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Pensioners and young families in Otago are struggling to settle their power bills, social services staff say.
Grey Power Central Otago secretary Jacqueline Goyen, of Alexandra, said many pensioners in Central Otago had a monthly power bill of more than $600 in winter.
''We shouldn't be paying that kind of price.''
The bills sent by big electricity companies was a ''delicate subject'' with many Central Otago pensioners, Mrs Goyen said.
''I think all the companies that have to pay shareholders are mean and greedy.''
Big power company executives should be embarrassed at large profits when pensioners were struggling to keep warm.
Smaller power companies providing a ''no-frills'' service, such as Grey Power Electricity, were evolving to try to compete with the bigger companies, she said.
Anglican Family Care director Nicola Taylor, of Dunedin, said many people using the budgeting service were families with young children and struggled to pay the power bill.
By keeping children warm, the family faced ''massive'' electricity bills, which resulted in the family ''falling behind'' financially and struggling to settle their bill.
''Then the problems really start to compound,'' Mrs Taylor said.
If a power bill had quickly put a person in debt, they should seek good budgeting advice immediately, before the power supply was disconnected, Mrs Taylor said.
''There's very little negotiating with power companies, or any discretion.''