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Elderly need innovative solutions to power price

17 March 2005

Elderly need innovative solutions to power price problems

Solving the problem of power bills for the elderly requires more innovative solutions than Winston Peters’ suggestion of regulating power prices, the Green Party says.

“If Winston really wanted to help senior citizens, who are paying too much of their income for power, he should have offered to help them better insulate and damp-proof their homes,” Green Co-Leader and Energy Spokesperson Jeanette Fitzsimons said. “Improving the energy efficiency of elderly people’s homes will mean they use less electricity; and will help them stay healthier in warmer, drier homes”

Ms Fitzsimons said the New Zealand First leader’s plans to force power companies to justify price rises to old people was unworkable.

“Giving energy regulatory bodies more clout to protect the elderly from higher prices, as Winston proposes, could actually make things worse for older people. Cheaper electricity will just push up demand by others who are less frugal than the elderly, meaning the elderly have to cope with all the detrimental effects of increased energy use.

“Firstly, there would be the continued and increasing use of coal-fired power stations, causing more of the smoky air that brings elderly people so many respiratory problems.

“Secondly, we would see more and more proposals for huge, ugly pylons, destroying the visual environment and property prices for countless New Zealanders. The current Transpower proposal for gigantic, ugly pylons right up the upper half of the North Island would be just the first of many such plans if Winston’s proposals were adopted.”

“Finally, as demand went up and up, there would be pressure for price rises to pay for new power stations or threats of power cuts. We need to find smarter ways to use energy and keep the cost of staying warm down. Ever increasing electricity use simply means more pollution, more pylons and higher prices; with the worst effects falling on the elderly and others on low incomes.”

Ms Fitzsimons said that, rather than trying to force electricity companies to lower their prices, it would make much more sense to help everyone, including the elderly, to meet their needs with less electricity.

“The Electricity Commission should be funded to provide old people with assistance to make their homes much more energy-efficient. This would include insulating, damp-proofing and draught-proofing their homes, and providing wraps for their water cylinder and pipes. Such measures can cut household energy use by 25 to 30 percent in some cases, with accompanying savings on power bills.”

However, Ms Fitzsimons applauded Mr Peters for adopting the Green Party policy of getting rid of fixed line charges and only charging people for what they use.

“It’s heartening to see Winston following the Green view on this issue.”

ENDS

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