Energy FAQs

Answers when you need them

Your energy bill can be one of the more complicated expenses you have to pay on a regular basis. How do usage & service charges differ? What's a 'tarriff'? And how can you find great value plans for your are? No matter the question, we've endeavoured to answer it.

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Energy Frequently Asked Questions

Electricity

How do I compare electricity providers?

You can compare electricity providers using our energy comparison service.

We’ll ask you about your usage of electricity, whether it’s an estimate based on your local area or details from your electricity bill. The more information you can give us about your current plan and your usage, the more accurately we can estimate the prices for your new plan.

Your results will be sorted by the estimated bill costs, with the cheapest plan listed at the top. From there, you can click “call us now” to talk to one of our experts. Just quote the reference number of your desired plan and they can handle everything for you.

Do you have to pay for electricity when renting?

Generally yes, but how your electricity is metered may affect how you pay for it.

If you have a meter separate from your landlord or apartment building, you would have to pay for your electricity account directly. If your electricity is metered through your landlord or building, you may have your electricity bundled into the cost of rent or even have your electricity charges forwarded to you from your landlord.

Do Australians pay GST on electricity?

Yes, you do have to pay GST on electricity. This amount can usually be found next to the current invoice amount on your bill.

Do electricity rates change during the day?

If you’re on a time of use meter, electricity rates do change during the day. They are usually divided into these categories:

  • Peak (most expensive): 2pm-8pm on weekdays.
  • Shoulder: 7am-2pm on weekdays, 8-10pm on weekends.
  • Off-peak (least expensive): all other times8.

Please note that these times may change depending on your retailer.

If you’re on a single rate tariff, electricity rates won’t change.

 

I haven’t paid my bills. Can my provider disconnect my electricity?

Technically they can, but generally retailers don’t want to disconnect your electricity. If you are experiencing financial hardship, the retailer will usually try and work with you to figure out how you can pay your bills, and may even offer payment plans.

In any case, transparency is usually the best policy when it comes to any difficulty you may have paying your bill.

If paying your electricity bills is an ongoing problem, the energy charges of your plan might be too high. With our energy comparison service, you can compare a range of plans and see if you can get a better deal.

Can I pay my electricity bill online?

Yes, energy retailers will generally let you pay your bill online. This can usually be done through your retailer’s online portal, BPAY, or direct debit through your bank. People receiving Centrelink payments could also be eligible for Centrepay, which is a free service designed to deduct bill expenses from your payments.

Learn more about energy bill payment methods.

Are electricity prices going up?

Electricity prices have increased significantly in recent years. In July 2017, it was reported that retail electricity prices had gone up by as much as 90% over the past decade.6

While prices are predicted to fall by 5.2% in 2018/19 and 7.2% in 2019/207, they will still be higher than they were 10 years ago. For this reason, we recommend regular comparisons through our simple online energy comparison service to see if you can save money.

With most retailers offering plans with no penalties for early cancellation, you can have the freedom to switch if you find a better deal later down the line. So why not compare what’s out there?

Can I claim electricity on my tax return?

If you have a home office, you may be able to claim some electricity costs on your tax return under running costs. Businesses could also potentially claim utilities as a running expense. Visit the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) website for more details.

What times can I get the best electricity rates?

If you’re on a time of use meter, the best electricity rates are usually during off-peak times, which differ depending on where you live. Common off-peak times are generally between 8pm-7am on weekdays and 10pm-8pm on weekends, but these times may be different depending on your provider and meter type.

Controlled load tariffs for heating, pools, and hot water systems generally run on their own circuit through off-peak hours. This ensures that more energy-demanding appliances aren’t running up the costs of your bills.

As for single-rate tariffs, electricity rates are will remain the same regardless of time.

Can solar panels provide all my electricity?

Many homes don’t produce enough solar electricity to meet their usage needs and in most cases, government regulations require the home to remain connected to the electricity grid even if a home is self-sufficient in its power generation.

To give you a better idea of how much energy is used by Australians, the national average of electricity usage is around 16 kWh per day5. In theory, a 5kW solar system could support this level of usage, since they can produce roughly 20kWh per day. However, this energy can only be utilised while the sun is shining.

Sometimes you can generate enough solar power and store it in a battery - but similar to shopping around for energy retailers, it’s worth comparing the costs and weighing them up against the overall benefit.

For more information on which plans may be suitable, complete a quote through our energy comparison service or call 1800 645 201.

 

Can I change my electricity provider? If so, how?

You can change your retailer by using our free online energy comparison service. You can see which plans are available in your area and estimate how much your next bill may cost if you switch over.

As for your distributor, you won’t be able to change who provides your electricity, since your distributor is based on where you live.

How do I find out who my electricity provider is?

This depends on what you want to know.

If you want to know who handles your account, your retailer is the company that sends you your bills. The retailer’s logo can usually be found at the top of the invoice. In states where electricity is deregulated, you can choose your retailer through our energy comparison service and potentially save money on your bills.

If you want to know where your electricity comes from, you can find out who your electricity distributor is through the Australian Energy Regular (AER). You can’t change who your distributor is since it’s based on your location and where you’re connected to the grid.

How do I read a smart meter?

Reading a smart or digital meter is generally a lot easier than reading an analogue meter. Simply go up to the physical device and read the usage number displayed on the screen. You can scroll through the digital screen to look at your total electricity usage, off-peak usage (if available) and how much solar power you've used. Your data and personal information will be kept private.

Your energy provider may also have an online portal that you can log into, which will break down your energy usage patterns.

Learn more about smart meters.

What are the off-peak times for electricity in New South Wales?

The off-peak times in New South Wales are generally between 8pm-7am on weekdays and 10pm-8pm on weekends. However, this may vary depending on your plan.

When I switch energy provider, will I lose power as they change over?

No, you will not lose power when you switch your energy provider. All energy in your area is supplied from the same distributor, which means all your retailer has to do is simply take over your account.

If my energy comes from the same power plant as my neighbour, how come I’m paying more for it?

You are probably paying more because of your retailer and the energy plan you are on. While your energy may come from the same place as your neighbour, their energy may be priced differently because they have a plan with cheaper energy charges.

Another factor could be discounts. Your neighbour might be getting more competitive discounts from their retailer. Furthermore, the discounts from your original contract may have also expired, meaning you could be paying more than you originally agreed upon. For this reason, it’s important to constantly review your energy plan to see if you can get better prices.

To see if you can get a great deal, you can use our energy comparison service. Within minutes, you can see how much your next bill would cost under a different plan.

If your neighbour is still paying less after you’ve found a more suitable plan, you might want to look into your energy usage. Read our guide on how to save electricity.

Gas

I’m living in an apartment. How can I save on my gas bill?

It depends how you’re using gas in your household.

One way to save on your gas bill is to monitor how much hot water you’re using. Cutting back the duration and frequency of showers and baths (within reason) could help cut back on your bills, along with washing your clothes in cold water.

Another way could be to limit your use of gas-powered ovens and stovetops. Preparing more meals that don’t require heat, using your microwave to heat up leftovers, and boiling water before putting it in the saucepan are all measures you could take to help you reduce your reliance on your oven and stove.

Finally, if you have a central heating system, using it only when it’s really necessary could help save you money on your next gas bill. If you can stay warm enough by wearing jackets, sweaters, scarves, or any other winter attire, along with heavier blankets for when you’re sleeping, this should be your option if you’re looking to save on your gas bill.

Read our gas saving tips blog for more information on how to save on your gas bills.

How do I reconnect my gas supply?

It depends on why your gas supply has been switched off. If it’s because you weren’t paying your bills, you should get in touch with your provider immediately and see if they have a process you can follow for paying off your account. If there’s been a problem with the gas line itself, you should still get in touch with the retailer.

If, however, you simply want to switch providers, you can reconnect your gas supply by using our energy comparison service. You can select gas by itself or as a bundle with electricity, fill in your details, and get prices for numerous retailers within minutes.

Alternatively, if you’d prefer to talk to someone about any available plans, call 1800 990 003.

How is gas measured in Australia?

Gas usage in Australia is measured in megajoules (Mj). This is usually measured using three factors: difference between meter readings, pressure factor, and heating value.

The difference between meter readings is simply calculated using your current meter reading and subtracting the value of your previous reading. For example, if your previous reading was 9000, and your current reading is 9076, the difference between readings would be 76.

Pressure factor is the volume of gas used, which can be changed by your distributor based on seasonal changes (i.e.: it will most likely be different in summer and winter). Heating value quantifies the heat and pressure of the gas in your household. This is usually dictated by the distributor.

The total Mj you’ve used over a billing period is usually calculated with this formula: difference between meter readings * pressure factor * heating value = total Mj usage.

How do I read my gas meter?

This will depend on the type of meter you have, but here is what you should generally do for each type:

Cyclonic dial

1)            Check that the serial number on your meter matches the one on your last bill.

2)            Read the meter from left to right. When recording the numbers, make sure to include all zeroes. If certain dials are between numbers, the lower number should be recorded. Disregard the red numbers that appear after the comma or decimal. They are not required for measuring your gas usage.

Clock dial

1)            Check that the serial number on your meter matches the one on your last bill.

2)            Read the meter from left to right. For the most accurate reading, it’s important to note that each dial will appear in the opposite direction of the previous dial. Once you’ve determined the direction of each dial, record the number the hand appears on. If it is between numbers, record the lower number.

Digital

1)            Check that the serial number on your meter matches the one on your last bill.

2)            Read the meter from left to right. Disregard any numbers after the decimal. They’re not required for measuring your gas usage.

General energy

How does the National Energy Retail Law work?

The National Energy Retail Law (NERL), which currently applies to all Australian states and territories except Victoria and Western Australia, makes it possible for Australians to access the best deal for their energy by allowing interstate trade in gas and electricity by suppliers. This trade is overseen by the Australian Energy Regulator (AER), a federal government body responsible for regulating wholesale energy markets (i.e. gas and electricity generation and supply in Australia). The AER also regulates energy networks and retail markets.

How can I make sure I’m getting the best deal on my energy bill?

A way to make sure you’re getting the best deal on your energy bill is to always be looking out for a better plan. Most residential plans don’t have cancellation fees, so you can always switch to another retailer if you see a better plan out there.

To get an idea of whether there’s a better plan available, you can compare a range of options through comparethemarket.com.au. By using our energy comparison service, you can enter your usage details and see if you can save with a different plan. We sort all our results based on the best price (including discounts), which gives you a better idea of what you’ll be paying.

How do I compare energy prices?

Electricity & gas prices can be compared by using our energy comparison service. Visit our website and simply click on what type of energy you want to compare – electricity, gas, or both – and whether you’re staying at your current location or moving to a different house.

Once you have started the process, enter in your details as accurately as possible to get plans suited to your lifestyle. After completing all the details, the available plans will be listed with the cheapest estimated bill at the top.

It only takes five minutes to find great deals and, best of all, it’s free to use.

How do I make a complaint about an energy company?

There’s an internal dispute resolution process through all energy retailers. Here are the steps you should generally follow (with any luck, you will only need the first):

  • Contact your retailer. If you have a complaint to make about your retailer, it’s generally recommended to contact them first. Make sure you are calm and collected during your interaction and be clear about why you’re contacting them. If you can, also keep records of the call, such as the date and the name of the person you spoke to.
  • Ask to speak to a supervisor. Sometimes the representative you talk to doesn’t have all the answers. In that case, ask to speak to their supervisor or senior manager. Once again, make sure you’re polite and clear in your interaction, and record details of your conversation.
  • Put your complaint in writing. If your complaint is still unresolved after contacting your retailer’s senior manager, you may want to put your complaint in writing and address it to the company’s head office. Record the specific complaint, the desired outcome, the specific time you want the complaint to be addressed, and any other supporting documents that might help your case. Also, make sure to keep a copy for your own
  • Contact the Ombudsman: If you still haven’t had your complaint resolved through your retailer, you can go direct to the energy ombudsman in your state.

For contact details of your state’s ombudsman and energy department, visit our page on how to respond if your service isn’t up to scratch.

What energy providers are available in my area?

Depending on where you live, you may have multiple retailers available to you. Here are the retailers available through comparethemarket.com.au:

RetailerState
VICNSWACTSASE QLD
ActewAGLNo offersElectricity and gasElectricity and gasNo offersNo offers
AGLElectricity and gasElectricity and gasNo offersElectricity and gasElectricity and gas
Alinta EnergyElectricity and gasElectricity and gasNo offersElectricity and gasElectricity only
Energy AustraliaElectricity and gasElectricity and gasElectricity and gasElectricity and gasElectricity only
Momentum EnergyElectricity and gasElectricity onlyNo offersElectricity onlyNo offers
Origin EnergyElectricity and gasElectricity and gasElectricity and gasElectricity and gasElectricity and gas
Power DirectElectricity onlyElectricity onlyNo offersElectricity onlyElectricity only
PowershopElectricity onlyElectricity onlyNo offersNo offersElectricity only
Red EnergyElectricity and gasElectricity and gasNo offersElectricity onlyElectricity only
Sumo PowerElectricity and gasNo offersNo offersNo offersNo offers

Disclaimer: These retailers aren’t available in every location.

However, if you live in a state or territory where energy is regulated – such as Western Australia, Tasmania, and Northern Territory - you may find that you don’t have much choice at all.

When you compare energy providers with us, you can find out which retailers are available in your postcode.

 

I’m a pensioner. Can I get a discount on my energy bills?

Yes, Australians holding a valid pensioner card can receive concessions on their energy bills from a variety of retailers, which are available through comparethemarket.com.au. Residents in Victoria can give their pension details to our consultants, while customers in other states need to get Centrelink to contact their new retailer.

The concession rates for each state are as follows:

  • Queensland: up to $340.85 per year for electricity and $71.30 per year for gas1.
  • New South Wales: up to $285 per year for electricity and $313.50 for people living in residential communities (e.g.: retirement villages, caravan parks, etc.) who handle the electricity bills2.
  • Victoria: you may receive an annual discount of 17.5%3.
  • South Australia: up to $217.90 per year for both electricity and gas4.

Go to our state energy concession information page for more about what concessions are available in your state.

How do I set up gas and electricity?

Similar to moving boxes and furniture, setting up gas and electricity for your new place is a straightforward process if you plan ahead. A great time to set up your utilities is (a) a few days before you’ve settled on your new home or (b) once you’ve signed the lease for your new rental. Once your new address is set, that’s when we can help you choose a plan.

Our energy comparison service allows you to select bundle plans with both electricity and gas, or individual plans for each. Just click what you want to compare and whether you’re connecting the plan to your current house or the one you plan to move into.

Once you have completed your comparison and selected the plan you want, you can call our experts, and they can plan everything for you.

To start setting up your electricity, use our free online energy comparison service or call 1800 990 003.

If you’re still unsure which plan is most suitable for you, all you have to do is call and our energy experts will assist you.

When can I switch my energy retailer without penalties?

You can generally change energy plans at any time without penalty, since most contracts now have no exit fees, although this will depend on your current plan.

How long should I keep my utility bills?

For residential accounts, there’s no set rule for how long you should keep your utility bills. However, if you want to check whether there’s anything unusual on a specific bill, it might be worth holding onto it until the issue has been resolved. If you are having issues with a specific bill, read about the steps you should take to resolve them.

For business accounts, it might be worth holding onto your utility bills for tax purposes, since you may be able to claim expenses on your tax return.

How can I choose my electricity and gas provider?

Comparethemarket.com.au allows you to compare plans from a variety of retailers, and you can get an estimate of the first bill with a new provider through our website. Our comparison service will take into account the energy charges you’re currently paying, and provide you with an estimate that you can compare to your current bill to see how much you could save if you switch.

Find out what options we have by using our free energy comparison service, or by calling one of our experts on 1800 990 003.

However, your ability to choose who your electricity and gas retailer is will depend on the state or territory you live in. In Western Australia, Tasmania, and Northern Territory, retail competition is regulated by the government, which means you may not be able to choose between multiple providers. In other regions, the market is deregulated, and your options will be more open.

Is it easy to switch energy providers? I think I could save a fair bit, but I don’t want the hassle!

Yes, it’s easy to change providers. All your retailer has to do is simply take over your account, which means you won’t lose power during the process.

You can speak to our consultants on 1800 990 003 and they will do everything for you. They will take your details over the phone, contact your new provider, and take care of the paperwork. From there, your new provider will contact your current provider, cancel your current plan, and start your new electricity plan.

Alternatively, you can use our website to compare and switch, which is similarly easy. To get the ball rolling, complete an energy quote online.

How it works

Is it hard to switch your energy provider? Will our power go off for a bit?

It certainly isn’t hard to switch your energy provider if you go through comparethemarket.com.au. By using our service, it becomes much easier to figure out which plans could be a better fit for your household; based on a bill estimate, contract period, and discount amount for each product.

Once you have found a deal through our comparison service, our experts can handle the changeover for you. As far as your power is concerned, you should never experience any power outages when you’re switching; all electricity for your region comes from the same distributor, meaning all your new provider will have to do is take over your account.

One thing to be aware of if you’re looking to switch is when your next meter read will be, because this will determine when your power will be switched. So, if you live in a state where meters are read quarterly, you may have to wait until your next billing period. However, you may choose to bypass this process by paying to have your meter read earlier.

Reviewing your options

Should I just be looking for the best discount when it comes to choosing an energy provider?

While discounts can help you save money, they typically only apply to the usage portion of your energy bill. Generally, energy charges comprise of two parts, a) supply charges (fixed daily cost of electricity or gas), and b) usage rates (variable costs based on the amount of energy you consume).

Most discounts for energy are based on bills being paid on time. If you’re unable to pay your bills on time, you usually won’t end up with any discounts. When you use our service, energy plans are compared by the total estimated bill costs (to be paid quarterly), including contract periods and discounts. If you’re looking to review your energy plan, use our free online comparison service.

Saving energy & smart meters

What are the best ways to reduce my energy bill?

Depending on where you live, energy retailers can be highly competitive and regularly advertise new ways to provide their customers with a good deal; start the ball rolling by reviewing a range of plans.

An energy bill is made up of multiple parts. You have a supply charge (i.e. the cost to deliver energy to your household) and a usage charge (i.e. the amount you used during the billing period). If you have a smart meter installed, you may also have different tariffs to take advantage of.

  1. Look for a plan with lower usage and supply charges. Our comparison service can help you find a range of providers in your area, as well as a bill estimate to help determine new costs.
  2. Search for plans with a discount applied to your energy charges. Be mindful, however, that these discounts will typically apply to usage charges only.
  3. Find a tariff structure that suits how you use energy in your home. For example, using energy during periods of low activity in your region can result in cheaper bills.

If you’re consistently spending more than expected, it could be time to compare providers and think about switching. Our service is a great place for you to review the above steps.

Here are some other ways you can reduce your energy bill:

  • Shut doors and close curtains around your home.
  • Avoid leaving your air conditioners and heaters running when they are not required or nobody is home.
  • Set your thermostat to 25°C in summer and 18°C in winter (air conditioners and heaters).
  • Set your washing machine’s water temperature to cold during washes.
  • Depending on the availability in your region and energy retailer, smart meters can help monitor household electricity usage, gain access to multiple tariffs (peak, off-peak, shoulder), and enable energy distributors to detect supply outages.
  • Make use of free appliance energy calculators to ensure your whitegoods are as efficient as possible.
  • Have a professional assess your home’s insulation, to see if a more-efficient alternative is available.
  • Use ‘controlled load’ tariffs for specific appliances which are separately metered (i.e. hot water systems or pools).
  • Utilise smartphone and tablet apps to monitor your energy usage.

How come my neighbour pays less for energy than I do? Isn’t it all the same?

Yes, your energy is more than likely from the same distributor as your neighbour, but each energy retailer prices their plans differently. This means that your neighbour might be getting their energy cheaper because they are with a retailer that offers more competitive plans.

Think about it like this: imagine there are two different supermarkets and they both stock the same bottle of milk. Despite the wholesalers selling to the supermarket at the same price, one supermarket sells it for $1.15, while the other sells it for $1.25. The same thing happens with energy retailers and their plans.

These other factors may also contribute to price disparities between yours and other people’s energy prices:

  • Discounts: Energy bill discounts usually apply to usage charges, not necessarily supply charges. You may have signed up to a plan with discounts, but they do not always remain in place beyond the original contract term (e.g. one year).
  • Usage and energy efficiency: Your household’s power usage may differ to others. For example, your neighbour may not have air conditioning or may use appliances with a higher energy star efficiency rating.
  • Solar: Solar bonus scheme rebates can impact the price of your energy bill, but are not available to everyone.

With these factors in mind, it is important to shop around for energy deals just like you would for anything else you’re looking to buy for a lower price –like milk! By using our energy comparison service, you can assess plans from various providers and even determine how much you would pay for your current usage under a new plan.

Ready to find a better deal? It’s easy to compare with us.

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Or call us on1800 990 003