After more than a year of substantial discounting of the cost of electricity for its customers, Rarotonga electricity provider Te Aponga Uira (TAU) is pleased with the real difference these discounts have made to the recipients during this period of disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemics.
From March 2020 to June 2021, TAU with the support of its shareholder, the Cook Islands Investment Corporation, committed to support the government’s Economic Response Plan assistance programme, through the electricity discount scheme. “The power bill discount scheme is a perfect example of how the Cook Islands Investment Corporation and its State-Owned Enterprises have been able to help support the nation through these trying times”, said Cook Islands Investment Corporation Chair Michael Henry. During that time, the scheme saved 4,452 households and 1,043 businesses on Rarotonga more than $11.5M. In order to provide this significant support, TAU has had to draw down on its reserves as well as having to reprioritise its capital investment plans, without compromising reliable electricity supply.
These cost savings to customers, helped reduce what was at times considerable pressure on both the household and business budgets of our customers, and TAU is very fortunate to have been in a position to provide some measure of financial relief during these challenging times.
“The TAU COVID-19 electricity discount initiative provided a much-needed lifeline to our business,” says Marcus Niszow, CEO of the Pacific Resort Hotel Group.
“After payroll costs, electricity is the next largest expense for our resorts, and this support during the time our borders were shut helped ensure essential plant and equipment could be run and kept online throughout a time when there was no income to fund this expense.
“Keeping our plant and equipment online as opposed to powering down significantly reduced the potential for failure and loss or damage to valuable assets. It also meant we were able to maintain and test all our infrastructure, ensuring we were 100 per cent ready to reopen our resorts at full capacity on short notice.
“This support from TAU provided our business with a leg up during a time of need and we are certain TAU will see a positive return in the long run from their customers as a result of this positive and forward-thinking initiative.”
It wasn’t only businesses who benefitted though of course. TAU domestic customer Daena Kataina says she was “super grateful” for the COVID-19 electricity discount.
“Not only was it a relief in the pocket but also mentally, as I didn’t have any pressure or worry about the 20th of the month looming near or getting my power disconnected,” says Daena. “As a matter of fact, it was so great to see my power bill in credit.”
“Thanks to the savings I made on power each month I was able to use the extra money for other expenses like loan repayments, rent, food, school, etc.
“I don’t know how my family and I could have gotten through without this extra support, but I really am super grateful. Thank you, TAU!”
The re-opening of our borders in May 2021 to visitors from New Zealand, brought much needed revenue to local businesses and accordingly, the TAU Board moved to end discounts in June 2021. The Board recognises the unsustainability to TAU operations of continued discounts, given the impact on TAU’s reserves and its capital investment plans, in particular advancement of our Renewable Energy projects. As well, the need to build back and hold reserves to support capital replacement and maintenance programmes, in order to maintain the reliability of electricity supply on Rarotonga.
TAU is appreciative of the support of customers during this time of great uncertainty and would like to thank all, for their continued diligence in keeping up with their power bill payments. While the electricity discount scheme is currently ended, we do still encourage any customers who may be experiencing financial difficulties to contact us at the TAU office to discuss possible alternative payment options.
TAU CEO, Lesley Katoa, says “Communication is key, so if you are unsure about your ability to continue paying your power bill on time, please come in and see us, we are here to help”.