New supplier Powershop offers a different way to buy electricity. Here’s what you need to know

If you’re looking for a cheap, electricity-only energy deal at the moment, you may have noticed new provider Powershop popping up in comparisons recently. It appears high up in most results – so a tempting offer. But it’s not as simple as switching and sitting back.

Of course you can switch and sit back if you want, like with any other energy tariff on the market – but that’s not what Powershop is about.

To get most bang for your buck – or power for your pound – you’ll want to get involved in your account and energy use, something Powershop encourages through its website and slick mobile app, where it aims to allow you to get its best rates and monitor what you’re using.

The Powershop offer revolves around so-called ‘Powerpacks’ – bundles of electricity which are discounted against its standard rate. The packs vary in size and availability, though there are three main types:

  • Top Up Packs: You can use these immediately, they’re always available and you choose how much you buy.
  • Future Packs: These are packs for the next month, or the month after (and so on), so if you’ve some extra cash now, you can buy some cheap power for the coming months – but there’s a limit to how much you can buy in advance.
  • Special Packs: These tend to offer the cheapest rates, yet are only available periodically, for a short time and with a limit on how much you can buy. They’re usually themed to a particular event (such as Easter or Christmas) or a major news story.

Is it any good?

Around the same time Powershop came to our attention, MSE Dan was coming to the end of his current elec-only deal, so he thought he’d give it a go and report back.

He’s been with Powershop a few months and has been impressed so far. The positives, according to our man on the ground, is the control it offers you over your spending.

In its app or online, it gives you plenty of info – tracking past and current usage and estimating for future months (provided you give meter readings). With this, it works out what you’ve got left on current ‘Powerpacks’ and what you need to buy so you don’t slip back on standard rates.

Plus, every time you enter a meter reading it updates, adjusting any estimates immediately.

This all helps you decide what Top Up and Future Packs you need to continuously get the discounted rate – while it’s best to snap up the Special Packs on the fly whenever you see them.

There are also no exit fees with Powershop, so you’re free to give it a go and, if it’s not for you, switch away without penalty.

But it’s not for everyone

There are some drawbacks. Powershop currently only offers electricity (including Economy 7), so if you’re dual fuel and you want to try it you’ll need to go with a separate supplier for your gas. It’s also not available for prepay and you’ll need to pay monthly.

I think the main one, though, is that you need to engage regularly to get the best rates – perhaps daily. This is a tough sell in a market where two-thirds of people won’t even switch from expensive standard tariffs, despite the huge savings available.

While any new approach to getting people engaged with their energy bills and usage is welcome, it may prove tricky to break into those list of apps and websites you check every day on your commute, at lunch or just avoiding work.

Even if you’re part of the minority that keeps on top of what you pay and use, there’s still the danger that the novelty of playing with the app or your online account will wear off. Then, before you know it, you’ll be paying more.

Who exactly are Powershop?

Powershop launched in the UK earlier this year as an elec-only supplier, with the promise of gas to follow.

But it started supplying in New Zealand in 2009, before launching in Australia five years later. Across both, it now has about 140,000 customers.

To see how it compares, you can check our Cheap Energy Club – we give you the prices and your expected savings either if you decide to buy ‘Powerpacks’ regularly or don’t and instead go for Powershop’s standard rate.