Kimberley Simpson doesn't know how she would survive without coffee. That's fine, but her headaches are caused by the electricity powering her coffee machine and her home.

She lives in Taumarunui and like most in the district, pays two power bills – one from her chosen power company and another to the Lines Company for getting the power to her home.

"I saw the article in the paper about free solar panels and the blurb was 'do you want to get out of the lines company?' and yes I did. Very much so," SImpson said. "Then I thought 'solar, that's a good way to go, no lines coming to the house, so they won't charge me as much'. So that's why I signed up with this company."

Simpson signed up with solar provider Supercharged Energy who offer to install two free solar panels for customers who switch to them for power. It's a deal that's attracted plenty of people, keen to save money on their power bill. But for some customers, like Simpson, it hasn't gone smoothly.


"When I signed up they said in 3 months' time you will get some solar panels, but the entire time with them I never heard about getting the solar panels, so they never eventuated."

She's not the only person to complain. Local Focus has heard from others who have not received panels within the three months, and then found it impossible to make contact with Supercharged Energy.

Simpson says there's also been issues with estimated bill charges from Supercharged Energy who she says took various amounts from her account which were different from the bills they sent her.

Meanwhile, three months passed and Simpson was yet to hear when the panels were to be installed.

Supercharged Energy Director, Richard Homewood says they've been swamped with demand.

"We're installing five free solar systems a day now and we're making our way through our customers as quickly as we can," he said. "If there is anyone out there that has had delays, we're very sorry. We're trying to be with you as quickly as we can.

"At the end of day, when you're bringing something out that's in high demand it's always going to be difficult to get to everyone. But we have every intention of getting to every customer that signs up."

Community advocate Elaine Wheeler became concerned after reading numerous complaints on social media.


"It was all sort of negative so I randomly would message people that were making negative comments and while I didn't always get a response, the many responses I did get, all had negative experience."

Wheeler says she's lodged two complaints with the Commerce Commission.

The Commerce Commission confirms 10 complaints regarding Supercharged Energy have been received.

But some Supercharged Energy customers are not complaining. They've received their panels and are saving money.

Central Park Motor Inn in Taumarunui had 177 panels installed earlier this year - it's an impressive array of panels covering the roof of the motel.

"By the time we get to winter next year we will have made enough power so our power will be bugger all next winter," owner John Bowring said. "But we still have to pay the Lines Company bill you see. During the day it's fine because you're not getting power in, but at night, you need power - the sun's off."

There were a few initial teething issues but for Bowring, it was worth it.

"You've got to give people a chance, got to give them a go. If you don't want to give them a go then forget it, go away and pay your power bill and your lines bill - and suffer."

Another person willing to give Supercharged Energy a chance is Ruapehu District councillor Jacques Windell. He chairs the local Ratepayers Association and is also a contract salesman for Supercharged Energy, and he too is waiting for solar panels for his house.

"What happened is one CEO is running two companies. [He's] overstretched. There's been teething problems because they got into the retail side of the business. They have never been in retail before so things take time.

"I'm confident they will roll it out, it's just a matter of time before people will get their solar."

Windell says he's as frustrated as others, but his inside knowledge gives him hope.

"I can understand why it's taken so long but it's still not acceptable and I have put a lot of pressure on the two partners one in Ozzie, one here to say 'come on guys, we need to get this done,' and they are."

While two solar panels won't provide enough electricity for a consumer to go off-grid, Homewood says it is a start.

"What we're trying to do is give people an introduction, so they can get into the solar market without having to spend any money," he said. "It's really getting people on a saving journey.

"They can start in at a low rate, low power rate panels for free, no obstacle. Once they see the panels, they save some money and they have a chance to finance more panels and drop their power rate as well."

Once Supercharged Energy has installed the panels, customers are locked in for ten years or must pay a $3,000 break fee.

It's an unusual deal, but with a lack of information and contact from the company, some customers feel they've been left with no option but to get out.

Simpson cancelled her contract and with help from the Utilities Disputes tribunal got a $26 refund – enough for a few coffees she says.

And she's still keen to explore ways to save money on her power bill.

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