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Fuel Poverty – A Social Evil

4 April 2006

“Fuel Poverty – A Social Evil That Must Be Addressed”

This was stated by Grey Power President Graham Stairmand at a recent meeting in Wellington. Mr Stairmand was describing the findings of a survey that indicated that possibly nearly 400,000 elderly are forced to restrict their home heating in winter. ”This is a social evil that must be addressed he said”.

Fuel Poverty is the situation that arises where more than 10% of a person’s income is expended on keeping warm. This does not include the costs of water heating, cooking and lighting. Mr Stairmand said it was not recognised that other households surviving totally on benefits are also unable to maintain sufficient warmth in winter. “This creates severe consequences for both elderly and young children.” Research has shown that Fuel Poverty causes unnecessary deaths in the elderly and educational under achievement in young children with resultant cases of social exclusion, physical and psychological health issues.

“There is a simple and very effective remedy, “said Mr Stairmand, “The Reverse Step Electricity Tariff. This concept can not only eradicate Fuel Poverty but also enhances energy conservation measures.”

Mr Stairmand said that in essence the Reverse Step Electricity Tariff provides a block of low cost units to meet a consumer’s basic needs. It increases then in such a way as to encourage electricity economies. It is non-discriminatory, all consumers in all areas benefit from the same allocation of lowest cost energy. As consumption increases to pass the pricing bands, costs rise sharply. Therefore there is motivation to conserve energy use.
The further benefit that accrues to New Zealand is the quantitative reduction in the nation’s exceptionally high health costs.

Mr Stairmand concluded by saying that the only action required of Government to initiate this programme is to ensure that all power companies implement the scheme.


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