This year we teamed up with Engineers Without Borders to sponsor Warm Homes in Christchurch, a student focused initiative founded to improve the state of rental properties with the goal of keeping students healthy and warm over winter. Organiser of the initiative and a student himself, Alex Manktelow had some thoughts about power companies and why (especially when you’re flatting) finding the right one really can make a difference. Here’s what he had to say:

Flatting – I love it and I hate it! In New Zealand it’s a rite of passage and, unfortunately, as a student you can end up paying a lot of money for, as property goes, not a whole lot. Students often have to live in cold and damp flats, but the bit that stings is the amount we pay for them!

What does this have to do with your power provider? If you’re anything like me – quite a lot. Trying to negotiate a fairer rent with your property manager, if experience is anything to go by, doesn’t work, and the overall trend (in Christchurch at least) is that rent is going up, up, and up.

So, on the topic of saving on the bills, after rent, the next biggest saving comes from your power provider.

At the start of the year when I was trying to find an energy retailer, I like to think I shopped around, and to do this I used the power of the internet. Powerswitch, run by Consumer, was a great place to start. It takes information about the region you live in, estimates your future power usage based on a few simple questions, and then does some clever maths to predict what your annual cost of electricity will be with different providers and their plans.

I think it was right about then that my #FlickLife appreciation began. Flick was the cheapest energy retailer by a long shot. Get this: if we had signed on for another year with our previous retailer, Powerswitch predicted that we would be paying an extra $300 over the 12 months. Now that is pretty significant on a student budget. To date we have saved $196.51.

Flick works out cheaper because your power price isn’t fixed for the year; it’s sold to you at the changing market price, which fluctuates. And this brings a whole new ball to the court! If you’re clever, you can save even more on your power bill by being smart about when you turn things on and off. But regardless of how careful you are with the heat pump, you, on average, will be paying less for power than you would with a company that charges at a fixed rate.

Flick has created a whole a lot of functionality around your power usage with a phone app and website that allows you to track current, past, and forecasted power prices, as well as how loaded the power grid is with CO2 emissions in real time. So not only does Flick provide you with the tools to be smarter about your power usage, it also allows you to be more of a conscientious consumer.

And damn, since I’m on this feel-good buzz, let’s break it down even further. Flick’s down-right refreshing business model encourages you to use less power – which for your average capitalist may seem counter intuitive, but it appears to be working. Maybe there is more to business than just making money.

They also channel some of their profits back into the community – and this is where I come in. Earlier this year I approached Flick about sponsoring the Warm Homes initiative, run by Engineers Without Borders NZ, a humanitarian engineering charity. The Warm Homes initiative was set up to try to tackle some of the problems of rental housing in New Zealand and Flick seemed like the perfect partner. So far we have been carrying out energy audits in student flats in Christchurch and attempting to educate students about what they can do to stay healthy and warm over the damp winter months. Flick has come on as a sponsor for this initiative.

There’s not too much you can do about getting squeezed by your landlord just yet, but you sure as hell don’t need to put up with it from your power provider. Take control and choose to be smart about your power bill.

Is it time to think about flicking the switch?

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