No, you can't have affordable power - but you can have a discounted bottle of plonk.
I guess that most of us, except those at the top of the pile, confront the sealed envelope containing the electricity power bill with a degree of trepidation. We approach it as if it was a ticking time bomb about to blow up in our faces. What horror lies within? What outrageous demand will our power company be making on our finite finances this time round?
I opened my latest power bill from Mercury Energy...
After a cup of tea and a lie down, I noticed that Mercury included a flyer with my outrageous bill.
It was headlined 'Try Mercury Perks and enjoy savings every day.'
Savings? Savings?? Was Mercury going to prove it wasn't just another money-grabbing corporate monster? Had it discovered a social conscience?
I read on..
'Dear Steven James Cowan,
Hands up who likes saving money?
Thought so. So here's a chance to save everyday. and we're not talking about a one-off deal or having to collect points, or any of that complicated stuff. We're talking about Mercury Energy Perks, where you could save heaps of money each and every day on the kind of things you love doing every day.'
Mmm, this doesn't sound promising and why are they talking to me as if I was six years old?
I read on...
'Your favourite bottle of wine, brunch at your local coffee shop, renting a movie or getting away for the weekend..join Mercury Peaks and you'll save money on all this and more.'
Yes folks, Mercury have heard the anguished cries of financially stretched power consumers and delivered a stupid discount scheme. It wants me to 'forget the random offers you get from those discount deal sites' and devote myself to Mercury's.....discount deal site. And it'll cost me just $2.50 a month to be a member! Wow. What a deal.
I think I speak for most Mercury power consumers when I say that I'm not interested in saving on bottles of wine with Mercury's 'own online wine club'. Nor I'm interested in a 20 percent discount at some restaurant somewhere. Nor do I have any use for a 50 percent discount at selected hotels.
Mercury seems to think that its customers are all guzzling Pinot Noir at a swanky restaurant while planning a weekend away in Queenstown. None of us are getting sick because we can't afford to heat our homes adequately.
Perhaps Mercury Perks could offer a discount for the St John's ambulance that takes Mercury's customers off to hospital, suffering from pneumonia.
We don't want discounts for our discretionary spending because many of us, after paying the bloated power bill, don't have any money left over to be discretionary with.
Mercury Energy, of course, are the retail arm of Mighty River Energy, the first of the state owned power companies to be partially sold by the government along with Genesis Energy and Meridian Energy.
Mercury's power prices rose a further 5.8 percent in April which is approximately another $100 a year people have to find. Another price 'review' will occur in April next year.
The power company reported an after tax net profit of $101.7 million for the six months to December 31 2011, an increase from $89.4 million in the previous period.
Mercury Energy, like all the other power companies, has long put profits before people. It will continue to do so if and when it is partially privatised.
As Consumer NZ chief executive Sue Chetwin said last year: ' The power companies over the past 10 years have been rapacious in putting up their prices and I don’t see that making part of the company available for the public to invest in will make much difference there.'
We don't want discount schemes. Nor do want to be told by the Government 'to shop around' when power prices are obscenely high all across the board.
What we want is affordable power but in neoliberal New Zealand we're apparently asking for too much.