Power to the people: King Country residents get electricity alternative

Many whānau struggle to pay one monthly power bill, so imagine having to pay two.

Unlike most of the country, residents of King Country pay two separate energy bills - one for the power consumed, the other for the lines that deliver electricity to their homes.

The Lines Company (TLC) is the one and only line provider in the region. It's a big district with few customers, and that can mean big bills. To calculate the lines bill for the year, TLC uses the six highest two-hour periods of power usage by a consumer in any year.

Locals say they've been held to ransom, and they've called for Government intervention.

But now Ruapehu councillor Jacques Windell has taken matters in his own hands in the hope of giving power to the people.

"At the moment our vulnerable, our elderly and our children are really suffering under this Lines company oppression, because that's really what it is."

Mr Windell approached solar and power supplier Richard Homewood from Supercharged Energy, which is now offering low income customers a starting solar package worth $3000 for free if they sign up with his company for 10 years.

It's good news for residents like Pixie Hepi Te Huia. Pixie and her mokopuna have been sacrificing basic necessities to try and get their power bill down.

She's taken most of the light bulbs out of her home, and at night her mokos walk around in darkness "because most of our money goes on power. And what's left over that is for food, and there's not much left over."

While Pixie will still have to pay her line bill, she could save up to $100 a month on her power.

TLC will transition to a new charging system on the first of October. In a statement to The Hui, it said: "What needs to be remembered with any alternative power option solar or otherwise is that a customer would still incur lines charges if they remain connected to the network. Your usage would determine what those charges will be.

"The Lines Company is indeed unique in that our customers have a direct relationship with us. A separate invoice means their lines charges are completely transparent to them, rather than being part of a combined electricity invoice as is common practice in other parts of New Zealand."

The Hui