When it comes to decision time, what will give you the most value? Is it flexibility? Best fit for low or irregular usage habits? Maybe it’s an awesome app that tips a company in your favour. We cover some common decision-making criteria used by consumers in New Zealand when picking an energy retailer. Take a read to better understand what’s important to you – that’s the best way to make a decision.
On this page, you'll learn things like:
- When usage habits should influence who you go with.
- Why you should care about what usage information retailers offer.
- The ‘short term benefit’ traps to avoid.
How do you use power each day?
Your usage habits are worth taking stock of before you decide which retailer to go for. That’s because different power companies offer different plans and prices based on how much and when in the day you’re using power. All companies offer low user and standard user rates for residential customers based on the amount of kilowatt hours of power used annually. Being on the right plan will make a difference to your costs.
Peak times like around dinner time put more demand on the grid – so ‘Time of Use’ pricing plans typically have a higher per kWh rate compared to say, 2am when most people (not all!) are asleep and not taxing the grid so extra low prices are available. If you’re a household that needs the most power before and after the work day, you’ll want to review the peak usage rates for each retailer.
However, if you keep ‘irregular’ hours (like a night shift worker who sleeps during the day peak times), or there’s someone at home during the day, your usage might be more spread out, or even concentrated within a timeframe usually considered ‘off peak’. Even if you work a nine to five, you might be able to make Time of Use plans work for you by setting appliances like washing machines or dishwashers to run in the off peak periods, or plugging in your EV to charge overnight. If that’s the case, you will have some potential savings by choosing a plan that gives better rates for off peak usage (offset by higher rates during on peak) such as Powershop’s Get Shifty plan.
In some parts of New Zealand ‘Time of Use’ is the default option for Auckland, Wellington and other parts of the North Island. If you are unclear about what plan you’re on, chat directly with your power retailer.
And some households have the option of adjusting their usage habits somewhat to make power usage more economical – worth doing if you’re looking for ways to save on electricity costs.
Do you want to keep a close eye on usage?
It’s okay – some households just want to get the power bill and pay it. But many Kiwis are invested in keeping their costs – and environmental impact – down. The only way to know if your electricity habits are making a dent is with reliable, up to date data. That way you can experiment with appliance use, lighting and cooking times to see what creates the biggest saving.
To get this data, your choice of power company will need to offer this in a way that’s user-friendly. Look for a provider that allows you to drill down into specific days’ usage by the hour. You’ll want some handy usage tools like Powershop’s own mobile app that gets you this information on demand with just a few taps on your phone. The retailer’s usage monitoring tools will also help you know pretty quickly if you’re indeed saving money by switching.
Before you commit, contact the power company and ask any questions about usage monitoring you might have. Knowledge really is power.
What’s the online experience like?
Outside of usage stats, you might be someone that values the ease of use when reviewing and paying power bills, updating personal details, and advising the retailer when you’re moving house. If you’re the type of person that likes to do everything digitally, it’s essential that you find a power company that has an account log in ‘environment’ to your liking.
During your comparison shopping, take some time to find out what sort of ‘logged in’ state you’ll be dealing with if you choose that particular retailer. If this information isn’t immediately available via the public website, you might have to ask the customer service team for more information on this.
The last thing you want is to sign up with an energy provider, only to discover a bad online experience. Do your homework first!
Is this the right power company for where you’re based?
Even if you hear a certain power company is the cheapest from someone else, you should choose your own provider based on your own address. That’s because different parts of the country have different rates based on the cost of generation and transmission. Always run your address through all the retailers on your shortlist.
Want freedom to leave whenever you like?
Are you afraid of commitment? That’s not necessarily a bad thing when it comes to utilities. Who wants to be stuck paying a company that isn’t giving you the value you need? If you want the ability to try – then fly if you have to, make sure you sign up to a retailer who puts you on an open, cancel anytime plan.
Try not to be swayed by short term freebies and deals alone
You’ll learn more about common benefits in our dedicated guide, but for now it’s important that you don’t make your decision based on a free gift or seemingly big account credit for signing up. Why?
First, sign up credit will often accompany a fixed duration contract, meaning if it doesn’t work for you, too bad – either stick it out or pay a hefty cancellation fee.
Second, a freebie like a TV might be nice, but it too will come with terms and conditions – like higher electricity rates, and being asked to pay high break fees if you don’t stick with the retailer for a set amount of time. Hope you like your ‘free’ TV!
But most of all, these short term discounts and gifts might not offset the extra cost you’ll pay over the lifetime in daily charges and per kWh charges. It can end up costing you more in fact vs. another retailer with cheaper standard rates.
If you find a retailer that offers attractive sign up bonuses and competitive rates for the long term, awesome. That might be the retailer for you! Otherwise, keep your eyes open!
Read more about power company benefits in our dedicated guide.
Are you a solar citizen?
Getting energy from the sun is growing in popularity, and there’s situations where this approach can save in power costs over the long term (once the cost of the solar panel system is covered!). If you use solar power for part of your energy usage, you will want to choose an electricity retailer who offers solar buy-back. This means you’ll be able to put unused solar energy gathered back into the grid for the network to use – getting a credit in the process, further bringing that electricity bill down!
Retailers have different buy back rates, but this is only one factor of many that should make up your provider decision!
Talk to each company on your short list
We’ve touched on it briefly in this resource, but choosing a retailer really should include a conversation with customer service for each company on your short list. You may have unique circumstances which allows retailers to put together a plan that makes sense. Just don’t commit in the moment if you’re still gathering quotes!
How to choose an energy retailer quick checklist
In a hurry? Here’s some criteria you should think about in your comparison research:
- Does the retailer offer good ongoing usage data?
- Does the retailer offer a seamless, user-friendly account view online?
- Have you compared different retailers based on your address?
- Is the retailer looking to lock you into a contract or open plan?
- Does the retailer’s sign up bonus or gift offset the lifetime savings enough to be worth it?
- Does the retailer offer a solar buy back scheme?
- What’s the buy back rate for solar?
- Does the company have a good environmental track record and/or prioritise a commitment to sustainability?
- Have you talked on the phone with the retailer to make sure their people and customer service is good?
- Do you have a clear idea of the daily and per kWh rates for the retailer?
What’s your criteria for picking a power company?
We’d love to hear what matters most to you in an energy retailer. Simply get in touch with us via our website or Facebook!