Switching Electricity Companies: Big vs Small Providers

More smaller electricity companies means more choice and lower prices. So if you’re still loyal to your big electricity brand, it could be time to chase a better deal by switching on to the smaller power providers!

The big electricity retailers may dominate in terms of customer numbers. But, in recent years, many smaller retailers have emerged, bringing greater diversity and choice to the market. And, if you want to make savings on your power bill, one of the easiest ways is switching electricity companies. So it’s well worth exploring all the options and deals available from retailers both large and small.

When comparing electricity companies, it’s important to remember that your choice of retailer makes no difference to the reliability of your electricity supply. That is determined by the performance of the local distribution network and the national grid operator, Transpower.

With this in mind, when choosing the right electricity provider for your home, you should carefully compare costs, additional services, and the plans on offer.

Switching electricity companies: market share

The days of the market being dominated by a few large retailers are long gone. For while the larger retailers still dominate, consumers now have significantly more choice.

According to Electricity Authority figures, as of the end of August this year, the top five power companies by consumers and market share were:

  • Contact Energy – 417,822 (19%)
  • Genesis Energy – 408,352 (19%)
  • Mercury NZ – 318,429 (15%)
  • Trustpower – 264,090 (12%)
  • Meridian Energy – 236,972 (11%)

This leaves roughly 25% of the retail electricity market controlled by smaller retailers. However, some of the smaller brands are owned by the big players. For example, Powershop is a subsidiary of Meridian Energy, and Energy Online is part of Genesis Energy.

Among the smaller retailers, Nova Energy, Pulse Energy, Electric Kiwi and Flick Electric have made inroads. Collectively, they account for around 13% of the market.

Switching electricity companies: more choices

The emergence of smaller retailers has taken place alongside the rollout of smart meters and a broadening of tariffs. Thanks to the new meters, there are now tariffs that utilise real-time usage information.

Some smaller retailers only supply to customers with a smart meter. While larger retailers have also incorporated real-time usage data into their offers.

Among the different types of tariffs utilising real-time usage data are:

  • Time-of-use tariffs – charged at varying rates in line with the time of day, which retailers often divide into peak and off-peak hours.
  • Spot price tariffs – a rate based on the real-time cost of electricity, which changes every half-hour.
  • Prepay tariffs – consumers pay for their electricity upfront, paying as they go rather than at the end of a billing period.

It’s certainly worthwhile assessing the suitability of different tariff types for your household, and the various tariffs offered by retailers, large and small, in your area.

Of course, neither large nor small retailers have a monopoly on innovative tariffs. However, as noted, a number of smaller retailers base all their power plans on smart technology.

Get a better power deal with Canstar

If you’re concerned about your power usage, consider whether you’re on the best deal for your household. Because you could be getting a better rate. Canstar rates electricity providers, so you can compare your options easily:

Canstar Blue’s latest review of NZ power companies compares them on customer satisfaction. The table below is an abridged version of our full results, available here.

See Our Ratings Methodology

Switching electricity companies: a better deal

As the market continues to evolve, retailers are enhancing their tariff offerings with a range of additional incentives. Both large and small retailers want to stand out in the market and distinguish themselves with eye-catching deals.

In weighing up the best deal for you, added perks might be enough to give one retailer the edge over another. For this reason, it’s worthwhile considering everything a power company has to offer.

Extra incentives include:

  • Bundle deals – retailers may package together two or more services, such as pairing electricity with gas, or electricity with broadband, typically at a discounted rate.
  • Free electricity – from one-off promotions allowing customers to lock in a time slot, to regular time slots, in which usage is free.
  • Loyalty programs – members are offered a range of incentives, including discounts and rewards.

Of course, don’t lose sight of the underlying price of the electricity on offer, and the suitability of the tariff plan for your household. However it’s well worth weighing up the extra perks on offer and the additional value they can provide.

Other factors to keep in mind

When it comes to the quality of service provided, and the ability to satisfy customer expectations, always research the full scope of services offered by the retailers in your area.

As a starting point, it’s worthwhile accessing information about a retailer via its website. In particular, help and FAQ-type pages can provide additional insight into a retailer’s approach and range of services.

Factors to keep in mind include:

  • Customer service – what are a retailer’s operating hours, and what type of contact options are available (from phone, to email, live online chat and social media)?
  • Account management and monitoring – from monitoring usage, to checking your balance and historical usage data, what range of website and mobile tools are provided?
  • Contract length and fees – are fixed-term and/or flexible contracts available. Do other fees apply, such as a break fee for terminating a fixed-term contract early?
  • Payment options – are options such as bill smoothing available? From direct debit to credit payments, what sort of payment types are supported?

Also, jump on line and read a few online reviews for additional insights into customer experiences with specific retailers. If you still have questions, get in touch directly with a retailer.

What’s in your area?

Of course, when it comes to choosing a retailer, you’ll be limited to those operating in your area. And if you live in a city, you’ll have a greater choice of retailers than if you live out in the sticks. But according to the Electricity Authority, most residential consumers still have a choice of between 12 and 35 retail brands, depending on where they live.

So if you’re on the lookout for a better deal on your power, why not check out all of the operators in your area, large and small, and compare what they have to offer.

Start your search by checking out Canstar’s latest electricity provider ratings! Both our 5 Star Customer Satisfaction winners are small players: Electric Kiwi and Flick. To discover more, all you have to do is hit the button below!


Compare electricity providers for free with Canstar!

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