Shocking power prices? Make money off your electricity
Power bills are on the rise again but don’t despair. There are ways you can not only save money on electricity but actually make some.
The Victorian Government has just announced that it will give consumers $250 to use its energy comparison site. It is basically incentivising you to take a closer look at your electricity bill.
This is something we should all be doing on a regular basis, given that our average electricity bill is $1645 per year. In markets where we have a choice, however, most Australians rarely do. In fact, according to St Vincent de Paul Society and Alviss Consulting, less than one percent of consumers are getting the most competitive deals, particularly in New South Wales and South-East Queensland.
What is the Victorian scheme
The Andrews Labor Government is incentivising people to switch energy providers with a one-off $250 Power Saving Bonus. Running until 30 June 2023, the bonus is available to all Victorian households who use the Victorian Energy Compare website to compare their energy deal and seek out a better price.
How will it affect you?
According to Victorian government data, 70 percent of users can save money by switching energy providers. Annual savings could be up to $330 on energy bills in the first year alone. That amount can be as high as $580 every year when combined with the Power Saving Bonus.
Why is the government doing this?
Announcing the scheme, Premier Daniel Andrews said: “Big power companies rely on people not having the time, information or knowledge to save money. But we know better deals are out there – and we’re helping Victorian families find them.” The Power Saving Bonus, he said, was part of the state's efforts to bring down electricity prices.
How does it work?
Starting on 1 July 2022, you may claim the new $250 Power Saving Bonus. You simply need to have a residential electricity account in Victoria. And use the Victorian Energy Compare website to see if you have the best deal. Then you can apply for the bonus.
If you aren’t sure how to do this yourself, you can also engage with one of the following participating community outreach partners to help you apply:
What if I don’t live in Victoria?
You might feel a little miffed if you happen to live elsewhere. Although the Western Australian Government did just announce a handy $400 electricity credit for all households in the State Budget. But there are still ways you can make money from your electricity - and many ways to save. Several providers offer reward schemes around Australia.
In New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia, for example, Origin is giving new customers the opportunity to earn up to 10,000 Everyday Rewards points when signing up for both electricity and gas. These points may be used at participating Woolworths group shops.
EnergyAustralia is offering a $50 bill credit for customers who switch to its Total Plan Home deal for either gas or electricity, and AGL is giving away a 12-month subscription to Amazon Prime (worth $59) to new customers.
You can also save money by switching to more energy-efficient appliances or reducing demand during peak hours. Under Energex's Demand Management Plan, for example, you can earn up to $800 from the Cashback Rewards program if you switch to energy-saving technologies (such as smart air conditioners) or economy tariffs.
What other ways can you save money on electricity?
There are plenty of good reasons to switch providers on a regular basis. For one thing, energy rates can fluctuate considerably, so it pays to shop around for the best deal. In addition, different providers offer different incentives and rewards programs. Some might offer discounts for signing up. While others might give you cashback or points that can be redeemed for freebies.
By switching providers, you can ensure that you're always getting the best possible rate and taking advantage of the most generous rewards programs.
But note that this only applies in certain states. If you live in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria or the Australian Capital Territory you have a choice of energy retailers (the company that manages your account and issues your bill). If you live in the Northern Territory, Tasmania or Western Australia, you can still choose your energy supplier or retailer. But you only have two options and as these are regulated markets, there’s little variation in pricing.
Will you be without power for any time?
Switching electricity providers shouldn't result in any loss of power. In fact, if this does happen without a good reason, like you haven't paid your bill, you will receive financial compensation called wrongful disconnection payment. But you will need to contact your new provider to ensure that your account is active. If your power is cut, you'll need to arrange for it to be reconnected with your new provider. This can usually be done quickly and easily online or over the phone.
Check for rebates
Have you ever looked at your power bill and wished there was a way to reduce the amount you have to pay each month? Well, it turns out that there could be one. Depending on your location and situation, you may be eligible for a rebate or grant that can help to offset your power bill.
For example, concession cardholders in Queensland may be able to receive a subsidy from their utility company. In other cases, homeowners who install energy-efficient appliances may be eligible for bill credits.
So, if you're struggling to pay your power bill, it's worth doing some research to see if you qualify for any rebates or grants. You might be surprised at how much money you can save.
Look at your meter reading
One of the major reasons bill shock occurs is when your meter isn't actually read, which should be done at least once in six months according to National Electricity Market rules. This can happen when you move into a new home and the energy company hasn't had a chance to come out and take a reading or your meter can't be accessed.
Without taking the reading of the actual amount of energy used, your household energy consumption is estimated for that bill based on previous consumption for a similar time. If the amount estimated is less than you've actually used, eventually you get billed for the energy you have used but not paid for. This can result in one big bill that you're not prepared for.
How to read a meter
Start by finding the dial or digital display. If there are multiple displays, you'll need to identify the one that shows your electricity consumption. On some meters, this will be labelled "kWh" or "energy consumption".
Once you've found the right display, take note of the numbers shown. If your meter has dials, you'll need to read the numbers from left to right. If it's a digital display, the reading will be shown in kWh.
Keep in mind that your meter may be showing you the amount of electricity you've used since it was last reset or since it was installed. So, if you've just moved into a new home, the reading may not be accurate. In this case, you can either wait until your next bill arrives or contact your energy provider to ask for an estimate of your usage.
You may request a meter test or a specific read on your power provider's website if you're worried about your reading or meter.
Examine your bill
If your bill has changed markedly from one reading to the next, there could be a few reasons for this. Have you had any new appliances installed, such as an air conditioner? If you've had guests or anyone in the household has been home more than usual, this can also impact your usage.
Your power bills are likely to be higher in summer if you live in a hotter part of Australia. Or it could be higher in winter if you live in a cooler area, as heating and cooling make up a significant part of power bills.
The good news is that power companies can adjust your bills to be roughly the same amount throughout the year so you can better budget for the expense. Ask your energy retailer for 'bill smoothing' – this adjusts your bill to flatten seasonal peaks to provide consistent payment amounts throughout the year.
It can be hard to budget for power bills due every three months, with most retailers on a quarterly cycle. But you can ask for your bill to be calculated and sent each month.
If you don’t have a smart meter, however, you may not necessarily be getting an accurate representation of your true energy usage – your provider will need to estimate your usage for the months in between readings.
If you think there may be an error on your power bill, contact your energy retailer as soon as possible. They will be able to investigate the issue and correct any mistakes.
If you can't pay your bill...
There has been a 21 percent rise in the number of Australians who are struggling to pay their bills from 2020 to 2021, perhaps not surprising given the twin pressures of the pandemic and cost of living rises. If you're struggling to pay your electricity bill, you're not alone but there is help available.
Contact the company
Get in touch with the provider as soon as possible to explain you are having difficulties paying your bill. Use the words 'financial hardship' and the staff member should discuss your options to repay the amount owing. It's really important that you contact your power company rather than ignoring follow-up requests for payment. If you don't organise a payment plan, you might have your power disconnected.
When problems arise, lodge a complaint before the bill is due. If you dispute a bill, you're not expected to pay the bill until the dispute is resolved.
Contact the provider and ask that related outstanding payments be suspended until the complaint has been investigated. Get confirmation in writing that your bill has been put on hold. Continue to make timely payments for subsequent bills if they’re not in dispute.
Every energy company has a customer service department and website so you pay for these services as part of your bill. There are companies providing better service and greater online account access, so it pays to research what's out there.
What can I do if my electricity is cut off?
Your energy retailer should only disconnect your power as a last resort. There are a number of regulations that a business must follow before shutting off its service, including providing you with a warning and notification. Some merchants may charge a reconnection fee if you are disconnected or demand a security deposit.
It’s easy to feel like you have no control over your electricity bill but there are things you can do to take charge. Armed with a little knowledge, you can make the arrival of your bill a little less painless. And, remember, if you are having any trouble with your provider, make a complaint with us.