marsden_online: (Default)
Copy of my farewell note to Powershop, after paying my final balance this evening.
~~~
Dear Powershop,

alas the time has come when we have to part ways. It was inevitable - I was always going to be graduating to my own solar generation one day and as far as I am aware your model just does not support feeding /into/ the grid just yet.

It's been great being with you for the past 5 years. The day-to-day energy reporting you brought into my life would have been worth more but as promised you also reduced my electricity bill significantly, and never let a month go past without some surprise or special. Although I am leaving you here, I shall continue to enthusiastically recommend you to my energy-conscious friends and acquaintances.

Don't miss me too hard though - I'm only going as far as your parental unit Meridian. So it's possible in days to come some small amount of my power will flow to or through you. Who knows, if my dreams of a solar-covered suburb or city ever come true I might be able to return one day as part of a generator.

Yours with fondness,
[Marsden]
marsden_online: (Blueknight)
Normally the news that a company like energy efficiency and insulation business Right House has gone into liquidation would pass through my radar with just a moment to pause in sadness for those whom have just lost their livelihoods. However this time there is an indirect personal connection - it was a telemarketing call from Right House house and the following obligation-free quote which made me decide that then was the time to start the ball rolling on actually getting grid connected solar installed here.

The first step of course was googling up solar installers in NZ and sending off for more quotes. when it came down to it though two I already had bookmarked gave the best results. A shout out here to CPS Solar (Canterbury based) who provided a lot of useful information and food-for-thought in our conversation. Definitely consider them.

My choice though has gone to Solar City despite the fact they they were the tardiest in replying to my enquiry. I'd like to write a bit about why.

First off is their innovative Solar Care offering. For $0 or $1000 down they will install panels on your house and sell you the electricity generated for a fixed monthly cost for the next 20 years. (You then use or sell excess power into the grid.) This effectively locks in the cost to you of that much power for the next 20 years, and the contract is set so that the cost-per-unit is probably lower than you are being charged now.

Personally I think projects like this are what the major generators should be doing, to conserve hydro and fossil-fuel (ugh) generation for night time and winter use. But of course they don't make money by providing people with cheap power :-/

I was almost sold on this, it works out very well for both the homeowner (who gets rapid access to solar without massive expenditure or worries about insurance, monitoring etc of the panels) and for the company who get regular cashflow (instead of constantly having to chase new installations) and to depreciate the value of the solar panels on their books :). Had I investment properties I would be having Solar Care systems installed ASAP. Any of my home-owning/paying-off friends I strongly recommend taking a look.

However the desire and years of expecting to outright own the installation asserted itself and I was unable to bring myself to deviate that far from the plan. What actually sold me on a fixed install from Solar City installation was not the price but the opportunity to become involved with / contribute to a new initiative they are setting up with the University of Otago to (quoting the flyer)
Conduct a comprehensive study into household and commercial solar energy use, to better inform and guide the nation towards a 100% renewable energy future.

(As a bonus, "Customers will have the opportunity to beta test new technologies in the energy efficiency and solar space." Eh-heh-heh ...)

This will involve a period of monitoring before the installation which is fine because for me "starting the ball rolling" on a project like this means I have a 12-18 month horizon in view for actually affording and completing it. This is something I make clear of my requests for quotes but find a lot of companies have difficulty with - and their pressure (and oft-times effectively bribes) to commit sooner is something which I find distinctly off-putting.

Companies, I am (charitably) sure that you are genuinely interested in making sure your customers get good value for money but if you want my custom please do me the courtesy of understanding that I know and understand my own values, finances and finance options and that I am not undertaking such a large project on the spur of the moment. If I am not the typical customer in this, well that is simply a sad observation on today's society.

Another issue where I have struggled to reach common ground with all the companies I have talked to is my desire to install more generation capacity than is "economically efficient" for me. (The generators don't pay a terrific amount for home-solar production fed into the grid and these tariffs have only been dropping.) The concept that I might have broader, non-economic goals like future-proofing the amount of generation on my roof (nominally economic), or happily working towards overall lower power prices for everyone else by feeding cheap power into the grid and setting an example for wider home generation is completely foreign.

(I've had to temporarily throw in the towel on that one, but the system I am getting is eminently extensible at a later date by the addition of more panels and micro-inverters.)

~~~
Speaking of finance options this entire post / mini-rant was actually triggered by a quote from the Right House article.
But the business had not had the demand for their services, from home insulation to energy advice, that it had hoped for, Fisk said.
"I think that has been influenced by whether people are getting offer subsidies to insulate their houses," Fisk said.
The company failure may seem "counter-intuitive" when there is a housing boom especially in Christchurch and Auckland, he said.
Asked if the government cuts to home insulation subsidies in 2013 had affected Right House, Fisk said he believed it had "some effect".

Now this is a Stuff article so don't assume that quote from the liquidator (probably not yet familiar with the company finances) is entirely in context. It's obviously being played a bit by the reporter and as such I believe it reflects a wider feeling that the only reason people might be interested in getting into solar (and more broadly other technologies) is the money. That's a meme I'd really like to squish out of society's group consciousness because there are so many wider possibilities once you broaden your view from what is purely best for the individual.

[tangent]For example Christchurch (City Council) is currently looking at painful rates rises and having to privatise some of it's utility assets to afford the costs of the earthquake rebuild foisted on us by the national government. But we could build a new asset as a (somewhat seasonal) electricity generator right alongside the rebuild to offset some of that cost if only by generating some of the power required. I think most households and businesses would be happy to have some council-owned panels on their roof in exchange for the promise of lower rates increases (or the offset in lower electricity costs).[/tangent]

It is true that for the majority of homeowners (unlike well-privileged, mortgage-free, no-dependants self) the availability of subsidies will probably have a significant impact on the affordability calculations. (And part of the genius of Solar Care is how it simplifies that calculation.) It is good business for eg. an installer to point out the available options which may make what they are selling more affordable.

[aside]If you have a mortgage with Kiwibank also check out their Sustainable Energy Loan (link not guaranteed to be current).[/aside]

But I don't believe it is broadly good that our consumerist, buy now (worry about paying later) culture tries to rush people into accelerating financial plans that should be taken time over and focuses on the monetary payback value of long-term purchases to the detriment of other values. And just like if your business relies on the government topping up your employees wages because you don't pay them enough to live; if your business relies on pressuring people into making financial decisions for cashflow perhaps you should take a hard look at how sustainable it / its growth path really is. When I look at who I give significant amounts of my actually-earned money to, you better believe I'm taking that into account. Often it is through [your business'] salespeople that I have the most direct experience of that.

[aside]No I'm not a fan of commission sales, why do you ask?[/aside]

~~~
Disclaimer: this has not been any sort of solicited promotion and I have no connection (yet) to any of the mentioned companies except as outlined above. (Haven't even signed and returned the quote.) :p
marsden_online: (Blueknight)
A bit over a month ago I changed electricity companies, moving to PowerShop from Meridian.

As I said at the time the move was not because of price, but because whatever their usage-reporting, it's bound to be light years ahead of what Meridian provide.

So how has it stacked up? Well, my (smart) meter is now read daily just after midday and the data is visible in my online control panel the next day (except at weekends it seems). I can also download it if I wanted to perform more in-depth analysis.

How pretty? This pretty.

1. Smoothed data (I don't find this display particularly useful yet, but I have to drill past it to get to the good stuff)(please note it has a different vertical scale to the other two images)
Smoothed power use 22 December to 22 January

2. Unsmoothed daily power usage (for each preceding 24-hour period)
Daily power use 22 December to 22 January

3. Daily power use by meter register (Night use, Weekday day and Weekend Day)
Per register power use 22 December to 22 January

This last one is the most interesting until it's possible to meaningfully compare longer time periods. See those occasional big spikes in night use? That's when I have the hot water cylinder turned on. Smaller spikes tend are either myself or [livejournal.com profile] zakzahn staying up late (early) playing computer games.

Hitting the power button on the TV (not leaving it on standby) also saves about a unit per night (and the same during the day). From a power saving perspective just being able to look at this information is a powerful motivator for remembering to turn things off when they're not in use (I'm particularly bad at leaving the TV going & wandering off).

So am I saving money? So far - the first month cost a little more than half what I would have expected to be paying Meridian. BUT of course Powershop doesn't have the annual price averaging that the other companies do, the cost fluctuates based on the spot market and there is currently a surplus of generation capacity / prices are at their summer low. In winter I may yet wind up paying more (I'm not pre-purchasing for that period - this year), in 12 months time I'll decide if the savings are real.

The 20% discount on weekend power which was another sweetener for moving only amounts to a few $ a month and comes in the form of a monthly account credit. So to make best use of that (if you can get it) wait until it's arrived before making a power purchase / paying your bill, depending on how you want to look at it.

I still have invites that will get people a $50 credit* for signing up with PowerShop - of course you can probably also get that credit just by asking for it if you are moving from another company rather than connecting a new flat :)

*I also get a $25 credit for the referral :) They also promise guaranteed savings to you of another $50 in the first month.
marsden_online: (Blueknight)
One of the difficulties with the generation of electricity is that it really needs to be used immediately. Thus we have our crazy New Zealand spot market. This is particularly an issue for solar (and wind) generation where the output can rise or fall quickly with changing weather.

Ways of dealing with this include storing heat (generated by the sun) as thermal energy (which were are pretty good at) and then using this to drive steam turbines on demand, or the more experimental splitting water using excess excess power generated during the day and recombining it in a fuel cell at night.

Both of these are ways of storing generation capacity rather than directly storing electricity. Here in New Zealand we make significant use of another way of storing generation capacity - hydro dams.

There is no reason we couldn't make greater use of solar or wind in New Zealand, especially in summer, and just not run the hydro plants as much. Even if water has to be spilt from the dams what would we be losing? In fact the revitalisation of downstream areas might bring other benefits.

Of course the electricity market in NZ has been constructed to try and wring every last cent of profit out of the infrastructure, and unused generation is anathema to that. And some electricity generators rely more on hydro than others.

But I'd love to see Christchurch coated in solar panels. if cloudy Germany can do it why can't we?
marsden_online: (Default)
Admittedly I didn't expect it to be at 7:10pm.

They opened with the assumption that I was making the switch to PowerShop because of the 20% discounted weekend electricity, a notion of which I quickly disabused them. Their counter offer was interesting though - a 20% prompt payment discount (through to April) instead of the usual 10% (effectively a 20% discount on -all- my electricity use + their daily + the levy).

It was enough to make me pause, but not enough to make me change my mind. Better data > extra $5-$15 a month.

Intriguing

Nov. 18th, 2009 09:16 am
marsden_online: (Default)
Just received a power bill (the monthly, not the termination which I expect sometime in the next month). Over the last month my night-rate use has plummeted by about 500 units (a whopping 70%). This can be attributed to turning off the nightstore heater and the solar really starting to kick in.

What's most interesting though is what it does to the weighted average cost of my electricity - from holding steady at ~17c/unit over the last 12 months (better than the 19c/unit I expect to be getting from PowerShop*) it jumps to 21c/unit.

* my weighted average does not include EC levy and lines charges which are bundled into the PowerShop price so it's not quite apples with apples. I'll run those numbers out of curiousity at some point.
marsden_online: (Blueknight)
PowerShop must be making the push into Christchurch, because they called me this afternoon.

I did not move because of the $50 credit which comes with the 60-day trial, because that's exactly the same as every other electricity retailer has offered me this year (but without the trial period).

I did not move because of the 20% discount on all power used between 7am - 9pm on Saturdays and Sundays.

I did not move because they promise to save me money (impossible to prove, since my use profile has changed with the addition of the solar).

I did not move because I expect it to be cheaper (I've been tracking my weighted spend/unit against the prices on their website for the past 12-18 months, and it invariably comes out equal to their lowest price).

I did not move because they offer an individual rate tailored to my electricity usage and patterns.

I may have moved partly because they're actually doing something with the so-called Smart meters.

I definitely moved because whatever their usage-reporting, it's bound to be light years ahead of what Meridian provide (ie monthly totals, broken down into day/night on your bill if you're on such a plan). Give me that juicy juicy data on my usage patterns, so that I may make better informed decisions about who supplies my electricity in the future.

And they called and made it easy to undertake a shift which I was probably going to make sooner or later.

~~~
Side note: what Meridian could offer to win me back (I expect a call from them in the next couple of days).
- equivalent or better access to my usage data
- assistance layering my house with solar panels and feeding excess juice back into the grid (legal if technically non-trivial, but doesn't gain them anything).
marsden_online: (Evil GM)
Wednesday - had a really good evening being social at Creative Space. Didn't actually get much project work done and what I did was mostly a do-over of Sunday - but it clicked this time!

Thursday - A session long battle against the BBG which gave everyone at the table some nervous moments - including me as the party managed to drop his immunity to mental effects and Feeblemind him - leaving him reactively and defensively casting only his Divine spells until they did enough damage that Contingency kicked in and whisked him away.

That will definitely act as a delayer to the Cult's plans and has gained the PCs a valuable catch-up on the timeline. Meanwhile they continue this day of the adventure down a large amount of their spell power. Eeeexcellent....

Nearly lost a PC - until I realised I'd cocked something up in an earlier session and she should have had more HP to start with. The encounter could have been a TPK had I opened with a bigger spell, so I think I played it about right.

~~~
This morning has mostly been eaten catching up with Emma's Are we there yet? thread over on Public Address, but I have taken some time to revisit my power tracking / comparison with PowerShop spreadsheet for the past 12 months (ie pre solar).

It turns out that on my current Meridian Night & Day plan my average cost per unit is lower than anything offered at Powershop such that most months even had I bought most of my units early at the best price I've seen from PS I was still better off with Meridian by ~$20/month . That including the fixed charge and before the prompt-payment discount (so add a bit more).

Of course competition is relatively tight in the Christchurch residential power market, so I'm not surprised if we get some of the best prices in the country. I will be very interested to see how the numbers change over the next 12 months now that I'm theoretically using less of the cheaper night rate. It'll also give a chance to show how often PS deals like the $50 free power of March turn up, which could be a balancing factor.
marsden_online: (Default)
An article in the Herald put me on to Powershop, a new service aimed at letting you buy your household electricity from a variety of suppliers instead of being tied to the one. Basically exposing yourself to the spot market I guess. The idea was interesting enough that I sat down and plugged details of the last 11 months power bills into a spreadsheet* to see if I could save money, taking the current best price available on the PowerShop site. Even optimistically though, I'm better staying on my Meridian Night & Day plan by a few hundred dollars a year.

* because MyMeridian is pretty hopeless. For instance the 'compare your electricity usage' graph only seems to show the current calendar year, which means right now I can see January 2009 vs January 2008 and 11 months that haven't happened yet. Not incredibly useful, ne? I'd like to see the past 12 months, at least, thanks.

While I was at it I popped over to the Consumer PowerSwitch site and fed the details of my last bill in to see what it recommended. I might be able to save ~$80 a year if I switch to Genesis - not sure that's worth it.

Of course Meridian has just notified me their prices are going up and I don't know if PowerSwitch has taken that into account yet, so I might repeat this exercise in a few months.

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