Using Electric Blankets Safely

When properly used and maintained, an electric blanket is a comforting way to get through New Zealand’s chilly winter months. However, if safety precautions are not followed when using one of these warm blankets, you could be at risk of injury or a fire.

Safety First!

An electric blanket should only be used to warm the bed. To avoid overheating (which can be life threatening, especially for the very young, ill or elderly), it should be turned off before you get into bed. In addition, keep the blanket turned off when you’re not in the room. Most electric blankets do not have automatic shut-offs when reaching a potentially dangerous high temperature, so could cause a burn or a fire hazard.

Checking Your Electric Blanket for Damage

Before using your blanket, be sure to check for damage to the heating elements. To do so, lay the blanket flat and turn it on for 15 minutes at the highest setting. Watch it closely, then turn it off. Feel for hot spots by running your hand over the blanket. Hot spots mean that the heating element’s kinked or damaged, which could lead to electric shock or fire. Look for any kinks, fraying cords, worn or exposed wires and scorch marks as well. If any type of danger is found, safely dispose of the electric blanket.

A Proper Fit Means a Safe Fit!

A properly fit electric blanket lays flat on the bed without creasing, thereby avoiding damage to the heating elements. Be sure to avoid using pins or other sharp objects to attach the blanket. Keep the cord and control switch clear of the bed so that they don’t get damaged.

Get a Replacement Regularly

Old electric blankets are more likely to be dangerous; in fact, blankets that are ten years or older account for 99% of all electric blanket fires. Replace old blankets every few years, even if they still appear to be working. Don’t ever use a blanket that is damaged. To ensure you stay safe while using an electric blanket, make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and recommended safety precautions.

Some Extra Safety Tips to Keep In Mind

  • Check that your electric blanket can be washed before doing so; never use a wet electric blanket
  • Don’t fold up or ball up the blanket when it’s operating because this concentrates the heat unevenly, thereby increasing the risk of burns
  • Avoid laying on top of the blanket as this can cause electrical wire damage
  • Never dry clean a heating blanket because the chemicals used in the process can damage heating insulation and increase fire risk
  • Consider using non-electric alternatives to keep you warm like using flannel sheets, wearing socks or adding extra blankets

Save on Energy Costs this Winter!

Looking for ways to save on energy costs this winter? If so, Switchme’s free, online power comparison calculator can easily show you what your options are regarding New Zealand energy providers. Contact us today for more details!

How Does Electricity Get to My House?

    How Does Electricity Get to My House?

    Image result for electricity distribution process nz

    As effortless as it may seem when light appears after flicking on a switch or heat dissipates after turning on an electric heater, the work that goes on ‘behind the scenes’ to get the power to where you use it is actually quite extensive! To better understand the process behind getting power to where you need it in your home, check out the step-by-step outline below:

    • Generating Electricity in New Zealand

    The majority of New Zealand’s electricity generation comes from renewable sources. Although most is generated from hydro-electric stations, some electricity is also produced from gas, geothermal, coal, wind, diesel and solar.

    • Hitting the Wholesale Market

    The wholesale market is where electricity retailers buy their power from. Every half hour, prices are calculated to be sold on the wholesale market. These prices can vary widely depending on supply and demand.

    • Transmitting the Power

    Transpower, which owns and operates New Zealand’s national transportation grid, transmits the power from where it is generated to the local transmission grid. This electricity is transmitted at high voltages – up to 220,000 volts! Not all industrial sites get their power this way; some of the larger ones connect directly to the national grid.

    • Distributing the Power to Your Home

    Using overhead wires and underground cables, the power is delivered to homes and businesses using local distribution networks that are connected to the national transmission grid.

    • Buying from the Retail Market

    Since New Zealand has a competitive retail market for power suppliers, consumers are given the choice to buy their electricity from various companies. There are a wide range of retailers and electricity plans available to choose from, depending on what’s available where you live. To get the best rate possible, consumers are advised to check out all their options prior to committing to a certain retailer.

    • At Your Home

    The electricity meter at your home records the amount of electricity used, so consumers can be billed accordingly.

    Lower Your Energy Costs!

    Now that you understand the process behind getting the energy to your home, are you interested in learning how to lower your energy costs? Switchme is New Zealand’s largest non-government funded energy switching site. By processing energy comparisons and giving free, independent advice, we help customers get a better deal on their energy bill. Contact us today to learn how you, too, can save money on your energy costs!

    How to Choose Energy Efficient Appliances

    Choosing energy efficient appliances is a sure-fire way to save you money on your energy bill. With all the different types and brands of appliances available, how do you select the best energy efficient one for your needs? The tips below will help you save energy costs on appliances for years to come.

    Read the Energy Rating Label

    The appliance’s energy rating label gives you information on how much energy a product uses so you can compare models and their energy efficiencies. The more stars there are on the label, the more efficient that appliance is. Every whiteware appliance, television, computer monitor and heat pump available for sale in New Zealand has to display this label.

    There is also a blue ENERGY STAR graphic on the label that is an independent, international indicator of the most energy efficient products in each category. Be sure that when comparing appliances, they are of the same type (similar in capacity and features).

    Image result for energy rating labelRelated image

    Read Consumer Reviews from Multiple Websites

    Be sure to take the time to read reviews on more than one website regarding appliances you are considering. What good is an appliance that uses the least amount of energy in its category, if it doesn’t run well or breaks down easily?

    Decide on the Right Model for Your Household

    Buying the appropriate sized appliance for your household will surely save on energy costs every month! Consider what you will be using the appliance for and how often. If you only have one or two people in your household, a full sized washer and dryer is probably not necessary. Choosing a smaller appliance will not only use less energy, but it will also run more efficiently with a smaller load.

    Utilize the EECA’s Online Running Cost Calculator

    The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority’s (EECA) helpful “Running Costs Calculator” helps determine how the appliance’s energy rating affects the amount of energy used and how much each appliance will cost per year to run. Annual running costs are calculated using 26c per kWh.

    Consider Energy-Saving Features

    An appliance’s features can have a major impact on its energy efficiency. For example, in washing machines, energy saving costs can be found with features such as “cold water wash” and “half load” options; “cool dry” is great in dryers and many appliances feature a “timed delay” option that allows you to program your appliance to work during off-peak hours. Avoid water or ice dispensers in fridges as this feature can cost users 20% more in energy use!

    Use Switchme to Save You Even More in Energy Costs!

    Besides having energy-efficient appliances, are you looking for other ways to save on your household’s energy costs? Switchme’s free, independent advice and power comparison calculator has helped over 60,000 kiwis find a cheaper power company. Why not let Switchme help you, too? Contact us today for more details!

    Contact Energy Using North Island’s Power Supply

    Image result for ohaaki power station

    Low Water Inflow into Clutha River

    Compared to the last 85 years of record keeping, the lowest average inflows into the Clutha River were recently seen this past March, April and May. Because of the continued shortage of water into Clutha River's hydro-electric dams, Contact Energy has had to come up with a solution to continue to meet customers’ energy demands.

    North Island Gas Plants to the Rescue!

    The solution to the water shortage was to turn to Contact Energy’s North Island thermal plants to work harder to fill the energy void. More energy to the North Island (compared to the South Island) is being supplied by the Cook Strait cable.

    Thermal Energy Needed when Weather Does Not Cooperate

    Although the New Zealand electricity market strives to be as renewable as possible, sometimes it is not possible to meet energy demands using only water and wind as resources. When help is needed, the thermal energy gas stations can help fill the energy gap, which is what is happening currently.

    More Rain Would Stop the Lake Levels from Decreasing Any Further

    The recent weather cold fronts from the south have been bringing snow instead of rain. This, in turn, has been causing dramatic increases in electricity demand. Overall, however, this winter is warmer and dryer than previous years, so more rain would help increase the water levels and help the power supply issue.

    If hydro lake levels continue to drop, more pressure would be applied to alternative power sources throughout the country, which could lead to environmental impacts.

    Low Water Levels Resulted in Greater Spot Power Prices

    Because hydro-generated energy makes up about 60% of New Zealand’s electricity, the recent low levels in the hydro lakes have meant wholesale prices continue to increase. Customers who are on wholesale pricing agreements with retailers are noticing the increase on their energy bills. Although spot tariffs can offer long-term savings, customers who choose this must be willing to weather periods of higher than average prices, such as what we are currently facing. Spot tariff customers should keep an eye out for price spikes and get into the habit of shifting some of their energy use to off-peak times.

    To eliminate any risk for future price spikes, customers should consider switching to a traditional fixed rate or smooth-pay plan.

    Let Switchme Save YOU Money!

    Has your electricity rate increased sharply, due to the low lake levels? If so, let Switchme help you compare power prices to see if something more reasonable is available! Contact us today for more details and to use our free power price comparison calculator.

    What’s in Your Power Bill?

    Even though your power bill includes a ton of information, understanding it can be a whole other matter! Not only does your bill include how much power you have used, but it also includes how much you need to pay and more importantly, explains where that fee goes. Understanding your bill will give you a better idea of what your hard-earned money is going towards each time you apply a payment!

    Fixed Versus Variable Charges

    Most power bills will include two different costs: fixed and variable. A fixed rate is charged on each bill and does not depend on how much power is used. On the other hand, variable charges encompass the amount of power you do use. This charge is based on the kilowatt hours consumed and is charged at the rate you've set up with your retailer.

    Electricity Authority Levy...Explained!

    Also included on your bill is an "Electrical Authority Levy" charge, which is normally based on the amount of power utilized. This charge covers the cost of the Electric Authority, which regulates the power industry.

    Breaking Down Each Dollar on Your Bill

    You work hard for your money, so you deserve to know exactly what your money goes toward each time you pay your power bill. Every dollar on your bill is used wisely; see below to learn more about where each dollar of your bill goes:

    • Power generation, or making electricity, accounts for over 30%
    • Almost 10% goes towards covering the cost of building and maintaining the national grid
    • Building and maintaining the power lines that transport electricity from the national grid to your house accounts for just over 26%
    • The retailers’ operating costs (whom you purchased electricity from) account for approximately 16%
    • 13% covers the goods and services tax
    • Slightly over 3% covers the cost of reading and maintaining electricity meters
    • Just under 1% covers market governance and market services. The market governance fee provides energy efficient programs, as well as cost coverage for running organisations that regulate the electricity industry. Market services money goes towards covering the operating costs of the organisations that manage the day-to-day management of the power market.

    Try Switchme's Free Comparison Calculator!

    Now that you understand more about your power bill, are you wondering how you can save money on each bill? If so, Switchme can help!

    We at Switchme work hard to let you know if there is a more economical solution available for providing your power! Contact us today to learn more details and to utilize our free comparison calculator to compare power companies.

    Spot Prices Rise as Lake Levels Fall

    Image result for benmore hydro station

    With the recent drop in hydro lake levels across the South Island, wholesale (spot) electricity customers have noticed electricity rates increasing since May. Those who are on traditional fixed rate electricity tariffs will most likely not notice any increases in the near future; however, for those who are on spot tariffs, increases are predicted to continue throughout the winter.

    Critical Lake Levels are Not Anticipated

    60 percent of New Zealand’s electricity is made up of hydro-generated energy. However, similar low-level conditions seen in 2003 that warranted a national electricity conservation campaign are still a long way off. Barring major unexpected equipment failures, there is less than a 2% risk of experiencing critically low lake levels.

    Reducing Your Electricity Costs

    Consumers on spot tariffs are advised to keep an eye on their provider’s prices and watch for price spikes. Flick Electric, one spot tariff provider, has a mobile app that allows users to receive warning notifications when prices increase. To help reduce the electricity rate increase, it’s best to get into the habit of shifting some of your electricity usage to off-peak times.

    Taking Advantage of Off-Peak Rates

    Are you a spot tariff consumer who is worried about your hydro bill skyrocketing this winter, or are you a fixed rate user looking to reduce costs? Follow the tips below to help keep your hydro bill manageable:

    • Use the dishwasher throughout the night, rather than right after dinner
    • Turn on your clothes dryer during the day, or overnight
    • Use draught stoppers and tighten hinges, latches and hatches to eliminate heat loss
    • If you don’t have central heating, use a heater directly in the room you want to heat and keep the door closed
    • Install energy-efficient light bulbs and fixtures, such as shower heads
    • Ensure you have proper insulation throughout your home

    Completely Eliminate the Worry of an Electricity Increase

    Spot tariffs eliminate the buffer between your bill and the wholesale price of power, which changes every half hour. Although this type of pricing system can offer long-term savings, consumers need to be okay with weathering periods of higher than average prices.

    Consumers who do not want to risk further price increases should consider switching to a traditional, fixed rate or smooth-pay plan.

    Let Switchme Save YOU Money!

    Has your electricity rate increased sharply, due to the low lake levels? If so, let Switchme help you compare power prices to see if something more reasonable is available! Contact us today for more details and to use our free comparison calculator.

    Simple Ways to Lower Your Energy Bill

    Lower Your Energy Bill and Increase Your Savings

    With winter’s arrival, there’s no time like the present to consider how to lower your energy bill. Depending on the season, there are a lot of solutions that are simple and cost-free. Try out some of the ones listed below to see the savings start adding up on your energy bill!

    Saving Money While Doing the Laundry

    Besides taking advantage of off-peak rates and using cold water when completing your laundry, also consider the size of the load you are washing. Although you should try to do large loads only, make sure that the load will still leave about 25% of the drier empty. This promotes better air flow so that you don’t need to run the drier twice. While doing so, use dryer balls to help speed the drying time and be sure to remove the lint from your dryer trap after each load to maximize its efficiency. Even better, dry your clothes on a clothes line outside.

    Circulate Air throughout Your Home

    During the winter, keep the heat inside your home by drawing the curtains at dusk. To help stop draughts, use draught stopping tape or door snakes along the bottom of the doors. Set your home’s heater thermostat to a reasonable temperature and try wearing a sweater before cranking the temperature higher.

    In warmer weather, circulating fans help keep the air moving throughout your home, eliminating the need for your air conditioner to work as hard. Attic fans help reduce energy by removing hot air and pulling cool air into your home.

    Lighting Up Your Home with Savings

    Switching to LED light bulbs will use 90% less energy than incandescent bulbs. Start by replacing the most widely used bulbs in your home, and then replace the remainder when they burn out. In addition, if your appliances are more than ten years old, consider upgrading them to newer, Energy Star models which use much less energy.

    Stop Dollars from Going down the Drain!

    Try reducing your shower time as well as installing low-flow shower heads. When there’s less water flowing through your shower head, there’s less water to heat and a better cost savings to you.

    Cooking Up Savings

    Keeping fridges and freezers full ensures that less time is needed for the appliances to run to stay cool, since the food acts as insulation. A fridge’s condenser coils need to be clean to work less at cooling your food, so regular maintenance is suggested. When cooking food, turn the oven off a few minutes before your food is completely cooked and let the heat finish the cooking for you. Cooking food with the lid on means it will cook faster, since heat is not escaping. Better yet – use the microwave instead of the oven, since it uses less electricity and does not release as much heat back into your home.

    Let Switchme Save YOU Money on Your Energy Bill

    Besides ensuring you are doing your own part in reducing your energy costs, have you checked to make sure that you are using the most cost-effective energy provider? Let Switchme help you complete this task! Contact us today for more details.

    Lighting – Find the Right Bulb for You!

    Between comparing specifications regarding beam angles, lumens and colour temperatures, shopping for light bulbs can quickly turn into a confusing errand! However, the choice between buying either a compact flurouscent light (CFL) or light emitting diode (LED) bulb can be made easier when you know more about what those specifications mean and which type of bulb offers what.

    Measuring Brightness with Lumens

    The luminous flux, specified in lumens (symbolized as “lm”) is used to quantify the amount of light emitted in all directions. When the lumen count is high, the light source will be brighter.

    Depending on where you will be replacing the light bulb will determine how high of a lumen count you should have. In rooms like kitchens, bathrooms and closets where a brighter light would be beneficial, choose a bulb with a high lumen count. Although available in various intensities, the light’s colour temperature also plays a role in the intensity level.

    Choosing a Colour Temperature

    Specified in degree Kelvin (K), the light’s colour temperature means the colour appearance of the light. There are various types of colour temperature available when choosing a lightbulb, ranging from yellowish-warm light to blueish-cool light. Keep in mind that the lower the Kelvin value, the more yellowish the light will be. Warm, relaxing white is designated by colour temperatures that range to 3300 Kelvin and cool white is a colour temperature that ranges from 3300 to 5300 Kelvin. Higher than 5300 Kelvin is a daylight white colour temperature.

    Choosing the correct colour temperature can be made simpler when you first consider the lighting function you want the bulb to fulfill. For rooms that require high levels of concentration like an office work area, a daylight white colour temperature is suggested. A warm white light is usually preferred in bedrooms and living rooms, whereas cool white light ensures maximum brightness in kitchen or utility rooms.

    Spreading the Light with Beam Angles

    The angle of the light emitted from the source is described by the bulb’s beam angle. A larger beam angle means that there is a wider spread of light across an area, although it will have a lower light intensity. On the other hand, a smaller beam angle determines that there is a narrow spread of light across an area, but that light will have a higher light intensity.

    If you’re shopping for a bulb to replace in a floodlight, a large beam angle (more than 60 degrees) should be purchased. Narrow beam angles are better for downlights and small areas.

    We Can Help You Save Energy Costs!

    Choosing the right lightbulb not only creates the perfect atmosphere in the room, but it can also save on energy costs. Contact Switchme today to learn about more options regarding lowering your energy bills!

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    Electric Heating – Which Heater Where?

    With all the choices available when it comes to electric heating, it can be difficult to choose what type is right for you. Since each heating source is very different from the next, choosing the best one for your needs becomes easier when you consider each heating source’s benefits and disadvantages.

    Micathermic Heaters

    As one of the newer types of electric heat, micathermic combines the heating technologies found in both radiant and convection heating. After radiating heat off a panel, natural convection helps disperse heat throughout your room. Micathermic space heaters provide quick heat and instant comfort when you need it most. Because they are fanless, they do not re-circulate dust and other allergens throughout the room, but they also don’t provide as even of a heat. Options to either hang them on walls or place them on floors make micathermic heaters a versatile source of electric heat.

    Convection Heaters

    Another popular space heater option is a convection heater, which utilizes various heating elements to heat cold air. Heating a room with a convection heater takes time; however, the heat generated also lasts a long time. In addition, convection heaters are quieter than radiant heaters and because some types include fans, heat is better circulated throughout the room. However, this type of electric heat is one of the most expensive options and they can also be quite heavy.

    Oil Column Heaters

    Instead of using oil, oil column heaters apply electricity to warm up the oil that’s within their columns or fins. This heated oil is then transferred to the casing as well as the air circulating the fins. Although they take a long time to heat a room, they are efficient since the oil remains warm and heat is still radiated even after the heater’s turned off. Oil column heaters also operate quietly and can heat larger areas more effectively than smaller space heaters. Since their surfaces do not get very hot, they are safe to use when left unattended or while sleeping.

    Oscillating Tower Fan Heaters

    One other option when it comes to electric heaters is an oscillating tower fan heater. Heat is quickly produced by these tall, rotating heaters that have a radiant element. Because they warm up the room from top to bottom, an even heat is distributed. Available in various sizes to fit any table or floor space, these heaters usually feature convenient options such as high-heat, low-heat or fan-only. Although typically cheaper than other electric heat sources such as convection, their fans do make them louder. This factor may limit what rooms you would place an oscillating tower fan heater in.

    We’re Here to Help!

    Spending some time choosing the best source of electric heat for your needs is only one way to reduce your home or office’s energy costs. Let Switchme help you consider other ways! Contact us today for more details.

    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.