19:29, Jan 20 2013
PowerSmart managing director Mike Bassett-Smith.

Mike Bassett-Smith, PowerSmart's managing director, would love to go on a show like Campbell Live and set the record straight about solar power.

There are a bunch of myths, says Bassett-Smith, whose company won the 2012 Sustainable 60 Overal Small Company award. Myth: it takes more energy to produce panels than it saves. Myth: solar is too expensive to use in New Zealand. Myth: the only way the market will work is with government subsidies.

That much devalued word 'passionate' is actually apt for PowerSmart. The company has given much thought to the future of electricity and its place in our economy. It says it's not just selling systems, it's selling electricity. 

PowerSmart aims to be New Zealand's premium solar power system integrator and to increase the use of solar power systems. It foresees a day when people are no longer passive consumers, but can actually generate energy and  take part in the electricity market. It wants to see people taking control of their energy use and costs and it aims to improve the electricity system as a whole.

Bassett-Smith says many of the impediments people perceive to be in their way are not really there. They could be doing their own electricity generation, but the market has given them the idea that they're, well, powerless.

"Many people wrongly think that solar power systems are the same thing as solar hot water systems. They think solar power is too expensive to be worthwhile and the technology is unreliable." 


He blames this misinformation on the marketing of specifications. The truth is, he says, solar power systems offer a sustainable source of electricity with predictable and stable long run costs.

PowerSmart is working hard to educate the public - as well as industry, government and stakeholders - about the benefits of solar power and how it works. 

"People refer to the energy network when in fact it is a pipeline, " Basset-Smith says. "Household owners are at the end the of the pipeline and have very little control except to buy the power or not."

When the business started there was no solar market or availability for people to sell electricity back into the grid. That's changing. PowerSmart is working with Meridian Energy to open the grid to its users.

Based in Mt Manganui, because the staff love the sea and the lifestyle, PowerSmart proudly proclaims its team culture: "dream a little bigger". The company says it never rests on its laurels and is always looking for ways to take solar technology to the next level.

Staff hours are flexible, the company has a hammock for naps or rest as well as a ping pong table and other games. One of the staff brings their giant Bernese mountain dog to work each day.

Expect to see PowerSmart on Campbell Live soon.