Canstar Blue’s 2019 review of NZ power companies compares Powershop, Electric Kiwi, Flick Electric, Energy Online, Nova Energy, Pulse Energy, Meridian Energy, Mercury Energy, Genesis Energy, Contact Energy, GLOBUG and Trustpower on customer satisfaction.
See our Ratings Methodology.
It’s something we all have to pay for every month or quarter, yet still the energy bill dropping into our mailbox (or inbox) has the ability to shock and confuse us. Are you anxious about your next electricity bill? You’re not alone. In fact, more than a third of the respondents to our latest survey (38%) said they worry about their power bills – and it’s no surprise given that prices typically only ever go in one direction. Despite this, just 13% of respondents said they have switched providers in the last 12 months, so many of us could be doing more to help ourselves!
There are ways to reduce the financial stress of paying for electricity, including shopping around to make sure you’re getting a good deal. Not just on price, but also customer service and online tools that can help take the guesswork out of – what is for many – their biggest grudge purchase.
If you haven’t compared power companies for some time, you may be paying too much. Or maybe you’re just not getting the level of service you deserve? The good news is we are spoiled for choice when it comes to electricity retailers in New Zealand, with more than 40 companies competing for our business. But with all the competition comes further confusion – how are you supposed to know which power company will offer the best service and price for you?
That’s why Canstar Blue annually surveys thousands of electricity customers across NZ to help you make a more-informed decision about your next provider. You’ll never really know how good, or bad, an energy company will be until you’ve signed up, so we think our ratings provide a very helpful guide because they are based on the real-world experiences of consumers, just like you.
Over the years, Powershop has been the standout performer in our ratings, emerging victorious for seven out of eight years now. The only blip along the way came when Electric Kiwi was rated best in 2017 – and it again rated well this year. But Powershop remains the power company to beat for overall customer satisfaction in NZ.
The 12 power companies in Canstar Blue’s star ratings were rated in the following order for overall satisfaction in 2019, based on the experiences of more than 5,200 bill-payers across New Zealand:
Brands must have received a minimum of 30 survey responses to be included in the ratings, which is why you might not see your power company listed above. See below for a full list of energy retailers in NZ.
With so many power companies to choose from, how do you find the right one for you? Canstar Blue has put together this guide to help you navigate the market and find the best deal to suit your needs.
Your power bill has two components – fixed charges and variable rate charges. It will also include any additional fees, discounts, rebates and taxes that may apply.
Daily fixed charge: This is a fixed charge of anywhere from 30 cents to $2 per day for standard users. This covers the cost of metering and network maintenance, and applies regardless of whether or not you use any electricity that day.
Variable rate charge: This is a charge for your electricity usage, measured in kilowatt hours (kWh). There are different types of variable rate charges to pick from, depending on the type of meter you have:
Spot pricing is a relatively new type of tariff that seems to be growing increasingly common. To understand spot pricing tariffs, you’ll first need a basic idea of how the market operates. Essentially, generators sell electricity on a wholesale market which is then bought by electricity retailers. The price that the retailer pays on the wholesale market is called the “spot price” which will change every 30 minutes. Most retailers simply charge a flat rate for electricity which retailers calculate by averaging the expected spot price over the year. Retailers will usually add a little on top of this rate to cover their own operating costs and profits.
Customers on a spot pricing tariff, however, will only pay the wholesale price for electricity and retailers will cover their own costs through a daily fixed fee. This means that electricity retailers don’t actually profit from the amount of electricity you use. Spot prices can be incredibly volatile, so make sure you know what you’re getting into before signing up.
There are two types of electricity contracts in NZ – Standard User and Low User. Some power companies may refer to these contract types by different names, but they are all principally the same.
Power companies like to reward customers who make their life easier with discounts, which can be a great way to reduce your overall power costs. There are four main types of discounts you’re likely to encounter with NZ power companies:
There are currently 40+ power companies operating across New Zealand:
A power company must have received at least 30 responses from survey respondents to score itself a spot in our customer satisfaction ratings. This year, there were 12 power companies able to meet the threshold and can consequently be considered the biggest of the bunch. Here’s what these companies have on offer, listed in order of their customer satisfaction results:
Powershop is a fairly unique power company in the NZ market, offering what it calls “Powerpacks” – pre-purchased electricity deals that Powershop customers can buy to receive lower rates or better discounts. This gives customers ‘the power’ to pay in advance, pay as you go, or to simply pay the old-fashioned way when you receive your bills. Powershop also gives its customers access to useful online tools and mobile apps that let them monitor and control their energy usage. Powershop is so confident in its product that it guarantees customers will save at least $150 in their first year after switching. Powershop will monitor what you would have paid with your old retailer and if you haven’t saved at least $150, will credit you the difference. Additionally, Powershop offers a $100 credit for each friend you refer who switches.
Electric Kiwi claims to be an affordable and flexible electricity company, offering no lock-in contracts and what it claims are “everyday low prices”. Electric Kiwi also guarantees that its customers will save in their first year after switching. Electric Kiwi will monitor what new customers would have paid for power with their old retailer and if they haven’t saved, they will be credited the difference. One of the most interesting features of Electric Kiwi however, is its “Hour of Power”. Electric Kiwi customers nominate one hour per day during off peak period (9am-5pm & 9pm-7am) to receive ‘free’ electricity – yes, 100% free electricity. Customers can use this time to run their dishwasher, washing machine, clothes dryer, car chargers or any other high-use appliances to save on power while they can.
Flick Electric claims it is “totally different” to the other power companies. While most retailers will charge a fixed price for electricity – which is adjusted to incorporate its profit margins – Flick Electric says it only passes through the wholesale price of electricity. That apparently means Flick Energy doesn’t benefit from its customers using more power, so it has genuine incentive to help them save. Flick Energy instead makes its revenue by charging a daily fixed “retailer charge”. Flick Electric states it endeavours to be transparent, with live price alerts on spot prices and weekly billing to keep bills manageable.
Energy Online proudly boasts the slogan “brilliantly simple”, promoting itself as an affordable and easy to understand electricity company. Energy Online provides electricity, natural gas and bottled LPG and a 20% ‘prompt payment discount’ for customers who pay their bills on time and in full. There are no fixed-term contracts or exit fees with Energy Online, so you’re free to switch at any time and the price plan you join on is guaranteed for 12 months.
Nova Energy states that it takes pride in its down to earth customer service and straightforward approach to energy. Nova Energy has two products for residential power customers – the ‘Home Freedom Plan’ and the ‘Home Advantage Plan’. The Home Freedom Plan is simple, with variable pricing and no fixed contract term or early termination fees. Meanwhile the Home Advantage Plan gives customers $150 sign-up credit and fixes the rates you pay for electricity until March 2021 – protecting you from the cost of rising power prices.
Pulse Energy is a New Zealand community-owned energy company, supplying electricity, gas and solar to more than 70,000 households throughout the country. Pulse Energy says it could beat the electricity rates you are currently on with its ‘Price Promise’ but terms and conditions apply. It also says it offers customers a low price upfront, ‘Price Protection’ on their energy rates for two years (again conditions apply), and no long-term contracts.
Meridian Energy is one of the largest renewable energy generators in the Oceania region, and its attitude towards sustainability is reflected in its retail services, with all its electricity produced being sourced from wind and water whenever possible, it says. Meridian Energy recently replaced prompt payment discounts as it now considers them fundamentally unfair. The retailer now offers a new lower rate for a simpler and fairer approach for everyone, it says. There are regular and changing offers for new customers.
Mercury Energy is another environmentally-focused energy retailer, which claims that 100% of the power it generates comes from renewable sources. New customers that sign up online can receive a 10% prompt payment discount, plus an additional 2% off if they agree to email and direct debit billing. Customers also receive a number of other bonuses, including the choice of a $100 sign-up credit or Airpoints with Air New Zealand, plus $250 off electric scooters and $350 off electric bike accessories. Mercury Energy has special deals for any customers with electric vehicles. The retailer also operates smaller brands like GLOBUG and Bosco.
Genesis Energy owns Energy Online, which it claims makes it the largest electricity and gas retailer in the country. Genesis Energy has a flexible plan, $100 sign-up credit plan over 12 months, a $150 sign-up credit plan over 24 months, plus two ‘Clever Home’ products that include discounts and other signup incentives. Each plan comes with a 10% prompt payment discount, and customers can earn Fly Buys points for every dollar they spend on power bills. The flexible plan also offers a discount and there is no fixed term plan or exit fees. Customers on the flexible plan also earn twice the rate of Fly Buys points.
Contact Energy is an integrated electricity provider and generator, as well as a home broadband supplier. It has five electricity products on offer: The Broadband Bundle, Fuel Rewards, Fuel Rewards Plus, Everyday Bonus Fixed, and Bach. The Fuel Rewards Plus and Everyday Bonus Fixed are fixed term plans that lock in energy rates until June 2021, offering 30c off fuel per litre every month (max 50L), or a $150 sign-up credit, respectively. The Broadband Bundle has no fixed term or exit fees, while the Fuel Rewards product offers savings off fuel every month. Lastly, the Bach product may be best-suited to customers who only want to pay for electricity they use, with zero daily charge or exit fees, meaning you’re free to leave at any time.
GLOBUG lets its customers pay their power bills as they go, which it says makes it much easier to manage electricity spending. The GLOBUG mobile app lets you monitor your energy usage and contribute towards your account whenever you feel like it. There are no penalties or payment fees with GLOBUG, so you have complete control over your power spending. While GLOBUG will send you alerts when your power balance is low, customers must be proactive in keeping on top of their energy account.
Trustpower is a bundled electricity, gas and broadband provider. Trustpower claims it believes in ‘tailored’ solutions for its customers and has a “plan builder” that lets new customers create a deal from them based on their personal circumstances. Trustpower customers are billed monthly and may receive a 15% prompt payment discount if they pay their bills in full and on time.
The cheapest power company for your home will depend on factors including your location, tariff type, and energy consumption habits. Despite what some retailers may claim, there is simply not one energy company that will be the cheapest in every case. When considering electricity prices in NZ, it’s important to look past the headline discounts and sign-up incentives, and carefully assess the rates and any terms such as added fees. Keep in mind this checklist:
Also, don’t overlook the little guys. While the larger power companies can claim their market power allows them to offer the best value, many smaller power companies have produced some innovative approaches to energy that may help your dollar go further. P2, for example, is New Zealand’s only peer-to-peer solar trade platform, while Giving Energy lets customers donate to organisations simply by paying their bills.
Energy distributors are responsible for maintaining the infrastructure that transports electricity from the generators to your home. There are dozens of distribution companies that combine to form the NZ energy grid. These are:
A large proportion of the rates you’re charged for electricity are attributable to distributor costs, meaning that the specific price you pay will vary across different regions and distribution networks. Perhaps factor in the potential price of energy if you’re considering moving to an area that straddles multiple networks.
Finding the best deal on energy is all about getting up and making the effort. You have plenty of retailers to choose from, so there is no reason you should be paying more for electricity than you need to. Canstar Blue’s customer satisfaction ratings provide a great high-level insight to help you start comparing, but it’s also important to understand your energy needs and find the deal best tailored to you. So, get out there and take the power back in your hands. Good luck!
Canstar Blue surveyed 5214 New Zealand consumers across a range of categories to measure and track customer satisfaction, via ISO 26362 accredited research panels managed by Qualtrics. The outcomes reported are the results from customers who have an electricity account and pay the bills. In this case, 4130 New Zealanders.
Brands must have received at least 30 responses to be included. Results are comparative and it should be noted that brands receiving three stars have still achieved a satisfaction measure of at least six out of 10. Not all brands available in the market have been compared in this survey. The ratings table is first sorted by star ratings and then by mean overall satisfaction. A rated brand may receive a ‘N/A’ (Not Applicable) rating if it does not receive the minimum number of responses for that criteria.
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