absolutely nothing to prevent it.
Now Parker wants us to believe, that despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, 'the market' can somehow be made to work for the benefit of ordinary New Zealanders. All we need, apparently, is 'proper competition'. He is talking rubbish but this is the kind of rubbish we've come to expect from a political party that remains loyal to the failed ideology of neoliberalism.
My own view remains as it has always been - the power industry needs to be completely re-nationalised and power prices substantially reduced in order to provide ordinary folk something they have been denied under neoliberalism and 'the free market' - affordable power.
By the way, the 'What's My Number' website is a con because it only provides you with a generalised estimated saving. According to the website I would save $115 a year.
But according to the more specific and more accurate site Powerswitch, run by the Consumers Institute, my saving would be $51 a year if I switched power companies. That's less than a dollar a week.