When a home or small business with solar photovoltaic panels generates more power than it can use, the excess generation is generally sold back to the grid. Most retailers pay customers a rate for this power based on the average long term wholesale electricity price, currently around 7-8 c per unit. Solar Buddies, allows the panel owner to, in effect, sell part of their surplus to friends or family, their “buddies”, who are, or become, customers of Trustpower. The price paid is agreed between the panel owner and the buddies, so Solar Buddies creates an opportunity for panel owners to earn more for their power while also benefiting people they know.
Currently there is a cap on the amount of electricity that can be provided by the panel owner to each buddy of 50 kWh per month. There is no limit on the number of buddies a panel owner may have. The panel owner can either set an order of priority for their buddies to receive power or can set a percentage of their extra power that each buddy receives. Any surplus electricity left after all buddies have received the agreed amount of electricity will be purchased by Trustpower at the rate of 7c per unit.
“Customers have been telling us that they want to be in control of their solar energy and receive a better price than the wholesale rate in the market for their surplus power. So Trustpower has developed Solar Buddies to meet these customer needs,” says Carolyn Schofield, Marketing Communications Manager.
“Customers who are buddies appreciate the chance to receive some of their electricity at a reduced price from someone they know with solar. Trustpower simply facilitates the payment at the price the seller agrees with each buddy.”
“As far as we are aware, this service is a first for New Zealand. We think the time is perfect to make the most of the growing number of domestic solar installations and the connections between New Zealanders around the country.”
New Zealand has over 16,000 solar panel installations, and this is growing at around 4,000 per year. Most of these are in the sunnier areas of Auckland, Northland, Bay of Plenty and Nelson/Marlborough. Ms Schofield says there is no restriction on where the solar “buddies” are located.
“We have trial customers already who are selling their surplus power to friends or family at the other end of the country. We want this scheme to be as flexible as possible to maximise the benefits to Trustpower customers.”
There has been much talk in the electricity industry of “peer-to-peer” trading and how it may over time allow the bypassing of electricity retailers entirely. Trustpower has focussed on making it possible within its own customer base now.
Ms Schofield says that some of the current trial customers are choosing to gift their surplus power at a rate of 0c, to assist a person in need or a charity customer of their choosing. Others are small business owners with solar who are selling at rates between 10c and 20c to their staff or business customers.
Trustpower is New Zealand’s fifth largest electricity generator and fifth largest energy retailer, with approximately 12% share of the electricity retail market. It is also New Zealand’s fourth largest fixed-line telecommunications retailer. Trustpower owns 46 hydro generation stations at 27 locations across New Zealand and Australia. It operates a multi‐product retail business, including electricity, gas and telecommunications products with approximately 273,000 electricity customer connections, 37,000 gas customer connections and 80,000 telecommunications customer connections. Trustpower’s retail strategy is based around providing value to customers by bundling multiple products and 35% of customers now have two or more services with the company.
For further information contact Carolyn Schofield, Marketing Communications Manager, on 021 922 368 or at [email protected]