Generating interest in power

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By John Keast

Ashburton has its own retail power company.

Electrician and businessman Peter Summerfield set up Plains Power in April and aims to get 5 per cent of the power business in Mid Canterbury.

Plains Power already has domestic customers, irrigators and big and small business clients.

Mr Summerfield has an electrical and solar business (Auric Electrical), operated with another shareholder.

Mr Summerfield said the response had been good, and the company, with fewer overheads, offered competitive pricing.

“I’m an electrician by trade, and we do a lot of solar. I started thinking about this about four years ago and started exploring the options.

“It’s taken a year of hard work to get it going, but the response has been good.”

The company, for now, is targeting the Mid Canterbury market, and Mr Summerfield has worked closely with industry players to study the business.

He said that aside from pricing – “more often than not we will be cheaper” – it was a local company.

It bought power like any other retailer.

Plains Power classed itself as a tier-two retailer and worked with a tier-one retailer which facilitated the compliance and regulatory side of the business.

Mr Summerfield said that many customers only heard from their power company “when they wanted to leave” and hoped people would back a local company.

There are not many local power companies yet, but he believed over the next decade there might be 50 smaller retailers across New Zealand.

He said Plains Power had to buy “smart” and like a lot of retailers, operated on small margins.

“We just want to do it better.”

Mr Summerfield said: “People have been very positive. That’s the good thing.”

Plains Power now has more than 100 customers and customers could nominate a club or organisation which Plains Power would support via cash sponsorship.

Mr Summerfield said network charges were passed through at cost with no margin and there were no hidden charges.

Setting up the company had been a lot of hard work, but the prospects were good.

Meter reading was done by a contractor.