In the dark: Investigating fuel poverty and the use of prepayment meters for electricity in New Zealand.

Kimberley O’Sullivan PhD

Fuel poverty is a significant public health problem in New Zealand, and is partly driven by the cost of electricity. Prepayment metering is an electricity payment method often used by low-income consumers with electricity debt, or who have difficulty budgeting. Concerns have been raised about the possibility of prepayment meter users not crediting their electricity meter and going without electricity, or ‘self-disconnecting’, which may have serious health implications. Little is known about using prepayment metering from a consumer perspective in New Zealand, and this research aims to fill this knowledge gap. A postal survey carried out in 2010, and follow-up postal survey in 2011, investigates the advantages and disadvantages of prepayment metering from a consumer perspective, also exploring rates of ‘self-disconnection’. Qualitative data from interviews with both prepayment and post-payment electricity consumers contributes further information on ‘self-disconnection’, and living with fuel poverty.