Powershop is about to change how you buy electricity. And it will allow you to do it from your PC, regardless of where you are. The company is a new entrant in the power supply market, providing services in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. The company offers users the freedom to buy electricity based on different values - brand, cost, association.
I first came in contact with Powershop when I was invited to hear about the company during its late "beta" stage, in November 2008. Powershop was active then, mainly providing services to their own team, which was "eating its own dogfood", meaning they were using the system they were creating.
When I first met the team Powershop was about to come out for a closed beta. A couple of weeks after that introduction I switched my power provider to Powershop as part of the beta. Since then the company has launched its service to the public, and you can join their services.
Until now people used to buy electricity in a very simple way: sign a contract with Provider A, and regardless of cost fluctuation, special offers, etc you'd most likely be locked to their price and services.
Enters Powershop. In short the company gives you a web-based dashboard with offers from multiple companies, and you can at any time select your provider. You can even mix and match prices or brands, or prepay for electricity packs for those winter months when you know you will use a bit more.
Just after our first meeting I decided to give the new service a try. So this review is actually my experience of about four three months with Powershop providing electricity to our household.
To start with, switching was easy: find your latest power bill, fill the online form with the required information, and wait for Powershop to contact you with confirmation. Once your account is transferred to Powershop you login to your dashboard and see something like this:
This basically shows your current meter reading, how much units of power you have available on your account, and how many days this is supposed to last - based on your average usage.
Meter readings are conducted the old fasion way, and Powershop receives the information from one of the contract companies that provide this service. But you can update the meter reading yourself, which helps the system calculate your average usage, providing a better forecast.
You can buy power units in two ways: hunting for the best deals, or nominate a default provider. If you have the inclination you can login to Powershop and check all their offers:
You can then decide to buy unit packs based on a variety of factors: price alone, or branding, or association. For example you can buy packs from one company because they have an active carbon offset program and you don't mind paying a cent more for their product. Or you think that unit packs may cost more during winter and one of the suppliers is offering a good price if you buy winter packs now.
When you select unit packs the shopping cart is updated and the calendar automatically changes to reflect how long your new balance will last.
Alternatively you can select one of the providers as your default and you don't have to worry about it - when the meter reading is updated Powershop will automatically charge you for the necessary number of units.
This means you can run your account either as a prepay or postpay, or a mix of the two. Payments are done through credit cards or automatic debit.
You have access to a variety of reports showing your monthy consumption, power cost, and more. All that information that you normally don't get from your brick and mortar power supplier.
Powershop doesn't charge you a daily fee, as other providers do. Instead this is built into the unit costs. In my own experience I've noticed a slight decline in my monthly power costs. If you look the Monthly Purchases report above you will notice a spike - this is because I actually bought winter packs, preparing for the months to come.
The service is backed by Meridian, one of the largest New Zealand-based energy suppliers. And you can even use an on-line calculator to see what kind of savings you would achieve switching to them.
Another thing to consider (although may not impact too much on your decision to swtich), is that Powershop is actually a world's first in terms of online electricity marketplace for consumers.
- You are now free to select which company supplies your power
- Comprehensive set of reports
- Prepay, postpay or mixed accounts on the fly
- Fast and friendly customer support
- A world's first in electricity markets
- The company runs a blog and even a Powershop Twitter account
- Words in unit packs can be confusing (expiry terms and conditions)