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New Zealand Innovation Awards: Disruptive & Breakthrough Innovation, Flick Electric Co

And the 2017 winner of the Disruptive & Breakthrough Innovation is... Flick Electric Co!

Power to the people. We’ve all heard the phrase. And, when taken literally, we know it’s a load of bollocks – after all, power companies charging exorbitant rates for electricity is a common bugbear.

The folks behind Flick Electric Co. know this, too – which is why they’ve come up with what they believe is a solution to put control back in the consumer’s hands. 

Launched in 2014, the energy company is different than other electricity retailers in that it prices electricity use based on time-of-day and usage rates – kind of like how Uber prices can differ depending on demand. The company also claims it can save users hundreds of dollars per year by offering them the wholesale or 'spot' price.

As CEO Steve O’Connor told Idealog in 2014: “Retailers smother industry price signals by giving customers a single flat rate. We are unbundling that so customers can see the exact cost of generation, transmission and metering, so they can make decisions.”

He said New Zealanders have never had any other option but to pay a flat, per kWh rate for their electricity. And, to Flick, that grossly limits consumer choice, and was indicative of a stale electricity retail market.

To go a bit more in-depth for how their pricing model works, Flick bills customers per half-hour segment of power used, according to how much generators and transmission companies are charging at that particular time. Users can log in online to see the real-time cost of their power, kind of like a virtual smart meter.

According to O’Connor, who previously worked with Meridian Energy’s Arc Innovations smart metering unit and spent five years as CEO of Creative HQ: “We give customers the online tools to help them understand how they are consuming electricity.”

Flick is still small relative to the major electricity players, but it claimed it was growing faster than any electricity company in 2016. It also topped Consumer NZ’s annual energy retailer customer satisfaction survey and was named its People’s Choice award winner this year.

As the company itself claims: “Our unprecedented approach to selling power has saved our customers over $7 million since August 2014, with average yearly savings of $398 across our 21,000 customers.”

Steve O’Connor.

Evaluator comments:

It's a pleasure to see the impressive progress of Flick! Consumers in New Zealand now have access to wholesale electricity prices as well as the savings and benefits of 'time of use' charging. Flick has been a pioneer in energy and its innovative vision is serving everyday Kiwis well.