Why Flick Electric is an enabler of the future grid

According to Energy News, Flick Electric added the third-highest number of customers to its books in December (last month). It’s still only a small total number (7,500 ICPs) compared to the big 5 electricity retailers that command 85-90% of the market BUT it’s the sign of big things to come.

I have to disclose here that I’ve recently switched to Flick – I’m a convert, an evangelist even.

To convince the bill payer in my house I did an analysis of our household meter data and ‘proved’ the anticipated savings, even taking into account the vagaries of the spot market price. But the real reason I wanted to switch is to be able to start doing smart things in my house using Cortexo’s software platform and some basic controls. My aim is to lower my electricity bill even more and also prove the value to the network companies of voluntary residential demand response. Let me explain from the beginning.

Basically, Flick offers its customers the price of electricity from the electricity spot market, that price changes every 30 minutes going up and down with supply and demand. The higher the demand (for example between 5 pm – 7 pm at night) the higher the price. The lower the demand (early hours of the morning before 6 am) the lower the price. The same effect occurs with changing supply. Remember this price changes (potentially) every half hour and for me right now the price is 8c/kWh but it’s been as low as 4c today.

On top of the actual electricity charge there are other charges like metering, the Electricity Authority (EA) levy, and Flicks own charge, but the biggest other component is the Network or distribution charge. Network charges are made up of a fixed daily charge and a variable charge (variable because it’s based on the amount of electricity you use). My Network company Orion also has different charges for different parts of the day, basically off-peak (9 pm-7 pm daily, all weekend and public holidays) and peak  (the rest). These charges and times are made very visible by Flick and I can take advantage of the reduced Network charge and reduced spot market charge to use electricity in my house when prices are lowest. This is infinitely better than traditional retailers’ offerings which tend to mask the savings available at different times of the day unless you are smart enough to ask for plans with day/night and weekend rates, but even these aren’t as granular as Flicks spot market rates.

So we ensure that we operate stuff in the cheaper times during the day and in the evening using delay starts on dishwashers and washing machines. We also manage our hot water cylinder to ensure we are not heating water during peak times (unless absolutely necessary). We don’t have a swimming pool or spa but you can see how saving could be significant if you had those items. It looks like we will save about $35 this month overall, not bad I reckon.

But hey, we aren’t all geeks wanting to spend time looking at market prices and Network rates and that’s where automation comes in. Flick’s transparent business model enables automated solutions that can operate devices in your home when power is the cheapest, right down to your fridge/freezer where the compressor operation can be delayed until the high price has passed – while monitoring the fridge/freezer temperature to ensure that everything was normal, ready to override the price control if the temperature crept up.

So Flick is a great enabler, it’s doing two things. It’s making it clear that there are two major components to the electricity bill, electricity cost, and Network (or distribution) cost and allows you to have some control in managing those costs. It also is opening the door to automation which will both reduce consumers’ costs and allow those consumers that want to (because of an offered reward), react to requests from Network companies or the National Grid Operator Transpower to reduce load at times of critical demand.

This is a fantastic step, let’s see how long it is before the ‘traditional’ retailers start offering some form of spot market plans. But remember it was Flick Electric that led the way.

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