FAQs

About Powerswitch

Powerswitch is a free and independent service that helps you find the most cost-effective power company and pricing plan for your household.

Powerswitch is run by Consumer NZ, an independent, non-profit organization established in 1959. Consumer is dedicated to ensuring a fair deal for New Zealanders and has been offering its free Powerswitch service for the past 25 years.

Most of Powerswitch’s funding comes from the Electricity Authority (EA), the independent Crown entity responsible for regulating our electricity industry. The EA gets funding through levies it places on electricity industry participants.

The remaining funding for Powerswitch comes from switching fees. Electricity retailers pay a fee of $61 when someone switches to them through our site.

We also get a small amount of funding from Gas Industry Co and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

Using Powerswitch

No, Powerswitch is not intended for commercial use and should not be used for businesses, clubs, lodges, schools, or other non-residential situations. Powerswitch is designed to help domestic households compare power options.

Powerswitch helps you compare prices for your main home. If you're using it for a secondary residence – say your holiday house – some prices listed on Powerswitch may not be available. This is because some retailers only offer low-user pricing plans for primary residences.

The power providers can let you know which rates you're eligible for.

Powerswitch only works for residential dwellings that have their own electricity meter.

Most domestic residences have their own meter. However, there are some situations – typically in some apartment complexes or retirement villages – where a group of dwellings share a single electricity meter. In these communal situations, one electricity provider supplies power to multiple dwellings, meaning residents can't each choose their provider.

We use the electricity and gas usage details you provide to estimate your annual consumption. Then, using this annual estimate, we compare the various pricing plans available at your location.

Every home with an electricity meter has a unique 15-digit Installation Control Point (ICP) number assigned to it. Your ICP number gives electricity providers technical details about how your dwelling is connected to the electricity network. When switching power companies, you’ll need your ICP number to ensure your electricity supply is correctly identified.

Powerswitch uses your ICP number to determine which power plans are available for your residence.

Powerswitch may be unable to match your address to one specific ICP. If Powerswitch can’t automatically match your address to a specific ICP, you can manually enter your ICP number.

ICP numbers are usually located near the top of power bills. Alternatively, you can find your ICP number using the My Meter tool.

Powerswitch asks you to identify typical appliances and types of heating your household uses. With this information, Powerswitch calculates how much electricity and gas your home uses for heating and hot water.

The Powerswitch algorithm adjusts the assumed energy usage based on factors like location, the type of hot water system you have, and how you heat your home in winter. It also considers the period your energy usage information covers. For example, if you gave your consumption information for February, it would assume this does not include heating because it was during summer.

Powerswitch estimates your annual energy usage based on typical households of a similar size and the following assumptions.

  • Daytime usage: We assume your heating energy usage will be lower if your house is vacant during the day versus occupied.

  • Water heating: We make assumptions about your energy consumption based on how your water is heated. For example, a continuous hot water system has no standing loss, a hot water heat pump is assumed to be twice as efficient as a cylinder only, solar hot water heating is more effective in summer (but still works to a lesser extent in winter), and a wetback reduces winter use only if your primary heating is from the fire. We also assume that households generally consume more hot water in winter.

  • Home heating: We ask you to identify the main heating method for your home as well as up to two additional sources. We assume most of your electricity consumption comes from your primary heating source, with the remaining portion evenly distributed between any additional sources. If you have a heat pump, we decrease the electricity amount assumed for heating.

  • Location: Where you live is crucial to your usage, and we adjust the assumed heating energy requirements according to the average monthly temperatures for your region.

    Your location also helps us factor in winter months, a time when we assume you’re heating your home. For most areas, we consider your winter months from April to September. However, we vary the assumed winter period for households in the far north of the North Island, the central North Island, and the deep south of the South Island.

Powerswitch uses a few assumptions to figure out annual electricity costs for each pricing plan option you are eligible for.

Energy use categories

We divide your estimated annual electricity consumption over three usage categories and apply the appropriate rate of each pricing plan to each group where possible.

  1. Hot water heating.

  2. Space heating.

  3. General use (everything else, for example, lighting, cooking, and appliances).

Daytime and nighttime rates If a plan has day and night rates, we base costs on 72% of the power at the day rate and 28% at the night rate. Where the night rate covers the weekend, the split between day and night is 51% and 49%.

Summer and winter rates

For pricing plans that offer different summer and winter rates, the winter rate applies to your assumed consumption from May to September. Note: this is a month less than the April to September period assumed by Powerswitch in its annual consumption calculations. Consequently, a portion of electricity used for heating is billed at the summer rate.

Things we don’t consider

Powerswitch doesn't include rebates from community-owned trusts, line companies, or dividends paid by power companies in its calculations.

We work closely with retailers to ensure we have a complete list of plans on Powerswitch. But if your plan is not listed, please let us know.

The plans on Powerswitch are known as “Generally Available” plans; retailers market these plans all consumers.

However, some plans are not “Generally Available” because:

  • some retailers will, from time to time, make special offers to selected customers

  • some retailers have plans that they only make available to their existing customers who meet specific eligibility criteria.

Some retailers are not included on Powerswitch because their services are not open to the general public. These retailers offer plans exclusively to specific groups or for particular living situations. For instance, “Grey Power Electricity” provides plans exclusively to members of the Grey Power New Zealand organization, and “Bosco Connect” only serves electricity to a select number of apartment buildings.

See participating retailers.

Reticulated natural gas is only available in the North Island. The South Island relies on bottled LPG almost exclusively, which is why Powerswitch does not currently include gas or dual fuel options for the South Island.

No, due to the variations between providers and locations, it’s not currently practical to include bottled LPG prices in our comparisons. However, you can still choose bottled LPG as a heating source, which will exclude the LPG part of your usage and give you a representative electricity comparison.

Powerswitch can estimate your electricity usage, or you can enter your usage using information from your power bill for a more precise comparison. To do this, add the start and finish dates of your billing period and how much power you consumed during this time. If you have multiple meters on your plan, enter the usage for each meter separately.

Sometimes, we ask about a meter that does not appear on your power bill. You should put "0" in the box (this is because with some companies if you have not used any power, they do not print the details on your bill).

For a more accurate result on Powerswitch, it's better to enter a longer consumption period. You can do this by adding up your power usage from consecutive bills. Just make sure to use the start date from the first bill and the finish date from the last bill, and include every bill from this period.

Powerswitch will ask you to choose your current pricing plan from a dropdown list on the bill details page. While some retailers include the plan name on your power bill, many don't. Additionally, some retailers may use different names on bills than what they've told Powerswitch.

If you can't find your plan name on the bill, or it doesn't match the options on Powerswitch, select "I don't know" from the dropdown list or compare the tariffs from the available options to find your plan.

Electricity retailers are not obligated to present the unit price of electricity on bills. Some display rates that exclude GST, while others include it. Similarly, the inclusion or separation of the Electricity Authority (EA) levy varies among retailers.

For effective plan comparisons on Powerswitch, we ensure uniformity by displaying all retailer prices inclusive of GST, which aligns with the approach of most retailers. However, if your specific retailer opts for a different method, the unit prices on your bill may differ from those shown on Powerswitch, even though the overall costs are the same.

The Electricity Authority (EA) is an independent Crown entity responsible for overseeing and regulating New Zealand’s electricity market. It sets the rules for the electricity sector and is funded through a levy on industry participants, including electricity retailers. This levy also supports electricity efficiency programs by the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA).

Electricity retailers pass on the levy to consumers, which makes up around 0.4% of an average household's electricity bill.

The type of plan displayed in your results depends on your current plan. For instance, your Powerswitch results will show other controlled plans if you select that you are currently on a controlled plan.

If you do not select a current plan, you will get plan types based on your profile, considering factors like whether you have an electric hot water cylinder or a night store heater. Powerswitch will show you the most common plan types in your region for households with similar profiles. Note the most common plan type varies from region to region.

The Powerswitch cost estimates include:

  • GST

  • Electricity Authority levies

  • daily fixed charges (sometimes called lines charges)

  • the cost of estimated electricity consumed

  • metering charges

  • any ongoing discounts, such as prompt payment and dual-fuel discounts.

Any benefit or discount needs to be ongoing to be included in the Powerswitch cost estimate calculation. We do not include any one-off benefits, such as one-off joining credits, or the value of incentives, such as “free” appliances like fridges or TVs. This is because we do cost estimates annually. Most consumers stay with a retailer for more than one year, so if we included one-off benefits, our estimate would not be accurate for subsequent years.

Note there may be discounts and fixed-term prices that are not publicly available, so do not appear on Powerswitch.

Your electricity bill includes fixed and variable charges. Fixed charges (also known as lines charges) cover the power lines delivering electricity to your home and stay the same daily, regardless of usage. Variable charges vary based on your electricity consumption.

Electricity retailers must provide low-user plans with low fixed daily charges that are capped at a set amount. However, these plans come with higher variable rates for electricity usage. Standard user plans work the opposite way, with higher fixed charges but lower variable rates.

Low-user plans are generally best for those using less than 8,000kWh per year or 9,000kWh in the lower South Island (all areas south of and including Christchurch but excluding the West Coast). If you exceed this usage, a standard-use plan will be more cost effective.

It's crucial to be on the right plan to avoid paying more than you need to. Retailers should inform you annually if switching to a low or standard plan would be beneficial.

Low-user plans are currently being phased out. Electricity retailers will no longer be required to offer them from 1 April 2027.

The Low Fixed Charge Tariff regulations were introduced in 2004 to reduce power bills for low-use, low-income households. However, they have had mixed results. While they helped some low-use households, they inadvertently caused greater energy hardship for others, especially larger low-income families with high electricity use. The regulations also added complexity and confusion for consumers.

Following the independent Electricity Price Review recommendations, the government decided to phase out these regulations in September 2021. The phased approach over 5 years aims to mitigate the impact of rising fixed charges on most low-use households.

The regulations set the maximum allowed fixed charge on low-user electricity plans. During each year of the 5-year phase-out, the maximum fixed daily charge will increase by 30 cents. This gradual increase, initiated on 1 April 2022, is designed to minimize the impact on households previously benefiting from a discounted fixed charge.

The phase-out will be completed by 1 April 2027. The maximum fixed daily charges in each year of the phase-out are detailed below.

Maximum allowable low fixed lines charges:

  • Prior to 1 April 2022: 30 cents per day

  • From 1 April 2022: 60 cents per day

  • From 1 April 2023: 90 cents per day

  • From 1 April 2024: $1.20 per day

  • From 1 April 2025: $1.50 per day

  • From 1 April 2026: $1.80 per day

  • From 1 April 2027: Electricity retailers are no longer required to offer customers a low fixed charge option.

Switching process

Clicking “Switch” on Powerswitch doesn't immediately change your provider; this action signals your interest to the retailer but doesn't commit you to the change. You can reconsider anytime before confirming with a new retailer or plan.

When you choose to switch using Poweswitch, we tell the retailer in one of two ways. With the first method, we ask you to provide additional details, which we then email to the retailer along with your chosen plan. A representative will contact you based on your preferred contact method. The second method automatically takes you to the retailer's website, where you can sign up online or gather more information.

Your switching process depends on how the retailer handles enquiries from potential new customers.

Switching providers typically takes 3 to 4 days. The switch will only occur once you have entered into a formal agreement with your new supplier, and you can change your mind anytime up until that point.

Definitely not! There are strict regulations for essential services like electricity provision. The only exception may be a rare instance when a meter change is necessary. In such cases, your new retailer might need to briefly interrupt the power, but it would contact you and agree on a time in advance.

Switching itself is free of charge. Nevertheless, it's advisable to ask your current and new retailers about any potential associated costs. For instance, your existing retailer may impose fees for disconnecting without adequate notice, breaking a fixed-term contract prematurely, or arranging a special meter

read. Additionally, check with your new retailer to see if you need to pay a bond.

Generally, no. All electricity retailers use the same power line network to deliver electricity to your house. However, in rare instances, your meter may require modification to switch to a different plan. Any necessary changes would be discussed and arranged by your new provider.

There are around 1.95 million households in New Zealand. The more households that shop around for electricity on a regular basis, the more pressure there is on electricity retailers to offer competitive pricing.

In almost all instances, switching electricity retailers will not impact the lines rebate, and any consumer savings will be in addition to the annual rebate entitlement.

However, an exception applies to certain Mercury customers in Tauranga City or Western Bay of Plenty District who may forfeit their Tauranga Electricity Consumer Trust (TECT) rebate upon switching. Find out more about the TECT rebate.

Find out more about network rebates.

If you currently pay your power bill through direct debit and plan to switch retailers, you must inform your bank and cancel your direct debit with the existing retailer by contacting them through phone, email, or written communication.

Only cancel your direct debit after settling your final bill unless you intend to use an alternative payment method for your final bill. To continue paying by direct debit with the new retailer, you must complete a new direct debit form.

Yes, each retailer has its own terms of supply that customers must agree to. A link to these can be found on the retailer page.

No, a retailer does not have to accept new customers. It is entirely up to the retailer. However, if a retailer has started the formal switching process to accept you as a customer, it cannot withdraw the switch because it has changed its mind.

Time of use and spot pricing

Most electricity retailers charge a fixed rate, where you pay the same amount regardless of when you use electricity. Retailers buy electricity from the New Zealand wholesale market, where prices change every half hour based on supply and demand, known as the spot price. The spot price can fluctuate significantly, being higher during high-demand periods (when higher cost sources of generation are required) and lower during low-demand periods.

Some retailers offer spot price plans, where the price you pay varies according to the spot price. While this type of plan can offer savings during low spot prices, there are risks, as higher spot prices may result in higher costs than fixed-rate contracts.

Before choosing a spot price contract, consider if you can budget for varying monthly bills, adapt usage during higher-priced periods, and temporarily reduce consumption during peak prices. Monitoring power usage and spot prices using online tools or mobile apps provided by retailers can be beneficial. The WITS website also allows monitoring of current and forecast spot prices across the country.

Time-of-use (ToU) plans are like spot price plans in that the price of electricity changes according to when you use it. However, unlike spot price plans that change every half hour, ToU plans divide the day into distinct periods such as peak, off-peak/shoulder, night, and weekend, each with a fixed rate. Peak periods incur higher rates, while off-peak periods offer lower rates.

Similar to spot price plans, ToU plans provide cost benefits if you use power outside peak demand times — typically in the morning and when you return home in the evening. During off-peak periods and weekends, electricity rates are either cheaper or, in some cases, free.

Retailers

The number of active retailers varies by region, with approximately 40 retail brands across New Zealand. However, most of these are small with limited customer bases. Notably, 98% of New Zealand consumers are served by one of the 12 large retailers, and 80% are customers of the top 6. The retailers with plans listed on Powerswitch represent about 97% of the residential retail market.

The availability of your retailer depends on your new location, as some retailers only operate in specific regions. When moving, use Powerswitch to assess the options at your new address and determine if they remain the most suitable power provider for your needs.

No. Although the physical power is the same, the prices charged by different retailers can vary significantly. If you’re in a typical household, switching to the cheapest retailer in your area can save you, on average, around $350 per year.

Utilities Disputes provides a free service that deals with complaints from consumers regarding electricity and gas retailers. In the first instance, you should raise your complaint directly with your retailer. If your issue is not resolved to your satisfaction, you can approach Utilities Disputes.

We recommend you formally communicate your complaint with your retailer via letter or email, clearly marking it as a "formal complaint". Typically, the retailer should address and resolve complaints within 20 working days. If the issue persists beyond this period, or the company hasn't communicated valid reasons for an extension, you should contact Utilities Disputes.

Smart meters

A smart meter is an electronic meter that can record more regular and accurate electricity consumption information and has two-way remote communication capability.

The rollout of smart meters is currently at no extra cost to consumers unless additional work is required, for example, if work is needed at your meter box or switchboard to make it safe.

For more information on smart meters see the Electricity Authority website.

No, but in contracts with consumers, retailers almost always reserve the right to replace meters at their discretion. This means that refusing to allow the installation of a smart meter may be a breach of your electricity contract.

You may be able to switch to a retailer that does not require smart meters or has less restrictive contract terms.

If you are concerned, to check its meter requirements.