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Insider Tips

How can we be of service? Let us count the ways. We actually mean service – unlike those who have promised it before and didn’t show up when it counted most. Consider these insider tips your key to consumer affairs.
Happy family celebrating savings from energy bills

You now have more power over your energy bill

Worried about your energy bill? You now have more power to do something about it.

As of 1 October 2021, the Federal Government requires energy companies to switch you to a better deal within 48 hours of asking for one.

Prior to this change, companies could take up to three months to switch you over — that’s three months of paying more than you should. With Christmas on the horizon, making a switch now might just put some much-needed extra money into your account.

However, on the same day this regulation came into effect, one of Australia's biggest energy retailers, Energy Australia, cut the reimbursement it gives solar households for the excess power they generate. This means energy bills are about to go up for many customers.

Let us explain what these big changes mean and how to review your bills to score a better deal.

Why has this rule change happened?

During the 1980s, '90s, and most of the 2000s, electricity prices tracked fairly closely to the price of other consumer items.

However, in the last decade, they have shot up more than four times the average price across other sectors.

What’s more, the way energy bills are structured means that half of most bills are fixed, so even an elderly couple with few appliances at home who rise with the sun and go to bed when it’s dark have seen significant increases in their bills.

  Couple looking at their energy bill savings  

Consumer groups have been relentlessly lobbying for a fair go for households. This change is one of their wins.

Previously an energy company could take up to three months to make the change to your account, maintaining it took them that long to read the meter and calculate the new bill. In the meantime, you were paying more than you should.

Even if you had a smart meter that could be read remotely, you had to wait up to 10 days in the past.

It’s taken three years for this change to come into effect. But you can make the change almost immediately — you just have to act to ensure you get the savings these changes can deliver.

What are other reasons for switching?

If you haven’t reviewed your energy bills for a couple of years, you are not alone! Many customers get slugged with the ‘lazy tax’ because they simply don’t ask for a better deal and end up paying more.

About half of all households have been with the same energy provider for five years or longer. That’s a lot of people who’ve not shopped around for a better deal.

Many don’t bother because of the time or perceived hassle, as well as concern that their power might get disconnected in the process.

This new regulation means that whether you choose a different provider or stay with the same one, you will see changes to the amount you’re paying within two days of asking for a better deal. Any problems with your account will be picked up quickly while you have the switch fresh in your mind.

Check out the segment our CEO, Jo Ucukalo, did for Channel 7’s The Morning Show and find out how you can start saving money in as little as two days.

Will it also increase competition between retailers?

Retailers will be looking to use this new requirement to entice you to switch over to them.

This time, it’s worth taking a look. Review your bills, see what they have to offer and ask for a better deal.

You don’t even have to switch companies — ask your provider first and if they don’t deliver what you want, look elsewhere. Remember, the power is in your hands.

If you do switch, you still have a 10-day cooling off period if you change your mind.

Will households with solar be paying more?

If you bought a solar system in the last few years, you were likely lured by the incentive of earning money from the sun. Yes, solar offers benefits to the environment, but the government also offered rebates to encourage people to install solar systems.

A solar system harnesses the energy from the sun to provide power to the home in which it’s installed. Various governments incentivised us to install solar by offering to pay for any excess power generated that could be sent back to the electricity grid for others to use. The rebates households receive on their bill is determined by feed-in tariffs. Then, this can be used to offset the energy that they still need to buy.

The feed-in tariffs were generous enough to encourage us to pay the upfront costs of installing solar. And many of us did just that - our sunshine-blessed country is one of the most popular places for household solar in the world.

However, feeding solar energy into the system has not been as straightforward as policymakers expected. There has been an oversupply of solar generation and governments have been reducing tariffs, which electricity companies are then passing on to their customers.

Current solar rates with Energy Australia

On January 1 2021, EnergyAustralia dropped its feed-in tariff for NSW customers from 10.5 cents per kWh to 9.5 cents per kWh.

From October 1 2021, Energy Australia again dropped its NSW feed-in tariff from 9.5 cents per kWh to 7.6 cents per kWh.

That's a sharp reduction of almost 28 per cent in under a year.

Energy Australia has also dropped its tariffs in Queensland, the ACT and South Australia on the same date. The rate for Victoria was reduced in recent months.

The single rate feed-in tariffs with Energy Australia have changed as follows:

Prior to 1 Jan 2021 After the rate change on 1 Jan 2021 After the rate change on 1 Oct 2021
NSW 10.5 c/kWh 9.5 c/kWh 7.6 c/kWh
VIC 12.0 c/kWh 10.2 c/kWh 7.1 c/kWh
QLD  11.5 c/kWh 8.5 c/kWh 6.6 c/kWh
ACT 10.5 c/kWh 9.5 c/kWh 7.6 c/kWh
SA 11.5 c/kWh 10.5 c/kWh 8.5 c/kWh

Can I shop around for higher rebates on solar?

Energy retailers are free to set their own feed-in-tariffs, as long as they are higher than the governing authority’s minimum benchmark. For example, the NSW benchmark rate is currently 5.5c per kWh. Different retailers offer different incentives, and they can go quite a bit lower.


Woman checking savings on her energy bill after switching provider

So it pays to shop around to review your entire energy bill - the electricity usage rates charged for consumption from the network and the feed-in-tariffs provided for supply into the network.

Pay special attention to the following conditions when comparing solar plans to switch:

    • Electricity usage (consumption) rates that aren’t fixed. This allows rates to be increased during your plan.
    • Plans with low or no discounts on the electricity usage (consumption) rates.
    • Higher feed-in-tariffs rates (supply) that are linked to the purchase of a solar power system. You may pay more for the system to subsidise the rebate.
One of the key requirements to keeping your solar rebate when switching energy companies is to ensure that the name on your account remains unchanged, except if it’s to your spouse. Your feed-in tariff may reduce if you:
    • close your electricity account;
    • change account holder’s name to something other than your spouse;
    • are disconnected; or
    • replace your inverter with a larger inverter.

How often should we review our energy bills and providers?

The government reviews energy prices once a year. If you’re not on a contract, you should review your energy bills every year, too. And even if you are on a contract, a lot of the contracts say you can leave at any time, without paying a fee. So you’ll probably save money if you ask for a better deal once a year.

It’s as simple as calling a couple of different companies or starting a chat session with your current energy provider.

You can also log onto Handle My Complaint, provide a few key details and click the option to ask for a better deal. We will have your provider contact you.

Remember, there are smaller energy companies that want your business - so it’s definitely worth shopping around.

What if an energy bill is too high for me to pay?

If you ever have difficulty paying your energy bill, it is important for you to contact your retailer before the bill’s due date.

Electricity and gas companies have financial hardship programs to help householders struggling with their bills. By asking for assistance from your retailer, you can avoid extra fees and charges that come with paying a bill late.

Just remember to mention the phrase ‘financial hardship’ rather than using the words ‘high bill’. The latter will just prompt your retailer to offer suggestions on energy saving devices.

Here are some options for you to discuss with your energy retailer.

    • Ask to be put on a financial hardship program - you will likely speak with a separate department, rather than customer service.
    • Ask your retailer to check for any rebates for you.
    • Read the electricity meter yourself and ask the biller to use your reading rather than an estimated reading, so your energy bill is accurate.
    • Ask for ‘bill smoothing’ and adjust for seasonal peaks with consistent payment amounts throughout the year.
    • Ask for monthly bills if that will assist with budgeting.

We have even more tips for saving on your energy bills.

How can we cut costs generally?

There are some quick and easy changes you can make in your household that will make a big difference to your future energy bill.

Heating and cooling probably make up 40 per cent of your total bill. These simple changes will save you money:

    • Check heaters and air conditioners are working and there is nothing clogging your ducts.
    • Install insulation to keep inside cooler in summer and warmer in winter.
    • Set aircon to 24C in summer and 20C in winter.
    • Banish drafts by using doors and curtains. Buy removable window-caulk to better seal windows and draft stoppers for the bottom of your doors.
    • Get rid of appliances you don’t use regularly (second fridge and super-hot plasma)
    • Wash clothes at night in cold water and on short cycles.
    • Avoid cooking with the oven; use BBQ or stove with lids on.
  Woman adjusting aircon to save on energy bill  

Having a problem with your energy provider?

Energy is classified as an essential service, which means the government pays close attention to ensure that energy companies are doing the right thing by their customers.

There is also a lot of help available if you have a problem with your energy provider. And the good news is, there are payments available to you and penalties for the company if the provider is found to have breached industry regulations.

In January 2021, AGL was fined $160,000 by the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) for allegedly not fixing faulty electricity meters promptly.

“In some cases it took AGL more than 500 days to take action after being informed the meters were faulty,” the regulator stated.

“While there is no specific time frame attached to the word “promptly”, anyone would agree waiting over a year is far from prompt.

“If a meter is faulty, then retailers must ensure they are doing everything possible to ensure it is fixed promptly,” said AER Chair Clare Savage. “It is simply not good enough for customers to receive estimated bills because retailers do not have adequate systems and processes in place to ensure faulty meters were fixed as soon as possible.”

“In some cases it took AGL more than 500 days to take action after being informed the meters were faulty,” the regulator stated.

Need some help?

If you’re having problems getting a faulty electricity meter fixed, or have a bill you think is still too high, use Handle My Complaint to contact your energy company to have the issue looked into, your bill explained or discuss options to reduce it. With a click of a button, we will send your complaint to the energy ombudsman in your state, if they are able to take your complaint to the next level.

Just say the magic words 'Help Me Handle It'. Remember, the power is in your hands.