Friday, February 11, 2011

Transpower and outages

The New Zealand Herald had an article with Transpower talking about power outages

The first point that the article (and the referenced report) make is that consumers could start ensuring less outages in their electricity. 

What the proposal is that consumers will essentially start putting big electric batteries on their houses so that in short outages this battery could feed (some) of the house.  It's an old idea but new technology is bringing down this cost of this.  Certain things already do this (such as UPS for computers). 

It's often been the size that the electricity battery (and the cost of producing it).  Several years ago to do this you would need a box almost the size of a car motor to run your house for five minutes. 

Hopefully in 10-20 years it will reduce the size of this to a small box able to run the house for 15-30 minutes. 

If you think your power company will install these you're probably dreaming.  In fact Transpower says

"It is often more cost-effective for the customer to bear the cost of very infrequent outages or take other measures to compensate for the grid's temporary unavailability."

The problem (in some ways) is that NZ has a very geographically sparce population.  There is more Km of line per person (particularly in farming communities) than other countries.  This means that there are more lines to maintain and the cost of doing this is large. 

We'll talk about the cost in another post, but it's interesting that the cost of electric batteries is substantially reducing.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Bonds and Genesis Energy

Most Power Companies charge a bond if you are a new customer.  This bond varies in amount, but by way of example Genesis Energy has a bond of $150 for electricity and $200 for electricity and gas. 

The idea of a bond is that if you leave without fully paying your power bill the bond will cover most of it.  Although in reality people who do not pay their power bill frequently don't pay their bond either. 

This expence of a bond is something to consider when moving power companies. (And when moving house).  For example Mercury requires all moving customers to undergo a credit check and if this is unsatisfactory, they charge a bond. 

Also it is worth investigating when a bond can be waived.  For example Gensis Energy will waive the bond if you say you are the home owner.  (Incidently they will never actually check if you are the home owner, they just take your word for it.)  They will also remove the bond if you set up a direct debit to pay the account. 

So do not accept the bond being added, ask your electricity company when it will be removed, and in what circumstances they can waive it.  Hopefully they will provide you with an answer that means you do not have to pay the bond.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Again with Mercury Energy's Fixed price of electricity

We've looked at some implications of Mercury Energy's fixed price offer both here and here

We thought we'd do a little bit more investigating for you (the reader) as our posts about Mercury Energy's fixed price offer have been incredibly popular. 

So we nominated our lawyer to call the Mercury contact centre.  He reports as follows:

"I spent eight minutes waiting on the phone to speak with someone.  I didn't think that this was good enough.  I called mid afternoon on a friday because I know that this is when the waiting times are the smallest.  Eight minutes at peak demand is not good enough.
I then spoke with somone who was English second language and she had to transfer me.  I then spoke with a Divina who was very polite and said she couldn't help and would have to get someone to give me a call back.  She said within 30 seconds.  A Tanya gave me call back in 67 seconds.  (Yes I was counting). 

A few things were interesting :
There is a termination fee of $150 if you cancel the contract early.  This fee stays the same irrespective of if you cancel in the first month or the last. 
This $150 fee applies if you switch away from Mercury for any reason, or if you leave the country.  The implication was that if you died it would not be charged.  Very nice of Mercury. 
The offer was only for "special and valued customers" which Tanya agreed was anyone who paid their bills consistantly. 
You can go on the fixed term plan even if you are vulnerable, or medically dependent
If you are wanting to switch to Mercury apparantly they will not offer you these prices. 
Tanya said that in the past three years that electricity has risen 18-20%.   So a power company has said that their average price rise is 6-7% a YEAR.  Whilst she would not say it outright, she implied that these price rises would continue. " 

Based on that it's all very interesting information.  Be careful of that breakfee.  Are you wanting to commit to staying in NZ for three years?  It's also really interesting the implication that Mercury are expecting price rises of 18-20% in the next three years.  Look at your $250 power bill, in three years that will be a $300 power bill. 

Hopefully that this has answered some questions about Mercury Energy's fixed price offer. 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Power Bills set to rise by 8pc in March

We may have been a bit optimistic when we said that power prices increase in April and September, because this year the increases will occur in March (although they may only show on your April bill). 

The large electricity companies are all increasing their prices, and the NZ Herald has the headline of 8pc

This will keep happening.  Power prices are only going to go up and really the only thing you can do is to keep your electricity usage down.  (We of course recommend our Power Panda products)

High points from the article are that Mercury is increasing prices for 200,000 customers by 3.5%.  These customers are in the Auckland area, and almost certainly in the same area as the Genesis customers we previously mentioned.  (Meaning it's a lines company rise).  This price rise will occur on 1 April. 

It's the 246,000 Contact Energy customers who will see the large rise.  6-8% dependent on your area.  These price rises occur in every area except Hamilton and Dunedien.  Obviously Contact feels it can simply charge more.  These rises occur in March. 

The herald quotes a Mercury customer as saying (like most people) its a "swindle".  I wonder what the Contact customer's think. 

We at the Power Panda are not suprised, and we expect further rises as the year goes on (particularly in September).