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A dance with Powershop

Three years ago I penned my first story as a journalism major. I was pretty proud of myself – it was an entirely original idea, stemming from the ads Powershop broadcast around its launch. The final piece was somewhat negative, which I felt bad about – although I got slammed for not making it even more negative or more extreme – and even worse when my tutor told me that my story was referenced on the radio. Crikey.

Anyway, three years on Powershop is still going strong, and five years on, I’m finally getting around to trying it out.

By way of explanation, it’s a subsidiary of Meridian Energy, one of the big providers. However, it’s possibly the single biggest innovation in electricity ever. It’s all about choice and empowerment (ha ha) – and transparency.

The key differences:

  • Upfront, low unit charges. No additional daily fees.
  • You can buy power “on sale”, locking in special prices to score a bargain

Let’s take a walk through the system.

Here’s the landing page. Check out your daily use and how much you’ve got left, or enter a meter read. It’s easy to monitor your use reeeally closely, if you’re so inclined.

The next tab over is where we go shopping. This is the part I like best. Power sales! There are, of course, all the normal products available for purchase at any time. In the middle, packs for the colder season ahead that you can buy now to lock in a good price; Powershop exposes you to the full cycle of unit prices, which are invariably more expensive in winter. Down the bottom, though, are special offers. Click through for more details on each – how much it costs, how many units you get, and when the pack needs to be used by. Deals I’ve scored to date include a special Christmas pack, a cricket win pack, back to work and Friday the 13th discounts at just 18.87, 20.63, 20.12 and 20.18 cents a unit respectively.

Now, I’m not a fan of prepaying for stuff. However, if it means I can get a significant discount, I’ll do it. And more importantly, Powershop will refund unused units from purchased packs. (Caveat: Certain special deals do NOT offer a refund guarantee, so check the details on those).

You don’t have to prepay, however. If you can’t be bothered to proactively seek out deals yourself, then just set a default product and Powershop will keep your account topped up for you as needed (mine is set to the lowest-available price, but you could choose a certain power product, for example, renewable energy, and that’s what will be bought on your behalf). You can pay by credit card if you like (hurrah)!

Onto the My Account tab. Here’s where you can see at a glance what you’ve bought, track your usage more in depth and review trends in prices.

Plus every month, you’ll get an email with a breakdown of your usage, purchases and the like.

Now the kicker: Am I saving money?

I went back to try and figure out exactly what I was paying for power previously.

Look at this for only a small sample of my previous energy provider’s overcomplicated pricing chart #headdesk

From what I can tell, I would have been paying 20.62 cents per unit, including online and prompt payment discounts. Plus a daily charge of 92.48 cents.

Based on a 31-day month and 250kW used overall, I calculate I would have paid $51.55 in usage and  $28.67 in daily charges for a total of $80.22.

Running equivalent factors for Powershop with an average price paid per unit of a flat 20.68 cents (only slightly higher than the other price AFTER its two-tier discount) I come up with a total of $51.72.

Meanwhile, our last two bills were both under $100 – not very different from the bills we would get at our old, much smaller place – despite our usage having increased by what I estimate as much as a third.

For all Powershop’s low pricing, for all the removal of daily charges, I am missing out on the 22 percent online and prompt payment discounts I was getting with Contact. It’s true. But I’m still coming out ahead. Those daily charges wipe out the benefit of the discounts.

This may not be the case so much when it comes to winter and prices increase a little. But I will still know I’m supporting innovation and disruption and consumer choice. It’s a no-brainer.

3 thoughts on “A dance with Powershop

  • Reply Ari Sargent (Powershop) February 21, 2012 at 14:16

    Good to hear you are enjoying Powershop, and equally importantly saving money 🙂

    I vaguely recall the phone call with you when you were researching the article – and don’t worry, we won’t hold the (slightly) negative angle against you, we understand you have a job to do.

    Just a few minor corrections to the information in your post:
    – Powershop is owned by Meridian, not Mercury.
    – We have been in the market 3 years (tomorrow is our 3rd birthday actually), but it does seem more like 5 years sometimes.
    – All of our products we be refunded on expiry.

    Power to the people!

  • Reply eemusings February 22, 2012 at 18:18

    Proof that late night scribbles need heavy subbing. Apparently I can’t even calculate my graduation year.

    Re: unused power – I did note on certain packages that they specified they were use it or lose it – only a few, however.

  • Reply Ari Sargent (Powershop) February 22, 2012 at 20:39

    Haha, I know the feeling. Also, you’re probably right, some products might still specify use-it-or-lose-it. This is a hangover from our early approach. We’ll do a review of all active products to remove this clause as it is no longer correct – we will refund any unused units at the original purchase price.

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