High wholesale power prices saw Flick Electric's customer base drop to a 15-month low in November.

The firm, 70-per cent owned by Z Energy, supplied just under 21,500 customers on Nov. 30 – down about 1,400 last month and down almost 3,500 during the past two months. The latest count is the lowest for the firm since August 2017, according to Electricity Authority data.

The company, formed to sell power on a spot electricity price-based model, has been offering to fix customers' prices for six months to shield them from the prolonged spate of high prices.

Wholesale power prices jumped in October when repair work at the Pohokura gas field reduced fuel supplies for generators at a time when South Island lake levels were low and declining. Hydro storage rebounded in November, but the on-going Pohokura outage, planned generation outages, repair work on the Maui pipeline and Transpower's high-voltage link across Cook Strait, and weak wind production conspired to keep prices high.

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That continued this month, despite full production resuming from Pohokura, the country's biggest gas field, on December 11. Power prices jumped on Thursday when Genesis Energy's gas-fired 400 MW E3p plant tripped off – the day after it returned from a six-week maintenance shutdown. Prices jumped again on Friday when one of the firm's coal-fired units tripped off.

The Electricity Authority is currently investigating a complaint from Flick, Electric Kiwi, Pulse Energy, Vocus Group and Vector that power prices have been unreasonably high and that the lack of disclosure by major generators and the inability to buy affordable hedge contracts has harmed the country's independent power retailers. A decision on the complaint is expected by the end of February.

Electric Kiwi and Vocus led the gainers last month, each adding close to 1,600 customers to their books. Meridian Energy's Powershop business was the next best performer.

The main losers were Mercury NZ, Flick, Genesis and Contact Energy.

- BusinessDesk