Plan to stop Winbacks

Plan to stop Winbacks

The Electricity Authority is consulting on a proposal to ban retailer initiated saves and win-backs for 180 days after a customer switches retailers.

“We have a competitive electricity industry, but this will do more to encourage innovation and increase competitive pressure. This proposal puts the pressure on retailers to fight for their customers and offer them something new and different,” says James Stevenson-Wallace, Chief Executive at the Authority.

The concern is the current retailer does not offer the best rates or discounts to the customer until they start the process of switching to another retailer. They wait until they threaten to leave before they offer better rates to save or winback the customer.

The hope is by banning the retailer from trying to save the customer for a period of 180 days, the retailer would be more inclined to offer the better rates for the customer up front before they start to switch away.

The proposal does not place any restrictions on consumers wanting to shop around, they are still free to change suppliers to suit their needs. The ban on win-backs would not stop customers from returning to their original supplier of their own accord, but would prevent their original retailer from targeting marketing directly towards them.

The Government also supported the Electricity Price Review’s recommendation to impose a ban or moratorium on win backs followed by a full evaluation of the impacts on consumers.

The Authority is keen to hear from all interested parties and encourages submissions. The Saves and Win-backs Code Amendment: Consultation Paper 2019 is on the Authority’s website.

Submissions close at 5pm on Tuesday 3 December. The Authority’s Board will deliver its final decision by early 2020.

Want to make sure you’re with the best retailer for your site? Since 2009, Switchme has been providing thousands of Kiwis with an easy way to compare prices between power companies. We help facilitate the switching process without any service interruptions! See if you can start saving on your energy bill today!

Proof Shopping Around Means Savings

Proof Shopping Around Means Savings

The verdict is in: if you haven’t been shopping around for a cheaper electricity retailer, you’re likely paying more than those who do.

According to a recently released report from Miriam Dean QC, those who shop around end up paying a better rate on their energy costs than those who do not. Here are the details.

New Zealand’s Residential Energy Market Prices is Record-Breaking High

Over the past 28 years, residential electricity prices have increased by almost 80% (after inflation). During this same time period, commercial prices have decreased by 24 per cent and industrial prices have increased by 18 per cent.

As part of the coalition agreement between Labour and New Zealand First, the review found that since 2000, the country’s residential prices have increased quicker than many other OECD countries. That’s why it’s crucial that customers take the time to research other electricity retailers for cost savings.

Two-Tier Market Developing

After inflation, an increase of almost 50% has developed between the least expensive retailer’s price and the incumbent retailer’s price since 2002.

When shopping around, consumers often get confused while comparing prices and contracts. Many consumers are confused by the details in the various plans which can lead to difficulty in choosing the best one for their needs.

Other consumers are missing out on money-saving discounts. Prompt payment discounts, which can be as high as 26 per cent of the energy bill, are often missed out by low-income consumers.

Late-payment penalties can also quickly drive up the energy bill’s costs.

Many Barriers Blocking Fair Competition in NZ’s Residential Energy Market

Although New Zealand has approximately 35 electricity retailers, the big five (Genesis, Contact, Mercury, Meridian and Trustpower) command more than 90 per cent of the market. They are better equipped to offer incentives for customers to remain with their company, preventing a more competitive market from developing.

This makes it difficult for the small to medium-sized electricity retailers to expand.

Switchme Makes Energy Comparisons Easy!

When it comes to your energy bill, wouldn’t you want to save more money? Switchme’s free, online comparison calculator makes it easy to compare other energy retailers! Check out our services today

What's in it for me?

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What's in it for me?

The Government have advised their proposed changes to the electricity market. What are the key changes and how will they affect you?

No more 'win-backs or saves'

Some retailers will contact switching customer and offer special deals or rates to try and save the customer. Under the proposed changes there will be a period that the retailer you are leaving is not able to try and ‘save you’.

The government believes that by banning win-backs/saves, the retailer will have to offer more competitive pricing to all it’s customers and not just those that have started the switch process. They believe this will benefit customers that don’t shop around.

No more prompt payment discounts

Some Retailers offer a discount to customers that pay their bills on time. The government believes that Prompt Payment Discounts are just hidden late payment fees.

If you pay your bills on time, this change will not have much affect on what you pay.

Low fixed-charge tariffs will be phased out

Currently, electricity companies have to offer plans with a very low fixed daily charge and a higher variable charge for electricity (Low Users). These benefit people who don't use much electricity, less than 8,000 kWH per year (or 9,000 kWH in parts of the South Island). Customers who reduce their electricity consumption by using gas instead of electricity for hot water and heating, or their own solar power systems, benefit from the Low User option.

The government has asked for proposals to phase out this requirement over a period of five years. The Review has suggested allowing low-fixed charges to rise from their current level of about 30 cents per day gradually over five years, after which the low user requirement would be removed.

If you currently are a ‘standard user’ of electricity (using more that 8,000 kWH per year) there will be no change to your invoices from this proposal. However, if you were investigating Solar or Gas conversions to lower your electricity consumption and change to the Low User option, the potential savings of doing so may be overstated now.

Any customer currently on Low User rates (best option if currently using less that 8,000 kWH per year) will eventually lose this option and pay a higher daily charge.

Reforming the wholesale market

There are concerns the large Gen-tailers (retailers that also have generation) can control the wholesale electricity market, and thus the cost of the electricity consumers end up paying.

The government review suggests an agreed spread for the buying and selling of electricity in the wholesale market. They believe this will make it fairer for all the retailers including the independents, and thus the consumers.

Full details of the proposed market changes are yet to be provided so the affect on consumers bills cannot be determined.

Help for those in hardship

The review also raised concern about hardship, and people not being able to pay for their electricity.

A fund will be established to help those in energy hardship make their homes more energy efficient, new rules to protect the vulnerable and those with medical needs, and the possibility of other support.

Making it easier to switch

The review suggests too few people shop around to get the best price possible.

The review has suggested retailers need to advise customers how to switch when they send out their bills.

Of course, our service is already here and you can use to ensure you have the best option for you right now.

Electricity Pricing Reforms

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Electricity Pricing Reforms

The government has announced it is backing 20 changes to the electricity market which is the biggest change in the industry for 20 years.

Most people who use a lot of electricity, don't shop around for power, or who sometimes pay their bills late, should see lower power prices. But those who use gas, or who have their own home-solar systems, could end up paying more as plans that reward low electricity usage are phased out.

The changes, which include new regulations designed to bolster competition, stem the Electricity Price Review that the Government ordered last year.

No More Winbacks

One of the biggest changes will temporarily ban electricity companies from offering discounts to win back customers who have given them notice that they intend to switch suppliers. This is to counter the concerns that the existing retailer can wait for customers to threaten to jump ship before offering them a competitive price.

Removing Prompt Payment Discounts

Electricity companies will be also encouraged to stop offering Prompt Payment Discounts. Energy Minister Megan Woods said the "prompt payment discounts" really amounted to "hidden late payment penalties" for those who didn't get them.

Removing Low User Plans

Also, in what appears to be the most controversial change, the Government plans to phase out the requirement for electricity companies to sell plans that offer a low fixed daily charge and a higher variable charge for power used.

About 60 per cent of residential consumers were on a low-user tariffs, but the Government has ordered officials to develop proposals to phase them out. Households that consume less than about 8000 kilowatt-hours of electricity a year can expect to pay more than they current do, depending on how little power they use.

In its final report, the Electricity Price Review acknowledged this could discourage people from installing solar systems or insulating or double-glazing their homes. But it said the low-user plans "unintentionally shift costs to households with low incomes and high electricity consumption".

Wholesale Market Changes

Woods said new rules would force large power companies to sell electricity to independent retailers through the wholesale market "at affordable rates".

It is understood the Government is backing a recommendation that would force the generators to buy and sell electricity in the wholesale market at an agreed spread.

That "market-marketing" requirement emerged as a main issue within the industry when the Electricity Price Review published an earlier paper in February.

"Right now, our electricity system is dominated by a small number of big 'gentailers' – companies that generate and sell electricity," Woods said. "It can be too hard for small and independent retailers to compete and survive, meaning fewer choices for consumers and less innovation in the market."

The Electricity Price Review recommended against going further by forcing the separation of electricity generators from retailers.

Woods said the reforms would "level the playing field" for consumers, and the Government would check "in our second term" that the expected savings were passed on to them.

Best Option Now

The Government has a variety of measure to tackle "energy hardship" and improve the information available to consumers about switching retailers.

Of course instead of waiting for the changes, you can use our free, online comparison calculator right now to see if you’re currently getting the best rate on your energy costs. Contact us today for more details!

Far North Will Be Getting Lower Prices Soon

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Far North Will Be Getting Lower Prices Soon

Good news for Far North residents: you will soon be saving on your electricity costs!

Top Energy’s new geothermal plant near Kaikohe is not only expected to finish eight months early but will produce 25 percent more power than originally planned. The end result? A 32-megawatt generator at Ngawha in October 2020 that will reduce electricity costs for 64,000 Far North residents.

The $300 million expansion is expected to alter the shape of Top Energy’s business and the way electricity is delivered to affected area residents.

Incentive for Ormat Technologies to Complete Expansion Early

There was an incentive for Israeli energy firm Ormat Technologies to complete the job early. The deal? Any power revenue produced before the expected handover date of October 2020 was to be shared between Ormat Technologies and Top Energy.

Now that the build is on schedule to be completed by June 2021, Ormat will see a financial payoff from its hard work. The power station, expected to produce almost 32MW, will start generating energy around August 2020.

Power consumption is expected to continue to increase as New Zealand sees more electric cars on the road and works toward becoming a carbon-neutral country.

If monitoring shows no negative effects on the geothermal field and nearby hot pools, another 32MW unit is expected to be constructed on the same field after 2023.

New Power Station Declared a “Game Changer” by Top Energy’s Chief Executive

Top Energy’s Chief Executive Russell Shaw is excited to see the new plant’s positive effects on area residents. Instead of being one of the most expensive regions for lines, Far North will soon become one of the least expensive.

The discount on power to customers will depend on how fast debt from the generation projects is paid down. Top Energy expects the lines to be free, or almost free, by the year 2030.

Beginning next year, the company will draw five percent of its power from the national grid. Almost permanent status is expected by 2026 when generational activities will make up more than two-thirds of the business.

Fortunate Events Resulted in Project Being Completed Early

Originally, the majority of the new plant’s earthworks was expected to take place over three months. However, New Zealand’s good weather resulted in it being done in only two.

All six geothermal wells drilled by Icelandic Drilling were successful, further expediting the project along. Three of these wells will be used to extract hot fluids whereas the other half will re-inject the fluids back into the geothermal field.

Keep a close eye on your energy rate with Switchme! Sign up today to be one of the first to be notified of energy price increases in your area.

Consumer NZ’s Survey of Energy Retailers

Consumer NZ’s Survey of Energy Retailers

A recent Consumer NZ survey on energy retailers involving 1,500 customers revealed information about the country’s power plans. From customer satisfaction levels to certain plans that are the most popular prepaid power option, here are three of the biggest results from the survey’s data.

Globug Most Used Prepaid Power

Operated by Mercury Energy, prepaid power provider Globug is the most popular prepaid power option currently available. Its 25,400 customers are comprised of people who typically lack adequate credit histories needed to receive a standard power account with another retailer.

The survey results showed that one-third of Globug prepaid power customers have had to borrow money from family and friends to pay their bills. An additional twenty percent had to take out a loan.

As a pre-pay service designed to target customers that need help with managing their household’s energy costs, the results from Globug are not surprising according to Mercury officials.

Globug’s Customer Base Unhappy with Value for Money

Globug’s overall customer satisfaction levels had increased and were above 60 percent. However, the customer base was most likely to be dissatisfied with the value for money they received.

Mercury officials understand that value for money is of high importance to Globug customers which is why this a focus area for the company, too.

To keep electricity costs fair for already financially strapped prepay customers, Consumer NZ is requesting improved customer protections. Currently, one of the more affordable ways to top up is with internet banking – yet many prepayment households lack home internet. Completing the top up in-store costs 75c.

Better consumer protections would increase fairness for prepay customers, who pay additional fees and comparatively higher rates that non-prepayment customers.

Overall Customer Satisfaction Levels

The survey also displayed that just over half (51 percent) of Kiwis thought they were getting good service from their energy companies.

Although most of the content customer base was with Genesis, Contact, Mercury, Trustpower and Meridian, the smaller brands received the highest customer satisfaction ratings. Powershop followed by Nova Energy were the best ranked.

Costly Energy Rates are Worrisome for Kiwis

Over 30 percent of New Zealanders are worried about their household’s power costs and some of our homes aren’t as warm as we would like.

About 15 percent of customers are trying to save money by reducing their heating costs.

If you’re interested in saving on your energy costs in a simple, convenient way, check out Switchme’s services today.

Most NZers Dont Switch

Many NZers Remain with Same Electricity Provider Despite Benefits of Switching, Survey Says

Canstar Blue’s recently released survey results showed that of 4,200 respondents, only 43 percent compared electricity prices. Despite the overwhelming majority of respondents expressing worry about their power bills each month, only 13 percent actually switched providers.

With New Zealand’s competitive energy market, it’s easy to switch power companies and save on your electricity costs. Unless you’re on a fixed-term contract with break fees, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t check out prices from other electricity providers. Here’s why you should consider switching and how to go about doing so in only two steps!

Experience Greater Savings

It’s never a bad day to save money on your energy costs by switching to a more affordable energy provider. But during the winter months when heating costs quickly add up, the savings are even more welcomed.

More than half of those surveyed use extra blankets and clothing layers to keep warm rather than increase the temperature. Forty percent believe our homes lack proper insulation.

Think of what you can do with the money you could potentially save from switching. Maybe you can finally afford to raise your thermostat to a more comfortable temperature, maybe you can upgrade your heating system or maybe, you will have a few extra dollars each month for your own enjoyment. The possibilities are truly endless!

Say Goodbye to A Provider You’re Unhappy With

With almost 50 retail brands in the market, there’s no reason for you to stay with a provider you’re unhappy with. Whether it’s unhelpful customer service or limited payment options, switching to a new provider is definitely worth considering.

With the ability to research your options before committing to a switch, what do you have to lose?

Switchme Makes Saving on Energy Easy!

Switchme can help you save money on your household’s energy costs!

By offering impartial advice, efficient service and amazing results, we are one of New Zealand’s most trusted sources when it comes to finding the best energy deal.

With Switchme’s free, online comparison calculator, you can quickly compare and switch power companies. In only two steps, you can be on your way to savings – with no power interruption, either!

Sign up for our email alerts to get notice of price increases in your area. Check out our website for further details about how you can start saving on your energy costs today.

Best Heating Options

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The Best Heating Options for Your Home

It comes every year. Yet every year, it seems to take us by surprise.

When winter blows in, we seem shocked by the increase in our home’s energy costs. To mitigate those increases as best as possible, you need to have an efficient heating system in place. Here are the best heating options when it comes to keeping you and your family warm this winter:

#1) Heat Pumps

Heat pumps are the best option when it comes to heating a home in New Zealand. Although it’s one of the more expensive heating options to install, heat pumps provide the lowest running costs. Because they provide 3.5 – 4.5 kilowatts of energy for every kilowatt of energy they draw in, heat pumps are also the most energy efficient heating option.

Heat pumps are easy to operate – simply use the thermostat and timer to control the temperature. However, they must be sized correctly to work efficiently and won’t work during a power outage.

#2) Modern Woodburners

When they’re well operated, modern wood burners provide an energy efficient, inexpensive, environmentally friendly way to heat your home. Handy during a power outage, wood burners use one of the country’s most renewable forms of energy.

Extra caution needs to be taken when operating this form of heater to avoid harmful carbon monoxide – in addition to possible burns.

#3) Central Heating

The expensive upfront costs prevent many Kiwis from enjoying central heating’s cost and energy efficiencies.

There are three central heating options to consider: ducted heat pumps and ducted gas units, ducted gas furnaces and central heating with radiators, each with their own advantages.

Central heating’s temperature can be adjusted at the touch of a thermostat and even zone-controlled so that certain areas of your home are set at different temperatures.

#4) Flued Gas Heaters and Fireplaces

More efficient than electricity is gas heating, a convenient way to heat large spaces.

Although flued gas heaters and fireplaces use the convenience of thermostats and timers to control temperature, there is a fixed charge for reticulated gas supply. Plus, their greenhouse gas emissions contribute to climate change.

#5) Electric Heaters

Although expensive to use, electric heaters are affordable to purchase. Their ability to easily plug into the wall makes them convenient for rooms that are infrequently used or for small spaces. Other than unflued gas heaters, electric heaters are the most expensive type of heater to use when heating your home.

Insulate First Before Heating

There’s no sense in investing in a better heating option if your home is still not properly insulated! Begin by insulation your home’s ceiling and underfloor and then proceed to its walls. The right insulation can make your home cheaper, healthier and more comfortable to live in.

Check out Warmer Kiwi Homes, a grant program that provides funding for insulation and heaters for eligible Kiwis.

When shopping around for a more energy efficient heating option, be sure to shop around for energy prices, too!

Reduce Your Winter Power Bill

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4 Ways to Reduce Your Winter Power Bill

With winter now in full force, you may already be experiencing more costly energy bills. Other than waiting for spring to arrive, what if there was a way to keep your power bills more affordable – starting today? Follow these four simple energy-saving tips to keep your power bills affordable this season.

#1) Think Twice Before Cranking the Heat

When you’re cold, it’s understandable that the first thing you think of doing is turning up the heat. But before you reach for the thermostat, why not add another layer of clothing or extra blankets?

If your heater has to work harder, your energy bill will reflect that. Close doors of rooms you aren’t using to keep the area you’re occupying more comfortable.

Once you get your home warmed up, turn the thermostat down one degree. Although it may seem small, this small variance can lead to big cost savings on your energy bill!

#2) Research First Before Buying a Heater

When it comes to choosing an affordable, energy efficient heater, take your time to do some research. A cheaper heating source may end up costing you much more down the road in heating costs.

Fixed heaters have lower running costs and create more heat than small electric heaters. When choosing the right one for your home, make sure it’s adequately sized to heat your space and is energy efficient. Heat pumps are a great investment and produce instant heat with the convenience of a thermostat.

Electric heat is one of the most expensive forms of heating but may be sufficient to heat smaller rooms or rooms you only use occasionally.

#3) Make Your Home More Energy Efficient

If your home isn’t properly insulated, you could end up heating the outdoors instead of your home! Properly insulate the ceiling and underfloor first, followed by the walls.

Since hot water heating makes up 30 per cent of your energy bill, check your hot water settings. Does your hot water need to be on 24 hours a day? Likely not, so adjust its schedule according to your family’s needs.

Keep your hot water tank running efficiently by keeping the filter clean and scheduling regular maintenance. If you notice a sudden increase in bills without a change in hot water usage, have the tank serviced by a professional to see if there’s an issue with your tank.

#4) Shop Around for Energy Savings

Winter is a great time to see if you could be saving more on your energy costs with a new power company – and Switchme makes it easy! Our free, online comparison calculator has helped hundreds of Kiwis find a better energy deal. See if you can find one for yourself! Check out our website for more details.

Streamlined Energy Data Coming to Kiwis

Streamlined Energy Billing Data Coming to Kiwi Households

Upcoming planned changes to New Zealand households’ and firms’ electricity billing will result in quicker, more effective access to billing details.

The planned series of changes include outlining the information required when a customer’s agent requests retailer data and banning retailers from requesting supplementary information or specifying the form those requests must utilize.

A new, automated tool is also planned to communicate the permissions of a customer’s agent to their retailer.

Previous Industry Rule Changes in 2016 were Ineffective

The new changes come as a result of industry rule changes in 2016 which did not result in desired streamlined access to billing data.

Extreme friction was produced between agents and retailers due to the insufficient amount of guidance on what establishes a proper information request. Individual retailers and agents each created their own approach to the industry’s request; some retailers developed implementations that require a lot of customer and agent action whereas others chose to deal with authorisations on an ad-hoc basis.

As a result, processes and effort were often duplicated and unnecessary increases in transaction costs were produced. Industry innovation and greater consumer participation were also negatively affected.

Positive Results Expected

More streamlined access to electricity billing data is expected to lead to a range of benefits including better consumer access to energy services. Decisions about new technologies including solar or home energy management systems will be easier to make due to access to historical usage data.

Customers will be able to make better-informed decisions about their energy usage, leading to cost savings and better energy efficiency.

Vulnerable customers will be provided with an easier option to share their energy data and obtain advice from social agencies and not-for-profits.

Better Access to New Zealand’s Competitive Retail Electricity Markets

New Zealand has one of the most active and competitive retail electricity markets worldwide. However, the Electricity Authority believes that many consumers aren’t benefiting from the cheaper prices and innovative services some retailers offer.

Annually, approximately 20 percent of Kiwis change suppliers. Throughout the 16 years that data has been recorded, it’s estimated that more than a fifth of households have never switched energy suppliers.

Are you one of them? With Switchme’s easy, online energy comparison calculator, you can find out right away if you’re getting the best deal on your energy costs.

All it takes is five minutes of your time! Check out our site for more details about how you can be saving on your energy costs starting today!

New Programme Provides Help to Vulnerable Households

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New Programme Provides Help to Vulnerable Households

A free in-home energy coaching service was launched in June to help struggling Kiwi families at highest risk of energy hardship. The government, electricity retailers, lines companies and community organisations will work together to provide the service aimed at reducing at-risk families’ energy costs and increasing warmth.

Electricity Management Tips for Vulnerable Kiwi Families

New Zealand’s electricity costs are relatively cheap compared to the rest of the world. Even so, poor housing and a lack of insulation create expensive bills for some families each winter.

This collaborative, multi-agency effort provides basic energy literacy and support to help Kiwi families better manage their electricity use. Vulnerable families will be assisted with obtaining the best electricity plan and educated on tips to increase their home’s energy efficiency. An electricity plan change can amount to hundreds of dollars of savings each year for some New Zealand families.

Families’ heating options will also be reviewed to see if a more affordable heating source is available. Families will also be introduced to other available community resources that can assist with further energy cost-savings measures.

In-Home Visits Provide Personalised Financial Support

Community-based trained financial mentors through Porirua Whanau Centre, Manukau Urban Maori Authority, and Family Focus Rotorua will provide in-home support to participating families.

These “EnergyMate Coaches” will help connect the family with their energy retailer and ensure they’re on the best plan for their household’s usage. Energy literacy support will be provided and payment and debt issues will be resolved with the energy retailer.

An easy to follow, practical action plan will be delivered to help families improve their energy efficiency and improve their comfort levels – without paying more on energy costs.

Other services including insulation and budgeting support will be reviewed with each family.

To begin, community-based financial mentors will pilot the program in 150 households in Rotorua, Porirua and South Auckland.

How to Obtain an EnergyMate Coach

To become a part of the EnergyMate pilot program, whanau can be referred to the programme via the Ministry of Healthy Homes Initiative, their electricity provider or the local budgeting provider (the EnergyMate delivery partner).

Energy Cost Savings Education

The innovative EnergyMate programme aims to create warm, dry homes with affordable energy costs for all Kiwis. Switchme, an energy switching company, has a similar goal!

Use our free, online comparison calculator to see if you’re currently getting the best rate on your energy costs. Contact us today for more details!

Low Switching Rates

High Wholesale Prices Creating Low Switching Rates

Fortunately for Kiwis, saving on electricity costs is normally easy to do.

In only a matter of minutes, switching websites display energy price comparisons and will facilitate the switching process for you. The process is actually so streamlined that there is no interruption in your household’s or business’ energy services!

But compared to the last four years, electricity switching is at an all-time low, and it has to do with high wholesale prices.

Thirteen Percent Decrease in Switches Recently

February 2019 saw only 30,340 customers change energy suppliers which was 13 percent less than one year prior.

The number of switches experienced in both January and February was a four-year low.

February’s Best-Performing Brand

While offering an incentive of one free month of power on a 12-month fixed deal, Contact Energy experienced the most success in February compared to other energy providers.

More than 1,200 customers were added to its customer base – the company’s biggest gain in over seven years.

Electric Kiwi, the second-largest gainer during February, now has almost 40,000 customers.

Low Number of Switches Caused by High Wholesale Power Prices

Since jumping in price during October 2018, wholesale prices have not levelled out. A variety of factors is to blame for the elevation, including declining North Island hydro storage, extensive irrigation demand on the South Island and limited gas supplies caused by maintenance work at the Pohokura field.

Recent cold, still weather also contributes to the price increase. Wind production has been reduced at the same time maintenance work at several plants decreased geothermal and hydro production.

The extended high wholesale prices have made it especially difficult for newer independent retailers to make customer gains.

Retailers Relying on Spot-Based Products Most Affected

Although limited power supplies are felt by all energy retailers, those that rely on spot-based products experience even more ill effects.

Flick Electric’s customer base had decreased recently due to higher spot market pricing, and they released a Fixed pricing option as an alternative to their fully spot market offering.

With power prices what they are these days, it’s in your best interest to keep a close eye on your energy bill! Switchme makes it easy! Join our email list to be notified of future price increases in your area.

Renewable Energy in 2018

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Renewable Energy Delivered Majority of Power in 2018

Even though 2018 resulted in the biggest annual coal burn within the last three years, renewable energy still delivered almost 84 percent of New Zealand’s electricity.

Recently released data from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) showed that the share of renewables increased to 83.9 percent in 2018, up from 81.9 percent the year prior. The highest year since 1981 was 2016, which resulted in 84.9 percent.

Extra Hydro Storage Contributed to Fossil Fuel Generation Decrease

Last year also saw a 19 percent decrease in gas-fired generation due to two extended outages at the Pohokura gas field. The above-average hydro storage for most of the year helped to offset this shortage.

Gas-fired plants operated by Contact Energy, Genesis Energy and Nova Energy contributed only 5, 374 gigawatt-hours of generation in 2018 – the lowest since 1995.

The MBIE stated that the 84.5 percent renewables achieved in the December quarter was despite wind generation being the lowest for that period for almost ten years.

Although coal-fired generation had the highest quarterly volume since March 2015, it only contributed to 6.3 percent of the generation mix. Both hydro and geothermal generation increased.

Renewable Energy Proves its Resilience in 2018

The recently released data proves that the sector is able to withstand drastic variances in hydrology. When there is difficulty with wind and hydro availability, the sector relies on gas to cover the variations.

Coal has approximately double the emissions of natural gas. However, the data doesn’t show the increased emissions that would have resulted from using coal to counterbalance reduced gas-fired generation.

On Track to Meet Government’s Power Generation Goals

New Zealand has been working hard to achieve the government’s goal of 100 percent power generation by 2035 in a year of average hydrology.

A recent presentation by the Interim Climate Change Committee described how the electricity system is predicted to be 93 percent renewable by 2035. To meet the government’s goal, new technologies are necessary to counter dry-year risks.

In 2018, hydro accounted for almost 61 percent, and geothermal production was one percent lower at 7,377 GWh. Solar contributed to almost 30 percent more at 97 GWh. Gas-fired plants accounted for 12 percent of 2018’s total generation.

When’s the last time you checked to see if you were getting the best residential power price? Do so now (and know within a couple of minutes) by checking out our free, online comparison calculator!

Changes To Distribution Pricing Could Create Price Shock

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More Efficient Electricity Distribution Pricing Could Create Price Shock

Although the Electricity Authority (EA) is being urged to speed up distribution pricing reform, they are advised to do so cautiously. If done hastily, the process would create a disturbing price shock for many customers.

The Electricity Networks Association (ENA), along with organizations advocating for the change including the Electricity Retailers Association warn the EA to implement the reform carefully. Working groups including retailers have been set up by the ENA to create an implementation plan and the EA has been encouraged to participate, too.

Multiple Issues Could Potentially be Created from Poor Implementation

Already, the group has determined that demand and capacity-based pricing options would require years to implement for some industry participants. If poorly implemented, the group identified that a large group of consumers would be negatively impacted. The bill shock would be felt most by Kiwis who are already financially strapped.

Research also showed that in the short-term, customers who are unable to access new technologies are likely to face higher bills.

Besides upsetting customers, a sudden distribution pricing reform could alienate stakeholders including retailers. Risks of political backlash are also a concern.

Tariff Reform Advocated for Years

A tariff reform came about after the Electricity Retailers Association advocated for several years. Concerns about pricing not reflecting costs and encouraging inefficient behaviour brought the concern to fruition.

ERANZ agreed and suggested that new technology such as solar would only make the issue worse.

Although the Electricity Retailers Association is supportive of the EA’s proposals to further analyse the change being undertaken by distributors, it cautions that effective execution of the pricing reform is necessary.

Fundamental Changes Wouldn’t be Immediately Implemented

Retailers would require time to implement the essential changes and to explain them to their customer base. That’s why an industry-wide roadmap could provide effective direction for the cost reflective distribution tariff reform.

The ENA is in agreeance with the EA retailers that they shouldn’t have to pass on network prices to their customers. ERANZ agreed with the EA that it should be up to retailers to pass on distribution pricing changes to customers.

Pricing Reform Decisions Expected in April 2020

The ENA has estimated that pricing reform decisions will be available in April 2020 followed by phasing in of new options.

Wondering how this could affect your power bill? We’ll keep you posted! Check our blog regularly for updates on the latest news in New Zealand’s power industry.

Extreme Weather and Your Electricity

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Extreme Weather and Your Electricity

After taking a moment to consider our weather over the last few years, it’s difficult to deny the fact that New Zealand has been experiencing extreme weather.

The severe heatwave last season. The Edgecumbe floods in 2017. Last April’s extreme winds.

And what’s even scarier? The fact that experts predict that there is no end in sight to extreme weather.

Climate change is predicted to continue damaging livelihoods and creating financial and human loss. Here’s how Auckland based electric utility company Vector is preparing Auckland’s power network for the future.

Severe Wind

With wind predicted to be Auckland’s biggest climate change related weather risk to impact Auckland’s power network, Vector is investing in bundled aerial conductors.

By bundling several powerlines into one and fully insulating them, the powerlines become stronger and safer.

However, this only helps with severe winds if exceptional tree management systems are in place first. That’s why it’s important to plant native species in areas that aren’t right underneath power lines.

Heatwaves and Dry Spells

When an extreme heatwave hits, power cables and lines have a more difficult time meeting households’ energy needs.

This risk is mitigated by setting different capacity ratings on Vector’s critical assets to ensure they can cope with the heat. If a problem is detected, more capacity can be added to certain areas when required.

Making the Network More Resilient

When extreme weather patterns hit, you can help manage your own energy resources.

It’s always a good idea to keep clean distributed energy resources on hand in the event of a power outage. Consider purchasing batteries and investing in solar power and/or an electric vehicle with a reverse charge system.

Applying Innovative Thinking to Our Extreme Weather Problem

Vector recognizes that the energy sector must be ready to deal with ongoing environmental changes. To do so, innovating thinking is necessary.

Vector has set its own target of net zero emissions by 2030 and has also helped found New Zealand’s Climate Leaders Coalition. The company is committed to reducing emissions in New Zealand, supporting the Paris Climate Agreement and creating a positive future for everyone.

The Bottom Line

Although we may not know what can be expected when it comes to our future weather patterns, we do know how you can save on your energy bill now!

As one of New Zealand’s most trusted electricity comparison sites, Switchme can easily facilitate a switch to a more affordable energy provider. Check out our website for more details!

Electricity Price Review Recommendations

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Electricity Price Review Recommendations

Almost one year later, the independent electricity review endorsed by the Labour, NZ First and Green parties has issued their recommendations about New Zealand’s electricity industry.

The review panel, comprised of both consumer and industry representatives, was asked to evaluate whether the current electricity market is delivering fair pricing to consumers and whether the existing structure will be able to handle new technologies.

The almost 40-page long document supports eliminating low-fixed charges and prompt payment discounts in addition to improving the disclosure of the retail/power generation company profit split.

The Electricity Review panel’s recently released review outlines 41 options from seven themes:

  • Strengthening the consumer voice
  • Reducing energy hardship
  • Increasing retail competition
  • Reinforcing wholesale market competition
  • Improving transmission and distribution
  • Improving the regulatory system
  • Preparing for a low-carbon future

Panel’s Ideas to Improve New Zealand’s Electricity Sector

The panel’s interim report issued in September resulted in no evidence that electricity retailers and network companies were making excessive profits.

However, the report did cite concern regarding the development of a “two-tier” retail market which hurts citizens who do not have the means or ability to find the best energy price.

Energy Hardship Identified as a Matter of Priority

The panel endorses a cross-party working group dedicated to energy hardship that would clearly define energy hardship and its drivers.

In addition, the group would establish community-level support services that would offer advice on budgeting, energy efficiency and switching so that electricity prices are more affordable for all.

The group suggests banning prompt payment discounts which they believe also negatively affect low-income consumers. A cap would be added at the retailer’s actual cost or saving for late-payment fees and discounts for bundled services and direct debits.

Win-backs are also suggested to be banned even though both the Electricity Authority and many retailers believe that individual customers have benefited from the resulting lower prices. The panel believes that this practice could also be contributing to the “two-tier” nature of the market.

The panel wants to make mandatory voluntary market-making services that major generators provide for the ASX futures market. This would help existing arrangements become more stable.

In addition, the panel wants to see better disclosure of information that could affect wholesale prices and more enforcement by the Electricity Authority regarding existing disclosure rules. The panel suggests that the Electricity Authority is provided with the ability to monitor wholesale prices against actual costs in the sector.

A government policy statement on distribution pricing is recommended to help reduce the impact on households.

The Electricity Review’s Unsupported Recommendations

It does not support caps on retail prices, separating generation and retailing activities, the forced amalgamation of distribution companies or a regulated decrease in the asset values of the network companies and national grid operator Transpower.

The full document can be viewed online by going here.

Switchme can help you achieve cost savings on your energy bill starting now! Check out our convenient, simple switching process by visiting our website.

Consider These Before Installing Solar Power

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4 Things to Consider Before Installing Solar Power

Are you thinking about installing solar panels at your home?

The energy savings and ability to help the environment may be tempting reasons enough to install some panels on your roof.

But before you make the installation appointment, here’s how to ensure solar panels are suitable for your household.

2016 Solar Trial Provided Insight into NZ’s Electricity Needs

Eastland Network’s 2016 solar trial gathered data to prepare for the future electricity needs of the Gisborne, East Coast and Wairoa regions.

During the trial, nine residential properties received solar systems ranging in size from 2.5kWh to 4.16kWh to validate the economics of residential solar. Properties were chosen depending on the number of occupants, roof pitch, system size and building age.

Although full trial results are still being assessed, some feedback has already been garnered to help people make an informed decision around solar installation.

Is Your Roof Going to Last?

Homeowners considering installing solar panels should ensure their roof is going to last the next 25 years.

When roofs require repairs or a full replacement, solar panels will need to be removed – which could potentially void the manufacturer’s warranty.

Is Your Roof Easily Accessible?

Yes, the majority of work will be completed at the beginning when the solar panels are installed on your home.

However, regular maintenance will be needed on an ongoing basis. In order to do so successfully, your roof needs to have easy access.

Your solar panels will need to be cleaned off regularly. If the pitch is too dangerous or other barriers prevent you from climbing onto your roof safely, then solar panels may not be a great idea.

Are You Located where there’s Optimal Sunlight?

Your solar panels will only generate a successful amount of sunlight if your home faces the proper direction. Optimal roofs are north-facing and not shaded by trees.

An online tool such as Google Maps can identify the direction your roof faces to see if a suitable amount of sunlight would be available.

Can Your Household Maximize Electricity during Peak Sunshine Hours?

Without battery installations (which are an expensive addition to a solar installation), unused electricity is exported back to the grid immediately. So for solar power to be most effective, a household must use as much electricity as possible during daylight hours.

The trial showed that the minimal amount of power that homes should use is 5,000kWh for solar panels to be a great investment.

Other than installing solar panels, looking for ways to save on your energy costs? Switchme offers a free, online platform that enables Kiwis to easily switch to a more affordable energy supplier. Check it out today!

Government’s Electricity Industry Review

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Low Submission Results for Government’s Electricity Industry Review

Only 108 survey submissions on New Zealand’s electricity industry were recently received by the Government.

The low number of responses indicates one of two extremes: either Kiwis are confident with their country’s electricity pricing system, or the lack of industry understanding led to a low number of surveys being completed.

Graeme Peters, Chief Executive of the Electricity Networks Association, read each submission received. Although he notes that several improvements could be implemented, he is hopeful that the low number of responses means that consumers view the industry favorably.

Jessica Wilson, head of Consumer Research, believes differently. She thinks that the low level of responses shows that the issues are complicated for the average electricity consumer.

She stated that the lack of responses does not show that consumers are content with their power bills or with how the pricing is calculated.

The Demographics of Survey Respondents

The majority of the 108 submissions were by industry participants or large companies.

Private submitter's may have found the enormity of the survey along with its format difficult to navigate – thus giving up on the survey before truly even beginning.

Other Recent Surveys Showed Kiwis’ Concern with Electricity Pricing

Other surveys recently conducted did show that Kiwis are concerned with their power bills.

The annual cost of living survey showed that almost 70 percent of consumers were concerned with their electricity costs. Plus, almost 20 percent of Kiwis reported recent financial difficulty paying for their power.

Survey results also showed that the majority of Kiwis were trying to reduce their energy costs.

Final Report Due in Coming Months

The review on the country’s electricity industry is being completed by a panel under the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

The final report is expected in May 2019.

You don’t need to wait until the Electricity Industry Review is over to potentially save on your energy costs! Use Switchme’s free, online energy comparison today to see if you could be saving on your monthly energy bill.

Contact us today for more information about our energy switching services!

Faulty Smart Meter Readings

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Incorrect Smart Meter Readings: What is the True Cause?

If you received an abnormally high power bill, what would you think is the cause?

For many Kiwis, the reliability of their smart meters is questioned after they receive expensive power bills. But in many cases, the smart meter is actually not the problem in the end.

Wondering what is to blame for these inaccurate readings? We have the details for you here!

Customers Report Suspicions About Faulty Smart Meters

Jackie Tangata is one customer who, even after changing energy suppliers, was experiencing abnormally high bills.

Independent tests confirmed that her meter was accurate. Authorities suggested that the problem may instead stem from an electrical item in her home.

During the summer, Bradley Tuhi from Christchurch reported his concerns about a potentially faulty smart meter to his energy supplier Genesis.

The company initially denied his allegation but eventually got the meter tested. The investigation resulted in his meter being declared faulty, consequently explaining why the customer had been overcharged by 66 per cent.

A refund and further discount was offered to the customer.

Computer Problems, Not Smart Meters, Are Sometimes to Blame

Other customer complaints about high energy bills are a result of computer problems.

Hanmer Springs’ resident Gemma Brown was told that her expensive August bill was due to ineffective communication between her smart meter and the energy company’s main computer.

The Majority of Smart Meters Are Not Faulty

According to Utilities Disputes, of the approximately 70-80 smart meter complaints that are investigated yearly, less than five of them involve a faulty meter. Instead, most complaints stem from customers not completely understanding their electricity use.

Vector AMS, a company that owns/manages 1.3 million smart meters throughout New Zealand, reports that problems with the meters are very rare. Tests conducted on suspected-faulty units are completed by a certified testing company. These meters are stored unused for another six months in case further testing is necessary.

All electricity meters must comply with the Electricity Industry Participation Code and meet international standards.

How to Get the Best Rate on Your Household’s Energy Costs

Whether your smart meter has been problematic or not lately, it’s always a good idea to scrutinize your power bill. Regularly checking to see if you’re receiving the best rate on your household’s energy costs can save you money!

Shop around other energy companies quickly, efficiently and easily using Switchme’s two-step online process. Contact us today for more details about how to save more money on your energy bill!

Record Number Of Switches

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Record Number of Power Company Switches in October 2018

Did you recently switch your power company provider?

If so, you’re not alone.

October 2018 saw a record-breaking number of switches made from one power supplier to another. Reports from the Electricity Authority showed that 38,870 households decided to go with a different energy supplier, an increase of 6,000 from September.

Wondering why so many Kiwis made the switch? Curious about which companies gained the influx of customers? We have all the details about the recent spike in power company switches!

The Reason Behind the Increase in Energy Company Switches

By the end of October, wholesale energy prices increased to $1,000 a MWh for certain parts of New Zealand.

The majority of NZ households wouldn’t have noticed the price increase. However, the one per cent of New Zealand customers that are on variable plans that follow spot prices definitely would have. Some of these customers saw their energy bills increase to hundreds of dollars per week.

Since variable-price providers’ prices can change at any time, choosing to use a spot-based retailer does have some risk. While having the ability to lower your energy cost, this spring’s energy market also shows that spot pricing can negatively affect your energy bill almost overnight.

Meridian Energy Customer Base Soared in October

Meridian Energy, the country’s largest renewable energy company, added 1,249 new customers during October.

The most popular switching region was Canterbury, which had over 2 per cent of its residential, industrial and commercial customers changing energy suppliers.

Wholesale Price Increase Results in Energy Companies Closing

Citing unsustainable funding pressures, PowerDirect and Payless Energy recently announced they were exiting the market.

The Electricity Authority (EA) is currently reviewing a joint complaint from Pulse Energy, Electric Kiwi, Vocus Communications and Flick Electric about wholesale market conditions. The complaint claims that the unjustified, non-transparent spot prices are threatening independent competition in the energy market.

Too Many Customers Switching from Variable-Price Providers

There were so many customers trying to switch from spot-price providers that some energy companies had to turn customers away. Electric Kiwi and Nova Energy for example had to refrain from taking on additional customers trying to move from spot-price providers.

Are You Using the Best Energy Company?

At Switchme, we pride ourselves on staying abreast of the latest news in New Zealand’s energy sector. Doing so helps us provide our valued customers with the best energy deals. Check out our website to learn more about how we can help you find the best power company for your household’s needs!