Low User vs Standard User: Understanding NZ Power Bills

Date Aug 3, 2021
Blog category Power
By Khristine Eusebio
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New Zealand currently has 5 companies, also known as "gentailers," or generation retailers. These gentailers are the ones generating and selling electricity to consumers and around 40 other companies who sell power, but they don’t generate it themselves.

With the constant rise of electricity rates, it's essential to learn best practices on how to save electricity. Today, your electricity bill is likely to take up the largest part of your monthly expenses.

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How much does electricity cost in NZ?

Electricity rates may still depend on the power provider, where you live, and how much electricity a household consumes. 

Why is my power bill always high?

The electricity industry is huge and can be confusing, with numerous providers, plans, fees, etc., which can differ depending on the provider and where you live. With so many power providers and plans to choose from, it's no surprise that some Kiwis end up choosing the wrong provider and plan for them, and end up paying more than they should for electricity. One way to avoid this mistake is by knowing whether you're a low user or a standard user.  

Low user and Standard user

Back in 2004, the New Zealand government introduced the Electricity Regulations that require NZ power providers to offer low user plans designed to encourage consumers to use their electricity more efficiently.

Low User

Low users are electricity customers who don't use a lot of power in their households.

In North Island, you're considered a low user if you use less than 8,000 kWh annually. In the South Island, it's 9,000 kWh annually.

They are usually charged at a lower rate and higher variable usage, which means if you and members of your household do not consume a lot of electricity, you can definitely save money on your monthly power bill.

Standard User

Most Kiwis are under the standard user category. In the North Island, if you consume more than 8,000 kWh in your household annually, you're considered a standard user while in the South Island, you're considered a standard user if you consume more than 9,000 kWh.

Compared to consumers with low user plans, those with standard user plans have a higher daily charge and a lower variable usage charge. You’re most likely to fall under this user category if you live with more than one person, rely on electric heating, or use a lot of electric appliances.

Am I a low user or a standard user?

Figuring out whether you're a low user or a standard user isn't complicated, especially if you know the answers to the following questions:

  • How many people live in your household?
  • What do you use for cooking and water heating?

You can either answer questionnaires online or check your power bills to find out which user category your household belongs to. If you're thinking of switching to a new provider or power plan, it's best to discuss it with the provider first so they can help you get the plan that suits you and your lifestyle best.

If you want to find out which plan fits you, you can calculate your current energy usage. Just check your recent power bill and find the graph showing your kWh history for the past 12 months.

A typical low user household consists of one to two people with an energy-efficient home and minimal amount of electricity needs and usually have gas for heating or hot water.

If you want to qualify for a low user plan, your place must follow below guidelines:

  • Must be your principal place of residence
  • Shouldn't be covered by an exemption to the Electricity Regulations 2004

There are some power providers like Trustpower, Nova Energy, and Meridian Energy who have sought and been granted exemptions from compliance with the Electricity (Low Fixed Charge Tariff Option for Domestic Consumers) Regulations 2004.

Such exemptions are:
The Ministry of Energy and Resources made a couple of exemptions for households with specific kinds of power supply on the Marlborough Lines network in three electricity networks.

Marlborough

You may not be able to opt for a low user plan if you’re on the Marlborough Lines network and if your place has the following:

  • Have one of Marlborough's remote areas
  • On 3-phase supply or has a supply of more than 15kVA

This exemption will expire on October 1, 2024.

South Canterbury

You can’t have a Low User option of you’re on South Canterbury’s Alpine Energy network, if your household:

  • Is on 3-phase supply and has a supply more than 15kVA.

 
North Otago

You may not be able to opt for a low user plan if you’re on Network Waitaki in North Otago if your place:

  • Is on 3-phase supply and/or has a supply that’s with greater than 15kVA.

These exemptions may differ depending on your provider. If you're not sure about your power provider, you can always give their customer support a call regarding this.

Turns out I’m on the wrong plan. What do I do?

There's no need to panic. You can call your provider to consult and get things sorted. Most providers allow their customers to change plans at least once a year with no additional cost.

You can also try a comparison tool to help you find the best plans for you! In just a few clicks, you'll get tailored results based on your needs and location. Aside from that, you'll be able to find deals that you won't normally see when you visit power providers' websites!

Start comparing today and save more on your electricity bills, right here at glimp!

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Christine Henare , 2021-06-25

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