As millions of Kiwis stay home, power companies say Covid-19 hasn’t factored into their annual power price changes, the majority of which kick in on April 1, Marc Daalder reports

Your power bill might change this month, but not because of Covid-19. Annual changes to the price of power were largely decided on prior to the announcement of the month-long lockdown, although increased usage from customers could see a bump in overall cost even for those who see reductions in the electricity price.

The five big generator-retailers – Mercury, Meridian, Contact, Genesis and Trustpower – all told Newsroom that Covid-19 hasn’t influenced their decision-making when setting new power prices. They have also all said they will be flexible for those in tough financial straits and have offered various forms of payment support.

Contact Energy is in the process of rolling out $15 million in price reductions for consumers, but estimates the average Kiwi power bill will still go up by $3 to $6 a week due to people using more lights, computers, appliances and hot water during the day.

“We’re committed to being competitive and delivering good value to our customers every day. That means we’re constantly refreshing and refining our pricing to ensure it remains attractive, and that does not change in a Covid-19 environment,” Contact CEO Mike Fuge said.

Mercury is also altering prices over the coming weeks, including some changes that come into effect today.

“This was the first residential price change we made for two years and for the majority of customers these changes will result in a bill decrease due to reductions in charges from line companies being passed through to customers. There will however be some customers that will see a small increase in their monthly bill,” Mercury’s general manager of retail and digital services Kevin Angland told Newsroom.

While Meridian has keyed in a small increase in the price of power, it says this decision was made prior to Covid-19. “In late February, before the Covid outbreak, Meridian notified residential customers it would pass on a small average increase of less than $1 a month, to ensure we can continue to provide our customers with the best possible service and support,” a spokesperson said.

Likewise, Genesis and Trustpower also said they hadn’t made any alterations to their planned power price changes due to Covid-19.

“Any price changes previously notified to customers will remain in place, and we are not looking to make any further changes,” a Trustpower spokesperson said.

“Trustpower has been proactively contacting our most vulnerable customers to check their wellbeing, removed data caps for our broadband customers, and taken a number of other proactive steps to ensure our customers facing hardship will continue to have the services and support that they need at this unprecedented time.”

Genesis announced in February it was passing on $50 million in savings to consumers through a reduction in the price of power and told Newsroom that Covid-19 wouldn’t affect this.

“We’re delighted to be able to deliver these savings direct to our customers just in time for winter,” Genesis’ James Magill said at the time.

Marc Daalder is a senior political reporter based in Wellington who covers climate change, health, energy and violent extremism. Twitter/Bluesky: @marcdaalder

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