NZ power customers switching suppliers in record numbers

There are now many more electricity brands on offer to consumers.

According to data from the Electricity Authority, if every New Zealander switched power companies within the last year, a combined total of $307 million could of been saved.

In the year to December 2015, 12 of New Zealand's 16 regions had an increase in the number of electricity retail brands available for consumers to choose from.

Consumers switched among them in record numbers – almost 418,000 consumers changed their electricity supplier during the year.

The Electricity Authority said the average amount they could save was $175 a year.

Carl Hansen, Electricity Authority chief executive, said the market was becoming increasingly competitive, as consumers started to take more notice of what was available to them.

The report showed growth in small, independent brands. Together, these brands now have almost 80,000 customers, up 12 per cent compared to the year before.

"While many of these retailers remain small, they are adding competitive pressure from the margins, which means the larger players need to keep innovating in order to maintain their market share," Hansen said.

"As well as more choice in the number of retailers available, a big trend in 2015 was more innovative electricity plans and payment options on offer," he said.

The number of pre-pay electricity contracts has increased substantially. At the end of 2015 there 43,560 pre-pay accounts, compared with 30,804 pre-pay accounts at the end of 2014. There is also a trend for contracts that have different pricing at different times of the day—119,953 consumers are now on this type of contract."

The Authority's review lists a range of other new options that are now available to electricity consumers including one retailer offering a "free hour of power", one retailer bundling electricity with gas, telecommunications and pay TV, other retailers passing on spot electricity prices and a range of new consumer apps and web tools available to help customers manage their bills or monitor their usage online.

Some retailers are now offering electricity plans targeted to electric vehicles or solar schemes.

Hansen said consumers should regularly check they were getting the best deal they could.


On a wholesale electricity plan? Be wary of price hikes this winter

The Electricity Authority is currently investigating a price spike that hit early in June which was the highest spike in three years. It comes amid concerns that consumers who are on wholesale price-based plans could be in for an pricey winter.

Nigel Brunel, director at commodity firm OMF, said prices between 6pm and 7.30pm were near $4000 per megawatt hour (MWh), compared to an average $52 per MWh in the South Island.

"For a consumer who is on a wholesale price plan and was heating their house and cooking dinner at this time they would have paid an extra $20 for electricity last night," he said.

Companies such as Flick offer consumers power based on wholesale rates. This means they can achieve good savings when power is plentiful but are exposed to price hikes like this. Following the closure of the Otahuhu and Southdown power stations last year there is less supply to meet demand on cold winter days, which makes price spikes like this more likely.

Power bills to rise for some consumers under Electricity Authority review plan

Consumers in 14 regions around the country can expect to pay more for their electricity, as a result of an overhaul of pricing for the national grid.

But this also means good news for 15 other regions who should pay less under the proposed changes.

The Electricity Authority (EA) has released its preferred option for a fairer way of paying for the national grid. Access to the grid, provided by state-owned monopoly Transpower, makes up about 10 per cent of the average household power bill.

Under the EA's preferred option, released on Tuesday morning, some regions will have to pay more for the benefit of better infrastructure. The overall impact on residential prices would be an increase of 0.5 per cent, or $11 per household per year.

The biggest increases would be worn by those in Auckland, Northland, Ashburton and the West Coast.

Lower prices: Invercargill, South Canterbury, Central Otago and Dunedin, Hawke's Bay, East Coast, Queenstown, North Canterbury, Marlborough, Tasman, Christchurch, Western BOP/Taranaki, Tararua, Southland, Rotorua, Waikato North, Wellington.

Higher prices: Ashburton, West Coast (Westport), South Auckland, Eastern BOP, Waitaki, Whangarei, Waikato, Northland, Auckland, West Coast (Hokitika).

No change, or not yet clear: Horowhenua, Otago, Hamilton.


Electricity industry shake-up on the cards

A big change for the electricity industry is in the pipeline, with an important announcement from the Electricity Authority due at 10am tomorrow 17 May 2016.

power pylon

At stake is who pays the $1 billion a year that it takes to run the national grid.

At present, 9.9 percent of a typical power bill goes to Transpower to meet that cost.

That percentage is the same for all consumers, whether they live at the far end of a 1000km power line or just down the road from a hydro dam.

A paper presented last year by the Electricity Authority took exception to this, suggesting that people who benefit most from a service should pay the most for it, and that cross subsidies can hinder sensible investments.

The paper suggested reforms could produce better efficiency by providing incentives so that the right investments occur at the right time, and in the right place.

That paper was opened up to submissions, and the Electricity Authority's response to them will come out tomorrow.

Andrew Harvey-Green of the broking and research firm Forsyth Barr said industry response to the proposed changes was favourable and it was likely the one-size-fits-all model would be changed.

In its proposal last June, the authority estimated some power bills would fall and some stay the same. However Auckland and Northland would pay 4.5 percent more and the Far North and the West Coast 10 percent more.

But it said consumers in the North should remember they were the beneficiaries of more than $1.3 billion of transmission investment in recent years.

As a result, Auckland had higher levels of reliability than the rest of the country, which was costly to provide, and Aucklanders were clearly the beneficiaries of that reliability.

Consumers in the South Island will save money from the changes, including the aluminium smelter, which could save $50 million a year.

However, Forsyth Barr's Andrew Harvey-Green suggested a compromise version could cut the smelter's benefit to $30 million.

This week's announcement is expected to support the principle of change, but hone down several options to a preferred one, which will then be opened for further public debate.

However whatever is finally chosen could be challenged in the courts and could take years to implement.

Source: Radio NZ

Contact Energy set to increase price of electricity bills

The price of your electricity bill may be about to grow. Contact Energy are altering their pricing in six regions around the country this winter - Christchurch, Taupo, Far North, Wellington, Central Otago and Northland regions.

A company spokesman said customers would be paying an extra $5 to $12 per month. One resident in the Wellington suburb of Hataitai has had his daily charge rate increase from $2.138 per day, to $2.262 per day.

The move was to account for a change in local network charges, which is the cost in which network companies charge to transport the electricity from the grid to homes, as well as a change in Contact's charges, the spokesman said.

"We carefully consider our product pricing in each region, and for many customers this will be the first time Contact has adjusted the energy component of their bill, which we control, since 2012 or 2013."

The local network charge accounts for about 40 per cent of the bill, he said. In an email to Wellington customers, Contact Energy head of customer service Bryan Middleton said the company had not made changes to energy and service components of the price.

"Apart from reflecting the network changes, our prices are only adjusted to include an amount for the average prompt payment discount and ensure low user compliance."

In the Wellington email, Middleton guaranteed customers would get a better base rate than what they currently pay.

This latest price hike will hit just two months after 15 other regions - southern Hawke's Bay, central Hawke's Bay, Invercargill, Southland, North Otago, Otago, Dunedin, Nelson, West Coast, Buller, Bay of Plenty, Rotorua, Timaru, Wairarapa, and Eastland - also fell victim to an increase.

The average increase for residential customers those regions were between $4 and $12 per month.

Customers were given the option of signing up to a fixed plan to avoid the price change.

They would lock in that rate until October 31, 2018.

Contact Energy customers will be forced to pay an extra $5 to $12 per month, as the cost to get electricity from the ...


April price rise round over, now's the time to negotiate a better power deal

Are you finding your power bills too high? Most power companies have had a price increase as of the 1st April 2016 and winter is now on its way too. If you have not checked you are on the cheapest power plan recently, now is the time to do it.

Power companies tend to review their prices in April because that is when changes to lines charges are passed through to retailers. A number have put up their charges recently including Genesis Energy, Mercury Energy and part of the Contact Energy network.

Some companies have offered customers the chance to lock in current prices, sometimes with a premium, to avoid the hikes.

Carl Hansen, chief executive of the Electricity Authority, said customers should take the opportunity to check they are on the best plan for their households.

"It's always a good time to check you are still on the best power deal for your circumstances, particularly as power use changes coming into winter. This is especially true if you haven't checked your options recently."

He said most of the April changes for this year had taken effect.

"But it's a dynamic market and many electricity retailers offer discounts on their standard prices. If you've had an increase, it's worth having a chat to your current retailer to see if they are able to sharpen the deal. If not, it's definitely worth checking to see whether switching could save you money."

Use to check out the different offers available to you.


Genesis Energy profit flat, in talks to keep Huntly coal-burners running

Genesis Energy are looking for ways to keep their Huntly coal-burners operating. The closure of these coal units would mark the end of New Zealand's large scale coal-fired generation.

The partially privatised electricity generator reported a $35.9 million profit for the six months to December 31, down from $68.2m previously.

The fall was largely due to swings in the value of financial contracts, with operating profits up 1.5 per cent to $175.5m.

With power demand flat, the last two coal-burning units at the Huntly power station were due to be shut down in 2018.

Chief executive Albert Brantley said Genesis was preparing for the closure date, and had not changed its position that use of the units would continue to fall.

However, he said the company was open to approaches from other power companies, and was already engaged in discussions with some of them.

"We will continue to evaluate commercial proposals that could deliver value to our shareholders."

Genesis chairman Dame Jenny Shipley said the company had faced intense retail competition and variable wholesale market conditions.

Profits had held up through better than expected generation output, a focus on customer acquisition, and close attention to expenses.

Shipley confirmed Brantley would leave the company on April 29, to be succeeded by incoming chief executive Marc England.

Genesis announced an interim dividend of 8.2 cents a share, to be paid on April 15.


Mighty River Power profits flat as spending to keep customers rises

Mighty River Power says its costs rose $7 million in the second half of 2015 as it battled to keep customers amid "intense" competition.

The Auckland-based power company, which is 51 per cent owned by the Government, reported earnings before income tax, depreciation, amortisation, change in fair value of financial instruments (EBITDAF) of $257 million for the six months to December 31, $1m lower than the same period a year earlier.

While production from its hydroelectricity stations in the Waikato River were up on the second half of 2014, the company said wholesale prices were slightly lower and the company increased spending on customer offers.

Chairwoman Joan Withers said Mighty River Power has seen "intense competition and intense pricing pressure both leading up to and within the period" being reported on Tuesday.

Mighty River Power owns the Mercury retail brand. Its products include the Globug, a prepaid electricity plan.

Chief executive Fraser Whineray said the intensity of competition pushed up its operating costs by $7m in the first six months of the financial year, however the company believed the second half spending would be lower, with operational spending roughly the same as in the year to June 30, 2015.


Solar Energy Heating Up

Energy users and researchers say new technology could heat up an already growing enthusiasm for solar panels in New Zealand.

Figures released by the Electricity Networks Association, which represents electricity distributors, show the number of solar power systems across the country has more than tripled in the last 18 months.

Solar panel on house roof.

Photo: 123RF

Photovoltaic systems in New Zealand in October 2013 numbered 1630, but by March this year had climbed to 5367.

The figures were released just weeks after distribution company Vector announced a partnership with US technology company Tesla to bring its new large storage batteries to New Zealand.

Electricity Networks Association chief executive Graeme Peters said it was still just a blip in the market so far.

But as more people switched to solar power, it created questions for power companies, particularly around what was fair, he said.

"If you have a solar electricity-generating array then that means that your overall power bill will be lower and that means you can access the low-user fixed charge.

"The amount of money that you'll be paying for maintaining the lines network is reduced, so that increases the cost-subsidy to people who don't have solar power, so that raises all of these issues."

While Aucklanders led the way in sheer numbers, the Tasman and Nelson districts were leading the pack proportionally.

In Tasman district, there were 41 solar power systems for every 10,000 people, compared with a national average of 12.

Nelson resident Carolyn Hughes, who installed her panels in 2011, said it was more than just the region's sunny reputation driving solar's growth there.

"There are quite a few people, particularly in Tasman, who live fairly remotely, who sometimes want to go off the grid entirely," Ms Hughes said.

"There are also quite a few communities - eco-villages, I suppose you'd call them - who look seriously at community-owned photo-voltaic [systems]."

One of the big problems for solar users was how to store energy when they were not using it, she said.

As a result, Vector's call for expressions of interest in Tesla's new lithium ion batteries, which store large amounts of energy in a small space, had got her attention.

"We're watching Tesla and watching Panasonic, and seeing who comes out with a better deal, really - and of course, as time moves on, the cost will go down."

The pay-back period for a photovoltaic system had dropped to about 10 years with the average system lasting 25 years, Ms Hughes said.

However, deputy director of Otago University's Centre for Sustainability Rebecca Ford said the upfront cost was still a major barrier for many people.

The increasing involvement from power and lines companies, such as Vector's partnership with Tesla, was positive however, she said.

"I think the distribution companies are starting to realise that if enough people do take up solar there could be a bit of a problem for them, looking forward, with their infrastructure [so] I think it's really exciting that Vector are getting into this game."

Financially, the new batteries did not seem to stack up yet, Dr Ford said.

However, they could become a much more attractive option as the cost came down and the energy market changed, she said.

Source - Radio New Zealand

NZ Ranked Second for Switching Power Companies

When it comes to consumers switching power companies, New Zealand has been ranked number two, according to a World Energy global study, with New Zealand ranking up from 5th place in 2009 to 2nd place in 2011.

The report shows a steady increase in New Zealanders looking for cheaper options and getting the best deal for their money by switching energy retailers.

New Zealand was noted to be a fastest rising in rankings, fast approaching the ranked number one, Victoria Australia. Thanks to comparisons services such as the Electricity Authority’s What’s My Number campaign and independently owned, both offering free energy comparisons.

New Zealand’s switching rate has been heading upwards since 2008, from an annual rate of 10.5% in the year 2008 to a high 19.5% in the year 2011. The report shows that there has been an increase in retail competition, giving the consumer more of an incentive to switch power companies. Proving the free comparison services such as What’s My Number and Switchme are working.

Carl Hansen, The Electricity Authority Chief Executive says placing greater pressure on the electricity companies has made the energy industry much more competitive, which is increasing the number of consumers to switch to another energy company that can offer them a better deal.

“From our perspective switching rates are part of a more complex equation. What we may in fact find in the future is that lower switching rates may also indicate a highly competitive market as it may show that retailers are being driven to offer very similar prices, removing the incentive for consumers to switch.”

Over 350,000 New Zealanders choose to switch power companies in 2011 and collectively stood to save $8.7 m. In the first six months of 2012 almost 180,000 made the switch to a new retailer.

The What’s My Number and Switchme have also combined to launch a free comparison tool (RFP) for businesses. This is the first free business comparison tool to be launched in New Zealand and will revolutionise the small to medium businesses compare sign sign up to a cheaper power company. So far the Request for Pricing (RFP) tool has proven to be very popular and already has saved businesses across New Zealand thousands on their power bills.

For more information regarding saving money on your energy bills for your home or business, please call the Switchme team on 0800 179 482 or visit


Why Smart Meters Are Used

There have been many articles written about smart electricity meters - some supporting the increase in technological function and some claiming they are a bad idea.

As a company that compares all New Zealand energy retailers and their differing methods of utilising smart meter technology, we can set the record straight.

Firstly they save money on meter readers. This means that the meter reader won't be visiting your house anymore… Instead your smart meter sends a signal to a metering company which then forwards this data to your electricity retailer. This ensures that the data sent is always accurate and free from human error.

What's more, the retailers can now have access to meter data at any time - not just once a month when the reader visits. Having access to your meter reading at any time means that retailers can start offering special deals at different times, even incentives for saving electricity at peak load times.

It is estimated that 5% of all homes in New Zealand are charged the wrong electricity tariff. This is because the national database (the Electricity Registry) doesn’t have the right information about your meter type. Installing smart meters means the electricity retailers check your meter type against the national database. Unfortunately for some people this results in an increase in electricity costs. Electricity retailers have offered to refund any overcharged tariffs and will write off any debt where the customer has been undercharged.

The truth about Smart Meters

A number of older houses have electricity meters on the inside. This means that you had to send your Meter Reader a key, or worse, you’d have most bills generated based on estimates. Installing smart meters means that your bills are more accurate, and your meter reader isn’t going to turn up unannounced.

Don't smart meters increase your usage? Non-smart meters are mechanical and naturally slow with age meaning that you get a cheaper bill. Smart meters are accurate and a newly installed smart meter may read higher by comparison to the slower meter.

Aren't smart meters are bad for your health? While conclusive studies haven't been conducted, a smart meter using radio or cell technology transmits no more than a modern smart phone. Different people will have different opinions, but there is no imminent health risk associated with having a smart meter.

Are they an invasion of privacy? No. Retailers are not using your data for any other reason than to generate your bill. The smart meter is not "smart" enough to know what appliances or rooms are operating, just a number of units used for the period.

Smart meters are a good thing - they are accurate, complaint with current Energy Industry specifications and give an increased amount of money-saving billing options to consumers.