Electricity costs 

I’ve just moved to New Zealand – what can I expect to pay for electricity?

This will depend on factors like:

  • the size of your household;
  • how well your home is insulated;
  • how your home and water will be heated;
  • whether someone will usually be at home during the day; and
  • what part of New Zealand you live in.

You can get an idea of how much you might spend over a year, by using an online electricity price comparison site – like the ones we talk about below.

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Can I save money on my power bills by switching to another provider? 

If you answer 5 basic questions on the Electricity Authority's What's My Number website you'll get a quick estimate of how much money you might be able to save by switching to another provider.

You can then go to the Powerswitch website or the Glimp website for more detailed information. Using your current power bill to answer their questions, you’ll be able to estimate your savings and compare a range of pricing plans that might be suitable for you. If you do decide to change your power provider, you can do this through the Powerswitch website. 

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Does it cost anything to change power companies?

Unless you’re on a fixed rate plan, it should be free for you to change power supplier. It's a good idea to ask the supplier you are leaving and the one you are signing up with whether there will be any extra costs, for example a disconnection fee from the old supplier, a bond to pay to the new supplier, or a fee for changing or modifying your meter. 

If you are on a fixed rate plan (where your power is charged at a fixed rate over a fixed term) and you decided to switch power suppliers before the end of the term, you could be charged an “exit” fee. Your contract should specify whether this applies to you, and how much the “exit” fee would be. (Read our answer to Would I be better off on a fixed rate plan?)

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I signed a contract with a new electricity provider but wish I hadn’t – can I cancel?

Unless you signed up to a fixed term with the new provider you should be able to cancel or terminate the contract at any time.

If you do sign up to a fixed term contract (eg for two years) then whether you can cancel the contract early will depend on what it says in the contract about it. You may be charged an early termination fee.

However a five working day cooling off period applies if you sign up with the new provider via an uninvited direct sale. In this situation you can cancel the contract at any time during the five day cooling off period.

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What sorts of discounts do electricity providers offer?

It's well worth finding out from electricity providers whether they have any discounts, or special offers for new customers, for example:

  • a discount on your bill if you pay before the due date, or by direct debit;
  • a discount if you buy two or more types of power from them eg electricity and gas; 
  • members of Grey Power can get a discount if they sign up with Pulse Energy;
  • free electricity for a period of time if you switch to them as a new customer;
  • power used for a small period of time each day is not charged;
  • money is credited to the account of an existing customer if they refer another person to the provider as a new customer.

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Can my power company charge me for power not billed for a long period of time?

Yes they can. You have to pay your bills, whether they arrive on time or not. However it is up to the power company to make sure you get your bills within a reasonable time-frame.

If there is a problem with your bill being really large and you hadn’t received one for a long time, you might be able to negotiate with the power company to pay it bit by bit or perhaps get a discount.

Make sure you ask your power company for your bill if it doesn’t arrive on time, or set some money aside each month to pay for your bill when it does finally get to you. There’s more information on this fact sheet from Utilities Disputes.

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My latest bill is much higher than normal – there must be some mistake. What should I do?

A number of factors could be behind your bill being abnormally high. These include the following:

  • It’s been unusually hot or cold, so that you’ve used cooling or heating appliances more than usual.
  • You’ve had people stay at your home, leading to increases in usage.
  • You have new appliances which use more power e.g. a larger or additional refrigerator.
  • You’ve started keeping your appliances on standby rather than turning them off completely (e.g. computers, televisions).
  • You have appliances which have become more power-hungry due to age or a fault.
  • Your meter had been recording your usage inaccurately (e.g. because it needed fixing or replacing), or your earlier bills have been based on estimates which were too low – so that you have a shortfall to pay when the accurate readings start to be taken.
  • Your previous bills were too low due to a fault with the meter or how it was being read, or because they were based on estimates which were too low.
  • You haven’t been billed for several months (see the previous question) so that when you do receive a bill it is for several months’ usage.
  • The bill includes additional charges e.g. disconnection and reconnection fees.
  • The meter has been read incorrectly.

If you have a high bill which can’t be explained, contact your provider and ask them to look into it. You can also contact them if the high bill is justified but you think you’ll have a problem paying it all at once, or if there’s a fault with the meter or meter reading.

You can read more about this on this Utilities Disputes factsheet.

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What is prepaid electricity and how does it work?

Also known as pay-as-you-go electricity, this is a plan offered by some power suppliers where you pay for your power in advance. It can be a good option for people on low budgets, as it allows them to control how much money is spent on power. However pre-paid electricity can be more expensive than other options.

Exactly how it works will depend on the electricity supplier, but in general: 

  • the power company installs a special meter at your house (they may charge for this)
  • you buy electricity by phone, Internet or through a member retailer
  • depending on your electricity provider, you pay using one of the methods described below:
    • type a PIN onto the meter keypad, 
    • have a smart card which is topped up, eg via debit card, credit card, Internet banking, mobile app or from a member retailer.

Before you decide whether a prepaid electricity plan is right for you, ask the supplier about:

  • their other pricing plans, for example plans for low-usage customers.
  • whether you’ll be able to monitor your power usage (so it’s easy to tell when its time to top up your credit again).
  • what you can expect to happen if you don’t get around to topping up your credit before it expires (they may simply disconnect you, or provide an automatic top-up for you). This is especially important for vulnerable and medically dependent consumers.

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What are some ways to reduce power usage in my home?

You'll find a number of power-saving tips on our sustainable living page and on our Healthy homes and home insulation page.