Tuesday, December 21, 2010

When your Power goes out (continued)

If your electricity goes out, and your entire street goes out at the same time the reason is that it is an electricity fault.  Like everything else with electricity this is complicated.
If you live in Taranaki, or the central Waikato, call your electricity retailer.
If you live anywhere else call your lines company.
If you don't know your lines company number call your electricity retailer.

9 times out of 10 they will already know of the fault, but even then they will be able to give you an accurate eta.  If they are not able to give an eta ask what the problem is.  Problems generally come in two varieties -

1) Lines down.  This is where electricity lines are down.  Usually this only happens in storms when the poles collapse.  This is will take 4-6 hours (maybe longer depending on where the lines are) to repair.
2) Broken feeder.  A feeder is generally a box on a power pole, electricity enters and exits the feeder.  A broken feeder is generally a blown fuse.  This take half an hour to fix as soon as the workman arrives.  Generally he will arrive in 1-2 hours.

If there is no eta and the problem is located this gives you a good timeframe.  The reason the network company has not given a timeframe is that generally they give very good and tight timeframes - 90 minutes really is 90 minutes.

If the cause is not known, most of the time is a broken feeder.

And as unhelpful as this seems there is almost no way to get someone there quicker.  Workmen finish their current jobs (if any) and move directly to the faulty area.  Unfortunately you do have to wait.

Friday, December 17, 2010

When your Power goes out (explanation)

Perhaps we should have explained ourselves a bit better on Wednesday, hopefully this will make it clearer.

Electricity comes through the lines in your street.  If these lines go down or are faulty nobody gets electricity.
The electricity leaves the pole and comes along a 'service line' to your meter.  If this service line is faulty only you do not get electricity.
At the meter there is a 'ripple relay'.
Your electric hot water cylinder is wired to this ripple relay.
The ripple relay is controlled by the lines company.
The number one problem with a ripple relay is that it get's stuck in the off position not letting electricity through it.  Usually it is sealed to prevent you from turning it on when it is controlled.

When the ripple relay is set to 'off' no power goes through it.

The reason you open it yourself is that it takes 4-6 hours to get someone out there to check it for you and to do precisely what you can do right there and then.  Don't take no for an answer, when the person comes out they can reseal the box.

Monday we'll look a bit more at some of the other common faults that can occur.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

When your Power goes out

We at the Power Panda thought we would do a series of blog posts about what to do when your Power goes out.

The first thing you should do is to ensure that nothing in your house is working.  The reason for this is that if half the appliances in your house are working and half are not, it means that your fault has occurred somewhere inside your house and is your own problem.
To repeat - internal faults (or faults inside your house) are your responsibility, and you will either need to call your landlord, or call an electrician.

The exception to this is hot water.  If you have no hot water but the rest of your house is working - you should start by calling your power company.
WARNING - in some areas for no hot water you are expected to call your lines company.  This varies from area to area.  We recommend calling your electricity company first, they can transfer directly if need be.
So you can see it already starts to be confusing.  If you having no hot water is caused by a faulty hot water cylinder this is your responsibility . However if your hot water is on a ripple relay (controlled power) and the ripple has failed [a very common error] this is the Power Companies/lines companies fault.

What you want the operator to do when you actually speak with somebody is to talk you through telling for yourself if the ripple relay is broken.
We'll mention it briefly here - The ripple relay is the box on your meterboard that does not have a meter display, but the box is completely enclosed in plastic and is screwed shut with metal cords around it.  When you go out tot he ripple box take wire cutters and a screwdriver.
If the switch inside the box is set to 'off' whilst talking with the operator cut the metal cords, open the box and flip the fuse.  Tell them this is what you have done.  Your hot water should start heating.
They will tell you off.  Take no heed of their fuss.  Refuse to pay fees, and just do it.

Tomorrow we'll talk further about this.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Introducing the Power Panda Total Saver

The Power Panda Total Saver device is now ready to ship.  It's our next Power Panda device and across the next few weeks you may see or hear it advertised.
Whilst our Power Panda Unit is designed to work with hot water cylinders the Total Saver is designed to work with electric motors (and a few other items) to produce savings.
The Total Saver will come in a range of sizes to fit all items, households, and businesses.

We'll of course show more details as our advertising begins to start, but if you want to save 20-45% on the cost of your motors and electrical equipment, give us a call on 0800 72 83 44.

Here is a follow up post on the Power Panda Total Saver.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Saving money on paying your power bill

One of those things that you may not be aware - some electricity retailers charge you fees depending on how you pay your electricity bill.
Mercury Energy is the worst offender charging fees to take credit card payment over the phone, fees for processing cheques, and fees for paying at NZ post.
TrustPower charges customers to pay at the Postshop also.
Genesis Energy and Contact Energy at this stage do not appear to charge fees for any payment method.

But it's something to pay attention to.

Friday, December 10, 2010

How to find out if you are paying for someone else's electricity

We at the Power Panda thought we would tell you how to tell to see if someone else is using your electricity.
Before we share this simple and no cost way of determining this we want to briefly say that it is very rare for you to be paying for someone else's electricity.  Usually it is limited to situations where a block of units has been renovated.  What happens is that the electricians occasionally do the new wiring incorrectly and wire all of the wiring into one meter.
Another situation is with granny flats.  Even if the flat is on a separate meter sometimes the original power points inside the flat are wired to the main houses meter.

What this means is that there are some situations where you are paying for someone else's electricity.
What is the best way to determine this?

What you do is wait until dusk (8.30 in summer, or 6-7pm in winter) and go out to your meter box.  You should see a main switch (or two).  Turn all of the switches to the 'off' position.  This will stop all power to your house.
Quickly look around to see if any of your neighbor's lights have just gone off.

Also now is a good time to visit your neighbors and see if any of their electrical devices are not working.

If this action results in some (or all) of your neighbor's power going out then you are paying for their electricity.  If your neighbor's power is still working they are paying for their own power.

Hopefully you'll never need to use this trick, but it is 99.9% accurate and of course doesn't' cost you a thing.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Why you should always take a meter reading yourself

Whenever you move into a new property always always take a meter reading yourself and call it through to your power company.  This should be one of the first things you.  

The reason for this is that if you do not take a reading the electricity company will bill you from the last reading of the previous occupier.  
Even when there is an advanced meter at the property your electricity company will not take a reading and bill from that, they will still bill you from the last reading of the previous occupier.  
Whilst this would be fine if you moved in the afternoon that the other person moved out, in practice this doesn't happen.  

Also most people don't turn their electric hot water cylinders off after moving out, so unless you take a reading you will pay for the electric hot water cylinder heating that occurred between the last occupier moving out and you moving in.  

This assumes that the reading the last person gave was accurate (unlikely as you give misleading readings and they won't be caught).  It also assumes that nobody did renovations or cleaning in between occupancies.  It is just too risky not to take the reading when you move in.  

Unless you give this start reading the day you move in you can easily wind up paying for usage that isn't yours, and the electricity company will not do much about it.

To bring home the point further we'll tell a brief story about our sales manager when he was working for an electricity company.  A lady rung up to give her start reading, which was just over 1000 Kw different to the final reading of the previous occupiers.  Our sales manager queried this and confirmed she was reading the meter correctly.  He explained that this was a lot of usage different and asked if anything had been done on the house in the meantime.  The lady said that the previous tennant had flooded the house and done a runner (but closed their electricity account) and the landlord had had 5 industrial dehumidifiers and 10 industrial fans running for the past 10 days to remove the moisture.
That phone call saved the lady hundreds of dollars.  

Next time it could be you, call your power company when moving into a new place, and give them that reading.      

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Powerco borrows to repay bonds

The headline of this story should read "Powerco borrows to repay bonds"

Basically Powerco has had to borrow money to repay the maturing bonds for next year.  Deeper in the article we learn that there is $320 million more of bonds due to mature across the next 7 years which Powerco does not seem to have the financing for.  

The article also points out that Powerco has a rating of BBB, which is the most minimal of all of the acceptable ratings.  

We at the Power Panda feel that BBB is too a high a rating for Powerco's service.  Their network is old, and has daily outages.  They also are a for profit lines company which means in their area you get no electricity rebates.  

But it is interesting that Standard and Poors do not think that our second largest lines company is a secure investment.  They are a lines company, there is constant demand for the services, a captive market, an ability to charge to cover costs, and no real liabilities.  That really should be considered a good investment if properly managed and maintained.  

<disclosure, we own no Powerco Bonds>

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Phil Goff and Electricity Prices

For those of you who watched TV 3 last night Phil Goff blamed the government for high electricity prices, and called it 'price gorging'

We've written about the high prices of electricity on more than one occasion. To blame it on the government is perhaps a little simplistic.  Certainly government action has increased the price of electricity, but the restrictions imposed by the last Labor government with medical customers in our mind is more of a reason for high prices than Goff's alleged 'price gorging'.

It wasn't that long ago when people were complaining that the Power Companies were not producing an adequate return for the government.

The problem is more complex than certain politicians seem to want to believe.

Also we think that any regulation to lower power prices is likely to be futile.  Electricity companies are very good at raising prices, so in order to lower your power bill we recommend purchasing a Power Panda.

Mercury Energy already has a fee for paying the power bill at New Zealand Post.  If the government legislates to reduce electricity prices I'm sure we'll see fees for paying power bills with credit cards, processing fees, and more 'one-off' fees that more than compensate for the reduction in revenue.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Just to follow up on that last post

As it could have been confusing - We are not sure what the effects of the arrangement have been.  Most of the details have been kept secret.  

However we think the entire arrangement smells and we're not certain it won't come back to bite New Zealanders.

Who owns our national grid?

We at the Power Panda uncovered a rather shocking article in the NZ herald yesterday.  The article is from 2005, and the agreement discussed was done in 2003, but it was still something we had no idea about.

The crux of the article is that Transpower leased the South Island's national grid to an American investment company, who then leased it back to Transpower?  It is confusing.  It's called a cross border lease and "cross-border leasing has been criticised by Canterbury University accounting academics Alan Robb and Sue Newberry, who said it was shonky and, in the case of the Transpower deal, had put ownership of the grid at risk."

Really?  Shonky?  We would have used some much stronger words.  It sounds a lot like a buy-back scheme.  

In fact "Dr Newberry said the concept - called "lease-in, lease-out" in the US - had been subject to a big tax inquiry in that country and the authorities were now shutting such schemes down."

In fact such complicated arrangements have been deemed illegal in New Zealand, with the most high profile being the Trinity arrangement.

But getting back to the point, Transpower obtained $34 million under this arrangement.  Nobody seems to know how long the arrangement is for.  Michael Cullen claimed it could not open the door for foreign ownership of the national grid, but to be honest we're not sure we can believe him.  
What the other party gained is some loophole tax advantage worth to them almost certainly more than $34 million.  

The rest of us got higher power prices and a confused head.  

Friday, December 3, 2010

Yes it still happens with advanced meters

We at the Power Panda have blogged earlier about the madness of medically dependent customers.  
To recap - The Power Companies in response to political pressure decided to implement systems to ensure that no person could ever have their power cut off if they could possibly be dependent upon electricity for their health.  In other words they decided to assume customers needed electricity to live and act according.  

With advanced meters as we mentioned yesterday the power companies can turn the power on and off at the property remotely with an advanced meter.  With standard meters it requires a contractor to go out to the property to disconnect.  Now when the disconnection is for non payment this can be quite an advantage.  Contractors are often abused and/or threatened.  Additionally since the unfortunate incident of  Folole Muliaga contractors are often reticent to turn the power off (more on this point another day).

So you can see why a Power Company might want to turn the power off remotely.  What large sections of a prominent Power Company were unaware of (until July) is as follows:

The credit team decided that it could pose a hazard to some customers if this were done.  They decided that in order to prevent the Folole Muliaga incident from happening again if a customer was due to be disconnected for non payment and the customer had not contacted the power company within the past 21 days they would send a contractor to the site to knock on the door of the customer and inquire if the customer was aware of this, and to ensure that the customer was not medically dependent.  

Seeing as in most cases customers do not contact the power company with their overdue bills the advanced meter disconnections actually cost this power company more than standard disconnections.  

However what happened is that customers who told the contractor "I'll pay the bill" automatically 'looped' within the system.  In short what it meant was that the disconnection would be rescheduled.  This meant that the account would have no further action for a week.  After this an automated letter would be posted out to the customer reminding them of the overdue bill.  The next week a text would be sent to the customer.  So by the time the customer came up for disconnection again there was often 21 days or more, and if there was no contact....
the situation happened again.  

Would you believe it?  
We didn't at first.  But it's just another example of the madness that is our electricity industry.  
We'll touch on other aspects later, but hopefully this is a good enough explanation for now.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

An advanced meter

A reader asked us at the Power Panda this week about why our previous post didn't mention smart meters at all.

The simple reason is as follows:
A 'smart meter' is not a different type of meter, it is a different way of reading a meter.

To explain further, a smart meter allows the electricity company to read your meter remotely, and to turn your meter on and off remotely.  That is all the difference.

You still have an anytime configuration, night only configurations, controlled configurations, etc.  You will still have a meter type.  However with an advanced meter your meter is read remotely.

(The meter has access to the vodaphone network.  What happens is that the power company sends a text to the meter telling it to read itself, and the meter sends a response back by text).

That is all that is advanced about an advanced meter (actually that's not quite true, the power company can turn it on and off remotely via text also, but those two are the only differences).  Your advanced meter does not save you money, and it is really only for the benefit of the Power Company.

It's not a different meter type, just a different way of reading the meters.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Power Panda and electricity companies

From time to time we at the Power Panda are asked how the power companies are treating our device.

The short answer is that they are hoping we will just go away.

Not only is our Power Panda reducing their total income in the residential market we have just finished the testing on a device to reduce the electricity industries need.  Should we achieve our goal in putting one in in every business in this country the power companies will loose 20% of their revenue.

At the moment we seem to be flying under their radar.  Our attempts to sell our Power Panda devices to electricity companies (for them to give to customers) were ultimately unsuccessful.

What will happen in the future, we're not sure, but we've seen the ugly insides of Power companies and we're confident that we can continue selling our Power Panda without difficulty.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The uses of meters

So now that we know what the different types of meters are, what are some of the ways you can use this information?

1) If you are building a house consider what you can put on a controlled meter.  Put anything that you don't mind going off for 4 hours at a time.  Consider your hot water cylinder (obviously), washing machine, driers, and dishwashers.  These high end appliances are expensive to run, but you can afford them to turn off for 4 hours at a time.  If your house is built to achieve this you do have to change internal wiring which can be expensive.

2) If you have a night store heater, ensure you are on a night meter for this.

3) If you have a day/night meter, call up your electricity company and get them to calculate if you would pay less on an economy meter.  Your electricity company can calculate this for you right there and then.

4) Check the meter types before moving into a new property (particularly if renting), having controlled hot water will save you about $20 a month.  If it doesn't see if you can get a discount from the landlord.

5) If you find you have no hot water in the evening in winter, get your hot water off controlled power.

6) If you use a lot of electricity across the night consider going onto a night/day meter.

7) If you have a prepay meter - change now.  See our earlier blog post on why this is so.

Monday, November 29, 2010

More on Meters

Now we talked about the basic meter types last time, however there are a few other types of meters:

Day Meters: These opperate between 7am and 11pm.  They are like a night meter in reverse, however they are more expensive than an anytime meter. 

Day/Night Meter: These meters are more common in the South Island.  When a Day & a Night Meter are merged what it means is that different rates are charged during for the day to the night.  Power is supplied all the time (through the Day meter during the day, and the Night meter at night).  What this means is that if a lot of power usage occurs at night these meters wind up being cheaper than an anytime meter.

Night Boost: This is identical to a night meter except that during the day there is a 2 hour 'boost' of electricity supplied past the meter.  The time of this boost is determined by the network company. 

Composite Meters : Composite Meters are the most complex of all meter types.  They are a merger between controlled meters and anytime meters.  The best way to discribe them is imagine you have a house, most of your house is wired to an anytime meter, whilst your hot water is wired to a controlled meter.  In this situation you would have 2 meters, and your hot water would be controlled.  Your meter reader would take two readings.
A composite meter has the same situation but with only one meter.  Your hot water is controlled, and the rest of your house is uncontrolled.  However the Power Company does not know how much electricity you spent on your hot water, and how much on the rest of the house.  So they bill you at one flat rate, which is about 1c a kWh cheaper than the uncontrolled rate.  These meters were common in the 60s but are now almost obsolete. 

That should explain all the different meter types in New Zealand.  Tomorrow we'll explore ways that you can use this information to benefit you.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Meter Types

We at the Power Panda get a lot of questions about whether the Power Panda works with "my meter which is X".  The short answer (also found on our Frequently Asked Questions ) is yes but we expect the savings to be at the lower end of the range.

However we ask all of our customers what type of meter they have, and a substantial portion of them are unsure of the difference, so we thought we'd try to explain it in case you were in the same situation.

Anytime/24hr - This type of meter has lots of names with Anytime and 24hr being the most common.  This is the most common type of meter, it supplies electricity to everything 24 hours a day (power cuts and external outages not included).

Controlled/ economy - these meters are the meters the lines company is able to turn off when desired.  Often these meters are labeled with the code CN18, or CN19 on your bill.  Usually these meters are wired to your hot water cylinder only, as everything wired to them goes off when the lines company cuts the power to the meter.  This off time can be for up to 6 hours on a CN 18, and 5 hours on a CN19.  Your hot water still stays hot and you can still use it.  However the reason only hot water is wired up to these is simple - would you want your TV cutting off at 7pm during the winter?

Night Meters - These meters only allow power to flow at night, generally this is 11pm til 7am, however the exact hours vary depending on your network company.  The largest exception is the Orion Network.  Usually only underfloor heating is hooked up to this.  You can hook a hot water cylinder, but most people will notice the temperature drops towards the end of the day.  On your Power Bill these generally have the code NO8.

These three meter types are the most common.  24hr is the most expensive, however Controlled is generally 2-3 cents cheaper per KwH (it used to be even cheaper, but now it's hardly worth it).  The Night Rate is generally half the cost again in the South Island, but only another few cents cheaper in the North island.

When we post again we'll talk more about some other rarer types of meters.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Back to complaints

We apologize for not posting yesterday, and when we posted on Tuesday it wasn't on the topic that we promised, so coming back to our normal schedule.

Something that we have seen happen is in complex situations the complaint often winds up in the wrong hands.  This is because there is often two types of complexity.  The first type is technical complexity, if a complaint regards technical details of your electricity supply, such as the specific frequency of the electricity or the loading you are being supplied you have a technically complex issue.
If however you have a long and protracted dispute over a long time this is a complexity due to length.  Often this means you've spoken with many different people who have all given you many different stories.

With a technically complex query you are better off speaking with a manager. The reason for this is that managers are promoted from the competent staff whilst the complaints team is often recruited externally.  This means that the complaints team are more skilled at handling difficult customers but managers know more about the technical aspect of electricity.  Thus they are more able to understand a technically complex issue.

However once you raise a complaint all of your issues are resolved with the one complaints person.  This person is probably the only person in a contact center who will call you back.
What it means is that your complaints person becomes highly familiar with your situation and so is less likely to screw up by not being aware of what has happened.
However with a manager the manager will take 3 minutes to 'review the account' (meaning they read the last three notes and then give you their opinion. They are not likely to call you back, and you will find it hard to get ahold of them again.  So when the dispute stretches across a long time go with the complaints team.

Hopefully now when your issues arise you know what to do.

We'll write again tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Mercury Energy's fixed price electricity

Yesterday we had one of the most fantastic letters arrive on our desk.  It was about a fixed price offer from Mercury Energy.  Strangely enough it was also mentioned in this article which puts it well when it says "Mercury Energy is offering fixed rates to selected Auckland consumers who must pay higher tariffs now to qualify for the deal, but face no increases until 2013."  
According to our letter you pay 10% more for electricity initially.

What this means is the Mercury Energy is expecting electricity prices to rise by more than 10% across three years.
Also Mercury Energy has put it's prices up in 1 July in anticipation of the emissions trading scheme.

Other power companies such as Genesis have not.

So how much is your Power going up by in the next three years?

You could buy a Power Panda and combat this rise, or ... well you can discuss your options.

Also see our other take on Mercury's fixed price offer here.  And see our further information on the fixed price plan here.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Compliants team

On Friday we talked about asking to speak with a manager at your power company.  Now what might not be known is that in addition to managers there are also complaints teams at Power Companies. 

The complaints teams handle complaints that are either
1) Submitted in writting, or
2) Submitted by staff.  We at the Power Panda are not yet aware of any Power Company where the contact centre staff can submit complaints to the complaints team.  Usually only managers have this authority. 

The Complaints team are the last step before the Electricity and Gas Complaints Commission.  This means that the complaints team want to settle all complaints at $5000 or less.  (For reasons see our earlier blog post)  This also means that they have more power than Managers. 

In addition the Complaints team can also be more flexable in policy than managers.  This is because the Complaints team are graded (and their pay is dependent upon) solving as many complaints as possible.  The right or wrong doesn't matter as much as the resolution.  

However because they are managers complaints about staff and rudeness should go to managers who have more power to see this corrected.  However any time you want a different policy followed and a manager is not being helpful insist on putting a complaint through. 

Also if for any reason you want compensation, put a complaint in writing.  This gives you the best chance it will be seen by the people who can grant it. 

Hopefully this makes sense, tomorrow we'll come back and finish off some of the differences and some more specific situations when you would choose the complaints team over a manager.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Asking to speak with a manager

This is a question that comes up often when calling a Power Company, you just don't feel satisfied with the service.  Something doesn't seem right, you're not getting an aswer that makes sense and you certainly aren't being treated like a normal human being. 

When do you ask to speak with a manager? 

We reccomend that the following are good times to ask to speak with a manager

1) When you want more than $20 back from the Power Company.  Or if you want compensation.  Generally contact centre staff are unable to do this and are told to simply say no.  So ask for a manager. 

2) If the staff member's story changes.  This means they don't know what they are doing.  Ask for a manager.  Get the correct story, it will save you hassle.  In this case I would suggest saying "look I'm still unclear about this and I'm not understanding you, can you locate a manager who can explain it better?"  This gives you the best chance of getting a manager who understands. 

3) If the staff member is ever rude to you, or if they ever interupt you.  It's just not worth the agro. 

4) If the staff member ever says "That's against policy".  Demand a manager.  Most policies are set up for the benefit of the Power Companies, don't feel forced to follow silly policies. 

Hopefully that gives you a good picture of when speaking with a manager is helpful.  Tommorrow we'll talk about some of the other things you can do to get hte reults you need.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Something more positive

After some fairly depressive reflections on the electricity industry in New Zealand we thought it was time to mention something more positive.

It's more a marketing comment.  The Power Panda also extends the life of your element.  The reason for this is that the elements cause a massive influx of electricity into the cylinder when the cylinder starts to heat.
This electricity is not needed, and the Power Panda feeds the cylinder the correct amount of electricity.  This saves the customer about 9% of their electricity usage.

We remove that spike, and save the customer money.  However when elements 'blow' (which is the most common cause of damaged cylinders) it is due to this influx of electricity.  The element draws too much and breaks.  The Power Panda prevents the influx and extends the life of the cylinder.

However it's not something our marketing is geared towards.  Elements last 7-8 years anyway, and in our experience the average consumer doesn't feel a need to ensure that their element lasts longer.  We train our sales agents in these facts because occasionally they are useful, but we've yet to have any report that this information gained them a sale.

There was some discussion early on as to whether we should advertise this feature, and we now think we made the right decision not to.  But it does make you think about what other items are being marketed via 'useless features'

For example, why do manufacturers of Baking Soda not put "Fantastic cleaner" on the box and put it with the cleaning products?   We use baking soda to clean regularly, and hardly ever for cooking, yet it's still in the cooking isle.  

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

And then the bad debt spread

Just to give you an idea of how far the medical dependent rot spread is this -

WINZ will pay the electricity bills of beneficiaries when the Power is in danger (or has been) disconnected.  WINZ has an 'allowance' for each beneficiary to cover expenses such as these, broken down cars, medical bills etc.

However the customers who tend to have used all of their allowance also seem to not pay their Power Bills.

WINZ case officers were then telling these customers to advise the Power Company that they had a nebulizer
at the property so that the Power would remain on.  The customers says this and then didn't pay their Power Bill.

It took an age of the Power Companies complaining to get an investigation started, and this lead to further training for a number of WINZ staff.

Just to let you know.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Ripple Relays in the South Island

For the more senior readers, they will remember when ripple relay meters were installed to give a much cheaper rate of electricity.

Lines companies can only carry so much electricity on their lines at any one time.  The ripple relay was used originally so that during hours of peak demand (i.e evenings) the lines company could stop the power to these meters and reduce the electricity used at that point in time.  Water in electric cylinders stays hot for several hours and so electric hot water cylinder were wired to these relays to get cheaper power.

Fast forward to now, and the Lines companies have not expanded their lines but they have more users.  Now the ripple relays are being cut more frequently at at many different hours as the Lines companies cannot carry all of the demanded electricity.

Things have been bad in Auckland for years now with revolving ripple cuts in order to ensure that the lines are not overloaded.

We just had a call from a customer in Christchurch who had his power cut from 8pm-10pm at night
What this means is that the Orion network have so much demand on their lines at this time they need to cut power to hot water cylinders.
Do you think they're building any more lines?

They are overloaded, so do you best to reduce your loading.  We recommend a Power Panda (of course) but if you have millions consider starting your own lines company and assisting all of us.


We had a delightful email yesterday from someone who didn't quite believe what we described.  They didn't think that anybody would be that silly to set up a scenario that would encourage bad debts.  

The situation is bizarre.  However it is a result of the Power Companies are too large.  What happened is that the board members and directors of the companies had huge pressure put on them to change their policies and ensure that nobody ever died.  

I will describe now what we saw in the Power Company I worked for.  The board members summoned the head of customer operations and said "do something NOW to ensure that this cannot happen to us"
The first thing the head of customer operations did was institute a policy that on every phone call into the call centre the customer must be asked "are you medically dependent".  This was asked on every call.

Call centre staff had half an hour training on medically dependent customers.  Most of them wound up even more confused than they were before.  What started happening is that contractors would go out to homes to disconnect for non payment, the customer would call up the contact centre and be asked "are you medically dependent?"  The customer would say "what does that mean?"  and get the response of "it means we won't disconnect your power"  

And then the obvious followed.  

Customer operations then designed a plan to ensure that nobody else would be cut off.  They did this without reference to the credit team, and without reference to finance.  

You see the Power Company was too big that customer operations was completely divorced from the credit team.  The customer operations was in it's own little 'box' away from everything else and all it was going to be measured on was 'ensuring nobody dies'.  

That was how it happens.  Unlike small companies where managers see the big picture, nobody in that Power Company could see beyond their little area.  

Hopefully that gives you some more information.  

Monday, November 15, 2010

Back to price rises

We have to apologize for not realizing on Friday that when we said that we would "write about this tomorrow" it would be Saturday.

What we posted on Saturday about the Russians was not part of our usual schedule it's just we were in the office reviewing our advertising when that stat was discovered.

There is another reason why electricity prices have risen recently, and are likely to rise again next year.  The reason has to do with the after math of the story of Folole Muliaga.
Now we don't want to discuss this case too much as the events that lead to this are a blog series in themselves.

However suffice to say that Mercury Energy was lambasted in the media, was vastly unpopular and the government of the time made it very clear that if something of this type was to ever happen again there would be consequences.

Before this story the Power Companies (almost universally) had this policy - If the customer said they were reliant upon electricity for a reason all disconnection action would cease for 30 days.  The customer had that time to provide proof of this.  Usually this was in the form of a doctors note.
At the end of the 30 days action would resume.

What happened after the story is that the Power Companies felt that actually obtaining proof was too onerous on the customer.  All that was required was for the customer to claim they were reliant upon electricity.  Once this claim was made the property would never be disconnected.

What happened then was the segment of society who otherwise would have been bad debts claimed they had oxygen machines and all of a sudden their electricity was left on.
Bad debt ballooned.  To the tune of millions.

Suddenly the Power Companies realized they were essentially throwing money away they wanted to make it back.

They did this almost universally by raising prices.
Your prices will stay high.  We recommend purchasing a Power Panda.  We've already expressed our disgust with the Power Companies for their behavior, but feel free to do that also.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Upon which we find out....

The truly bizarre fact that 8% of our readers are from.....
According to their IP addresses and the blogger statistics.

With most of the Russian referrals coming from this Russian search engine

We are seeing readership of this blog in the hundreds (which is absolutely fantastic).  However either a lot of Kiwis use a proxy to disguise themselves as Russians, or for some reason a lot of Russians want information about their power bills.

Who would have thought it.  If you do pay too much for Power in Russia, we can sell you a Power Panda unit, but you will have to pay more for shipping.
And we don't do Russian instructions at this point in time.

до свидания до следующего раза

Friday, November 12, 2010

Lines Companies and Power Costs

My mother told me once that the Power companies raise their prices two time a year, in April, and September, like clockwork.
Now I will be the first to admit that my mother isn't infallible, but when I worked with a power company they did raise their prices regularly.  Everybody got a price rise at least once a year.
Most people got a price rise twice a year.

The reason for these two price rises is to do with lines companies.

When the electricity market was deregulated, privatized, and split up in 1987 the government of the time made it illegal to be involved in the transmission AND sale of electricity at the same time.
In other words you could either transport electricity, or you could sell it, you could not do both.
The reasoning behind this was to prevent local monopolies.  These were areas where there was only one person transmitting the electricity, and the same person was setting the price.  It was felt that this would lead to prices that were too high.

However what happened is that each area only had one lines company.  Over time these companies amalgated and purchased each other out.  There are now 24 lines companies, and this is a good map showing their areas.  Some of these like WEL are owned by trusts and put their profit back into the community.  Some, like Powerco, are owned by overseas companies and managed for a (healthy) profit.

In almost all areas of New Zealand, the lines companies bill the power companies who include these charges in your electricity invoice.  Each lines company is a monopoly in its own area.  And every year they put their prices up.  Without fail.  They are a local monopoly, and the ones out for a profit know this and keep raising their prices.  Switching Power Companies will not help you, every Power Company will pass this increase in price onto the consumers.  And the lines company will increase the price for every Power Company.

It isn't fair but it is one of the reasons why Power keeps going up and up and up.  And there is very little you can do to stop this.
We recommend purchasing a Power Panda, save 20-30% on every power bill, and pay the blighters less.
Or you can just keep on paying high power bills, it's your choice.

Tomorrow we'll talk about some of the other reasons prices just go up.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The surprising things that you might not know about Power Companies

Power Companies are a little bit clever with some of their marketing.  After working in the electricity industry there are a few things that you learn that aren't immediately clear about the Power Companies relationships.

To give you an idea, Mighty River Power and Mercury Energy are the same deal.  Might River Power is simply the name for their generation arm, and Mercury Energy is the name of their 'sales team'.  The reason for this is that they can avoid being cross recognized.  For example when it is reported that the boss of Mighty River Power is paid an obscene amount of money   people don't switch away from Mercury.
Also the Globug system is completely owned by Mercury Energy and operates in accordance with their rules and policies.  The two do work in tandem.   Try picking that up from the Globug site.

A little bit more obviously, Pulse Energy, and Just Energy are owned by the same people, with the same staff, with just slightly different colours.

Powershop is a 100% owned subsidiary of meridian Energy whilst Energy Online is a 100% owned subsidiary of Genesis Energy.  Again, try finding that information out from their website.

On the last note Energy Online was actually a cheaper independent retailer that was purchased by Genesis Energy.  I'll leave you to speculate why this was, and why the prices for Energy Online then increased.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The thing everyone should know about Prepay electricity

Prepay electricity goes by many names "Incharge" (Genesis Energy) and "Globug" (Mercury Energy) are two of the common ones.

The electricity companies love to tell you that this is not more expensive, it's just another way of buying power.
They lie.

The first way they lie is often there are more fees associated with prepay power.  With Globug there is a 50c processsing fee with each transaction in addition to any other fees associated with paying your bill.

The next way they lie is that electricity companies by law have to have two plans, a low user, and a standard user.  Electricity companies are not being nice when they offer a low user plan, nor are they being nice when they contact you every year to recommend the best plan for you, this is government mandated and obligatory.
The low user plans are not big money earners for power companies.  The standard user plans are.
The only option on prepay is the standard pricing plans.  There is no low user option.

The final (and largest) way they lie is that prepay users do not qualify for prompt payment discounts.
Every electricity company we are aware of offer a 10% (or more) discount for paying your bill on time.
Prepay users NEVER get this, even though they pay in advance.  So they always pay 10% more than any other paying customer.

It's no wonder that our contacts with Mercury Energy have informed us that Mercury Energy refuses to remove Globug meters and forces people in those properties to be on prepay power. This appalling behavior has apparently been happening for six months now and has no signs of stopping.

The Power Panda and Savings

I got asked a question today, it's one I get asked a lot. In fact it's a question that gets asked of all of our staff a lot.
"Why should I buy a Power Panda when I can just turn my lights off and save the electricity that way?"
The answer is surprising to some people.
The simple answer is that an electric hot water cylinder accounts for 50-60% of a standard household bill. If we were to take the cylinder at my place, it uses 18 KwH of electricity a day.
If you have a 60W lightbulb it would mean running 12 lightbulbs for 24 hours a day means you use the same amount of electricity.
With my Power Panda my cylinder now uses 8.5KwH. So I could install a Power Panda or I could find 144 hours of lights bulbs I'm not using every day.
It's like turning off screens or appliances when you're not using them. You can certainly do this, but you have to turn off a lot of appliances.
It's a bit like washing your clothes in cold water, if you use cold instead of hot you save $50-$75 a YEAR
Cutting your shower time down by 1 minute day will save you $80 a year

Or you can buy a Power Panda and save 20-30% on every Power Bill.  And the best thing is that you just have to install it and it keeps running.  It's simple, effective, and the savings are significant.  It's not in the realm of $50, $75, or $80 a year, a Power Panda will save the average usage at least $500 in the first year.  It pays for itself in the first year, and it keep on running.  We have a 5 year warranty, and we expect it to last for longer.
But don't just take my word for it, see our testimonials of some of our satisfied customers.

And that is why we recommend the Power Panda above other energy saving ways.  It's not that you can't save energy by turning off lights, it's just you save so much more with a Power Panda.

Monday, November 8, 2010

What your Power company desperately tries to hide pt 3

Well we come to the conclusion on this short series about meters and making sure you are billed correctly.

In order to determine if you are being billed correctly you have a few ways of going about this.

Firstly, and the most accurate, involves getting an electrician to look at your meter board. If you have a friend/relative who comes over for social visits that is the perfect time.

However if you are like most of us with relatively little electrical knowledge and the only electricians you know seem to charge the following method may be more to your liking. Key to this method is that the cheaper meters (such as Night meters, and controlled meters) only operate at certain times. Or put this another way - you won't get electricity through the meter 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Devices on these meters will either
- only work between 11pm and 7am, or
- only work between 11pm and 7am with a random 2 hours slot occuring around midday, or
- randomly go off for up to 4 hours generally in the evening, or
- only work between 7am and 11pm.
If you recognize the above happens with your appliances, call your power company and tell them. They will give you a reason, and insist they put it to you in writing. Once you have it in writing compare it to your bill, if everything matches, fantastic. If not call back and ask to speak with a manager. Don't take no for an answer.

Also if you bill lists more than one meter, the following meter combinations are something you should watch out for
- A day meter WITHOUT a night meter
- Two 'Composite' meters
- Two 'anytime' (also known as '24 hour') meters
- Three meters where two meters are 'controlled' (also known as 'economy').

What we have described is the most common results of an incorrect meter configuration. If any of these match your bill, call your Power Company and insist they check it free of charge.

Friday, November 5, 2010

What your Power company desperately tries to hide pt 2

Yesterday we established how your electricity company could bill you and not have any idea what type of meter you actually have on your property.

So you can see how the errors occur, you may be asking 'don't they read my meter every month and check that?'

The answer is no, they don't. All the meter reader is paid to do is to go out, look at the two meters and return the readings. In fact most meter readers wouldn't be able to tell the meter types apart.

You see meters have serial numbers, but these serial numbers to not link in any way to the type of meter at the property. All the meter readers do is return the readings for a particular set of meter numbers.

Having established that the meter readers won't check this information, who will?
Has your Power Company come out to your property to check the meter?
Have you done it?

The answer is almost certainly no.

The scary thing is if you ring up your electricity company and ASK them to do this they will say either "no" (the answer if you get most of the contact centre staff) or "we could but it would cost you $60.00"
$60 for them to do something any other business would do.
It's obscene and if it didn't cost you money it'd funny.

So how are you going to remedy this? Well Monday we'll explain some of what you can do to see if you are being charged incorrectly.
We'll give you a teaser, if you are in Wellington and have 2 composite meters - you are being screwed.

If you think we're being alarmist remember this - Genesis Energy is visiting EVERY farmer in the country because they have determined that HALF of all farms are being billed incorrectly.
We can assure you that the percentage is the same for residential houses, however the errors with the farmer usually result in the farmers being undercharged. However the errors in residential properties usually result in overcharging.

We'll explain on Monday, this is getting too long!

Minor update - We changed the date & time to reflect NZ time. For some reason it was previously populating with another timezone.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

What your Power company desperately tries to hide...

Yes that's correct, we're discussing what your Power company desperately tries to hide -
Your Power company actually  has NO idea what meter is at your house.  Before we go any further I'll briefly explain why meters matter -
Meters measure the quantity of electricity going through them.
Power companies bill different meters art different rates.  There are a lot of reasons for this, but the simple fact is that different meters are charged different rates.

So you would think that your power company would know what meter is at your property.  The truth is that they don't.
The reason for this is that 90% of the meters in New Zealand are owned by third parties.  The largest of these parties is AMS (advanced meter services) an organisation that doesn't even need its own website.

Almost all electricity retailers have lease arrangements with these third parties for these meters.  This lease arrangement means when you switch electricity companies the meter remains on the site.

However what happens is that your old electricity company passes on the meter information that they hold to the new electricity company.
This information is never checked by the meter owner (i.e. AMS).  And with some retailers they manually process this information.

What this means is if you shift house, lets say you move to 9 Jones Crescent, you call up your retailer, Genesis and say "I've moved to 9 Jones Crescent, please supply my power" the person in the Genesis contact centre will say "certainly, this property is currently supplied by Contact Energy, we can certainly supply you with electricity, but the switching process will take 6-8 weeks".

What happens is that the 'back office' of Genesis Energy will manually write out the details about the property, and send this in an email to Contact energy.  Contact Energy will locate their details about 9 Jones Crescent, and manually send the metering details to Genesis Energy.  Genesis Energy will then manually by hand input these details into their database.

The number of times a mistake is made is HUGE.  The number of times a meter is entered incorrectly and the customer is billed incorrectly is HUGE.  

This post is turning long, so we'll stop it here and continue tomorrow.  Hopefully you can see why the errors are made, tomorrow we'll talk about why these errors are not picked up upon, and what you can do.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Little known fact about your Electricity Companies

You may have heard about the EGCC.  This body resolves all disputes between electricity companies and consumers.  It's a government funded program, and if your electricity company cannot resolve your issue the complaint goes through to the EGCC.

Little known fact - as soon as a complaint is laid with the EGCC your electricity company is charged $5000.00. This money is not refunded.  You read that correctly, your Power company is charged five grand for simply having a complaint unresolved.

So if you have a complaint with your Power Company ask for $4900 or under.  It means that they'll be most anxious to come to an arrangement and save themselves the $5000 charge.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

They are all as bad as each other

Well according to you they are all as bad as each other.  Once you get past the first section of the article you find that the real numbers are "Of the SOEs, Genesis fared worst over that time with the number of electricity customers down 3 per cent or 15,100 to 542,300."
Which means that despite large numbers of customers leaving each electricity company, they also acquire new customers.  
It's like a great big roundabout.  Customers leave one power company disgusted, and go to another, and are equally disgusted and move on.  This is because beneath all of the smooth talk all of the Power Companies charge you an arm and a leg and try desperately to provide you with less and less.  
It doesn't look like it will change at all, the companies are all the same and their prices keep going up and up.  
At the Power Panda we recommend our device as a way to reduce your power bill, as changing power companies just won't do it.  
You can find advice about reducing your electricity bill here  and most of it is very good, but even if you do everything it suggests you are still likely to save less than a Power Panda will save you.  

Monday, November 1, 2010

Because this is the sort of news we pay attention to

Power Company bosses paid too much
That's not what the headline said, but it sure is what most people are going to think.  The difficulty that everybody has is that their power prices have risen, service is still incredibly bad, and yet managers are being paid more for their years work than most people have made in their current role.
It is sad and it is twisted.
It's also something we hear from our customers, they are sick of paying too much for their power and not getting any type of service in return.  One of the most common questions we get is 'What can we do?'
The answer is - stick it to the Power Companies, buy a Power Panda and start slashing your bill.
Just to give you an idea, if every person in Tauranga purchased a Power Panda, Trustpower (the dominant company) would loose $33 million a year.
They'd probably have to pay their management less.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Power Panda blog

Welcome to the blog of the Power Panda.  This is our official blog where we will talk about electricity, saving power, and what we are doing with ourselves.  A few houserules will be in effect -
1) We will post at least 3 times a week.  Check here on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays being the days we are most likely to update.  
2) And we make no bones about this, we are the inventors and retailers of the Power Panda.  So we are biased about our product, we think its fantastic, and we want to sell it.  
3) If you want to talk to us about the Power Panda we suggest you first visit our Frequently Asked Questions and if it isn't answered there we suggest either sending us a contact message or calling us on 0800 72 83 44.  We will try to get to questions asked here, but this isn't really the forum for doing this.