Flick Electric expanding overseas, eyeing Australia, UK markets

Steve O'Connor, chief executive and founder of Flick Electric.
SUPPLIED

Steve O'Connor, chief executive and founder of Flick Electric.

A Wellington energy retailer, which has been labelled a "groundbreaking" business, is amping up to expand overseas.

Flick Electric, a firm that sells power to consumers at wholesale, or spot, prices, is searching for partners in Australia and the UK to help the company go global.

Flick Electric claims to be the fastest growing electricity retailer in New Zealand. It grows as more smart meters are installed.

Flick Electric began with the aim of being transparent with its customers.
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Flick Electric began with the aim of being transparent with its customers.

Chief executive Steve O'Connor​ said the company was looking to expand into overseas markets, following three years of strong growth in New Zealand.

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Australia and the UK were the starting point, he said.

O'Connor with the Supreme Award at the Wellington Gold Awards earlier this month.
KEVIN STENT/STUFF

O'Connor with the Supreme Award at the Wellington Gold Awards earlier this month.

"Victoria has very high penetration of smart meters, and they are also deploying smart meters at the moment in the UK, so we are quite interested in that market.

"We know a lot of other markets around the world work in quite a similar way to the New Zealand market … So we are really interested in where else we can take the platform and find partners to licence that platform."

Flick Electric launched in August 2014 by a group of Wellingtonians.

Flick Electric brand general manager Jessica Jenning-Bryan holds the Supreme Award aloft.
KEVIN STENT/STUFF

Flick Electric brand general manager Jessica Jenning-Bryan holds the Supreme Award aloft.

The aim was to use technology to provide a different way of buying energy, as well as allow customers to re-engage with how they are using energy.

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To date, the company has about 23,000 customers throughout New Zealand have signed up, with more looking to join.

One of the biggest challenges was educating consumers about the features of the wholesale market, including price spikes and dry winters, he said.

Price spikes happened when the market struggled to serve "anticipated demand", he said.

"It's usually literally for a half hour period - it can go quite high - and then it drops straight back down. So we've had lots of customers saying, 'Oh my god, I just saw the price, it's terrifying.'

"So it's just working them through that."

In addition, the country was currently experiencing a dry winter meaning spot electricity prices had skyrocketed.

Higher prices could last between three and eight weeks, and occurred once every five years, O'Connor said.

"[Our] model is not perfect for everyone, so we screen customers quite carefully, we are really clear on our website about the model and how it works, we are clear that at certain times, in certain situations your bill may be more expensive."

Transparency was key for the company, as it allowed customers to access the "real cost of energy for the first time", O'Connor said.

"We allow the customers to see the end to end for the first time. If prices go up, they can see exactly who put their prices up."

Customers get a bill every week, but can also track wholesale power prices, which are updated every half hour.

While O'Connor admitted they company had not made a profit yet, he said they were on track.

"We are very digital so we know we will get to break even before a traditional retailer would normally do so."

Flick Electric was named the supreme winner at the Wellington Gold Awards on July 7.

 - Stuff

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