Consumer Watch: More tools to save power

By Susan Edmunds

Extra information would result in savings

Powershop chief Ari Sargent predicts power-saving appliances. Photo / Mark Coote
Powershop chief Ari Sargent predicts power-saving appliances. Photo / Mark Coote

Electricity consumers may soon be able to use online tools to work out the most cost-effective time to use appliances.

Consumer NZ chief executive Sue Chetwin said being able to monitor power use was becoming increasingly important to consumers.

Her organisation has published a survey of electricity providers. Customers were increasingly keen on those that gave in-depth information about power use.

"Access to information is becoming more important. It's hard to turn heating on and off, but people thinking about using the clothes dryer or dishwasher might soon be able to access information so they can use them at periods where there's less demand, or when it's cheaper."

Some power companies offer cheaper rates outside peak times such as the morning and early evening, as well as night rates.

Powershop enables its customers to monitor their use online, and Mercury and Genesis have online tools that go some way towards helping track account activity.

But Chetwin said there was nothing quite intelligent enough yet to show consumers when to use power to save money.

"There are some neat things you can do. Mercury allows you to set targets for yourself ... but how seriously you can affect your power bill is a bit further down the track."

But Powershop chief executive Ari Sargent said consumers did not seem to want to change their behaviour to reduce their bills.

"People feel powerless. If the price of coffee goes up, you drink less, but if the price of power does the same, there's not much you can do."

Sargent said although the industry was moving towards providing more information for consumers, the appliances might beat them to it.

"You'll have a dryer that knows not to come on until 10pm and there are already timers on dishwashers to maximise off-peak periods."

Consumer NZ's survey found 72 per cent of people thought their electricity supplier's performance was good or very good, down from 78 per cent last year.

About 70 per cent of those with accounts with Energy Direct, Energy Online, Powershop and Tiny Mighty Power thought they were getting competitive pricing.

Chetwin said the smaller firms were cornering an increasing part of the market. But the big retailers tended not to do well in surveys.

"The bigger you are, the more people will complain about you."

Genesis rated below-average for pricing and customer service and average for energy-use information and billing.

Mercury also rated below-average for pricing and customer service, but above average for information and average for billing.

Meridian was average on price and billing, and below average on information and customer service.

- Herald on Sunday

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