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Little reward for conserving consumers, say Greens

Little reward for conserving consumers, say Greens

Fixed power charges mean consumers are missing out on rewards for conserving energy, Green Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons said today.

Ms Fitzsimons said householders are complaining that they feel discouraged from saving power because they are not seeing any noticeable drop in their electricity bills.

"Fixed charges rob them of the financial benefits they should get for their sacrifices," said Ms Fitzsimons.

All household electricity bills include fixed charges, charged by both the lines company and the energy retailer, and variable charges related to the number of units used. The Green Party has advocated the removal of fixed charges so the unit charge incorporates all the costs of supplying power.

"These charges are the same, regardless of how much you use. Essentially, the less someone uses in general, the less the bill changes when they save.

"The Green Party has long campaigned to remove the fixed charges so that conservation-minded consumers would see a more direct result of their saving efforts.

"This would encourage conservation and reward those who saved. The elderly and other people who don't use much power in the first place would also benefit through lower power bills."

Ms Fitzsimons said many power companies are sliding round the Electricity Amendment Act (2001) that required power companies to offer a low fixed charge option with higher unit charges - an option that would benefit households who use less than the average amount of power.

"All power companies now offer that tariff but some seem to do everything possible to prevent people knowing about it and connecting to it. Call centres often pretend it doesn't exist and some companies have even tried charging an extra fee for people to sign up to that tariff.

"Now is a very appropriate time for the Minister to investigate how this law is working, how it is enforced and to what level the power companies have abused it.

"I call on the Government to bring in the Green policy - which was also the Labour Party policy at the 1999 election - to remove fixed charges altogether and cover all costs through the unit charge.

"After all, we don't pay a fee to enter the forecourt of a petrol station before we buy any fuel, but they have fixed costs too."

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