Just as soaring electricity prices have made Australia a prime target market for disruptive energy technologies like rooftop solar and battery storage, so have they attracted disruptive business models.
Companies like the New Zealand-owned online energy retailer, Powershop, have found great success on Australian shores, attracting a multitude of disaffected and tech-savvy electricity consumers looking for a way to take the power back.
This week, reports have emerged that yet another New Zealand start-up, Flick Electric, is eyeing the Australian market, to launch its own digital platform that, basically speaking, strips the business of electricity retailing bare.
As Smart Company explains, Flick customers are given access – via the Flick app – to a platform detailing all costs involved in their energy purchase: the cost of generation, wholesaling, distribution of the energy, the meter costs and the service fee that goes to Flick.
The app also users decide when to consume and when to switch off, and finally – but perhaps most importantly – gives them access to the wholesale price from the spot market.
And it has had significant success, attracting more than 10,000 customers across New Zealand in less than two years and growing the company by 37 per cent a month throughout 2015.
Right now, Flick is in the midst of a capital raising that will be used, partly, to progress its plans to cross the Tasman, which it says would most likely involve finding a local company to partner with.
“As a retailer we’d probably find partners and whether that’s licensing our platform or joint ventures with partners, we would want to find people that understand the Australian market and we would focus on delivering a platform that delivers that differentiation and value in the market,” Flick Electric CEO Steve O’Connor told Smart Company.
“The New Zealand industry is strewn with companies that have tried to come into the energy industry and beat the big guys but the challenge is most of them realised they were just putting a model in place that was just trying to beat the big guys at their own game,” he said. “And you’re not going to beat them at scale because they’ve already got that.
“We decided to get Flick off the ground because we believed, using our own smart technology and digital platform aligned with smart meters, you could honestly … give consumers full transparency in the choices they make, you can give them choice and control, and you could engage with them and they could actually start valuing the product again.
“It builds the level of trust with customers that we, being the retailer, are not just absorbing these costs … we’re telling you exactly what we’re taking,” he said.
“So if we put our price up, it’s really obvious. If the rest of the industry needs to put its prices up, it’s obvious. Sometimes the prices actually fall and retailers traditionally haven’t passed that on, whereas with us, it flows straight through to the customer.”
One giving customers access to real time market pricing, O’Connor says this is partly to remind customers there is not “just infinite energy resources.”
Flick customers can also get a running tally of their bill, receive notifications if their electricity bill is getting close to pre-set thresholds, and access information about how the energy they are purchasing is made.
According to O’Connor, all this is saving Flick’s NZ customers an average of 19 per cent or $NZ412 a year. Australia, watch this space.