Fuel poverty is a serious and complicated issue, especially for the elderly, and those on benefits, and NextGen is committed to playing a leading role in its mitigation in NZ.
A ‘fuel poor’ household is defined as one which needs to spend more than 10% of its income on all fuel use and to heat its home to an adequate standard of warmth. As a generally accepted international definition, this is defined as 21°C in the living room and 18°C in other occupied rooms.
The current definition of fuel poverty states that it is driven by three key factors: energy efficiency of the home; energy costs and household income.
We hope to eventually lift thousands of energy customers out of fuel poverty through a targeted program led by NextGen working with social welfare organisations. To this end, we are establishing the country’s first Fuel Assistance Fund which will receive a percentage of NextGen Energy’s profits, available to local welfare organisations for those in most need.
Why a Fuel Assistance Fund?
This is the situation in the UK: Since 2001, the UK Government has had a legal duty to set out policies that will, as far as possible, cut out fuel poverty. Under legislation, electricity suppliers are legally required to spend around £1.3 billion a year (figures between January 2013 and March 2015) on energy efficiency measures via the statutory Energy Company Obligation (ECO). A large part of this money is made available annually to the power companies’ most vulnerable customers, to help them reduce their bills, heat their homes and keep warm.
Here in New Zealand, NextGen believes that the fairest way of addressing fuel poverty is through energy efficiency measures paid for from the tax and benefits system, and we are committed to working with Government and social agencies to address these challenges, including the key question of how to more readily identify the fuel poor.
However, enforceable regulations that require power companies to commit profits to helping the most vulnerable in society are not only a good idea but would appear the only way to make this type of initiative happen in NZ.
We extend an invitation to all the power suppliers in NZ to join with us in the establishment of the Fuel Assistance Fund.