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Tiddlers winning electricity customer war

Wednesday 23rd June 2010

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Small-fry new entrants to electricity retailing, Powershop and Pulse Utilities, are showing the strongest customer growth in the latest figures on customers switching power companies from the Electricity Commission.

While the total of 25,986 switches lodged in May is well down on almost 35,000 switches in March, it is still 21% above the same month last year, and the biggest May for switching since 2001.

“Small retailers such as ourselves and Pulse Energy had the highest customer growth in May. Compare these figures with other official data on the companies currently offering the best value prices, and you’ll see the same names appear,” said PowerShop chief executive Ari Sargent, referring to comparisons on the Powerswitch website.

Powershop had the largest gain of any individual retailer, with 1224 new customers making the switch last month, for total customers of 15,478 in May. Pulse had 6096 customers, according to the same EC statistics.

"People are becoming increasingly aware it is small retailers that are currently offering the best deal," Sargent believes. Powershop is an independently run subsidiary of Meridian Energy.

However, Sargent warns power prices will increase and New Zealanders should be vigilant about hunting out the best deal.

“There’s still uncertainty how the emissions trading scheme will impact power prices. Two of the country’s largest power retailers have already announced price increases, which they claim are due to the ETS, but others have kept prices stable until it’s clearer exactly what impact the new carbon emission tax will have on profits.

Electricity prices will rise across the board with the GST increase in October.

The latest Electricity Commission figures record in May that Genesis and its Energy On Line subsidiary had a total of 520,491 electricity customers compared to 550,188 a year earlier, MightyRiverPower brands Mercury and Bosco had 437,076 electricity customers between them, and Meridian had a total of 227,455 customers. TrustPower had 223,800, compared with 229,535 a year earlier.

According to these statistics, Contact had 488,354 customers in May, compared with 491,430 in May 2009.

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