Manawatu Standard

Flick Electric stops taking new customers

- Tom Pullar-strecker

Flick Electric has stopped taking on new customers as the remaining wheels threaten to fall off independen­t retail competitio­n in the electricit­y market.

Chief executive Steve O’connor said Flick would continue to supply its existing 27,000 power customers. But he said it would stop accepting new customers until wholesale electricit­y prices became more ‘‘affordable’’, which he believed would require market reforms.

‘‘It is likely the Government will need to step in to support some fundamenta­l change,’’ he said.

O’connor said the suspension was ironic, given Consumer NZ named Flick ‘‘energy retailer of the year’’, and was tough for staff and the business.

But it didn’t make sense for any independen­t retailer at the moment to be acquiring new customers, he said.

The suspension does not affect a ‘‘small number’’ of sign-ups through Flick owner Z Energy, which began selling power plans under its own brand in March, sourcing its power and services from Flick.

The wholesale price of electricit­y has spiked this year, with spot market prices spending long periods above 30 cents a kilowatt hour.

Energy Minister Megan Woods has expressed concern high prices could persist and Enerlytica analyst John Kidd has said uncertaint­y is affecting futures prices out until 2024.

Luke Blincoe, chief executive of independen­t retailer Electricki­wi, said it was still taking on customers who approached it. But it is not marketing power to new customers and like Flick had stopped promoting its plans through the Powerswitc­h website backed by the Government and Consumer NZ earlier this year.

Both companies have called for the Government to forcibly split the majority-state owned gentailers Meridian, Genesis and Mercury into separate generation and retail businesses. They argue they cannot buy energy at competitiv­e prices in the wholesale market as it is currently designed, given gentailers can retail their own power and are largely shielded from the wholesale market.

There is speculatio­n that a review of the wholesale market being conducted by the Electricit­y Authority will recommend that the country’s largest power company, Meridian Energy, should be required to shed some of its generation assets to reduce its market power.

‘‘It is likely the Government will need to step in to support some fundamenta­l change.’’

Steve O’connor

Flick chief executive

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