Energy FAQs

Answers when you need them

Your energy bill can be one of your more complicated expenses. How do usage & service charges differ? What's a 'tariff'? And how can you find great value plans for your home?

No matter the question, we've endeavoured to answer it. That's right; we're not just a great place to compare!

Energy Frequently Asked Questions

Electricity

How do I compare electricity providers (often referred to as ‘retailers’)?

You can compare electricity providers using our energy comparison service.

All you need to do is fill out the details about your property and electricity usage. You can also filter your search results by discounts, payment options, retailers and more. The more information you provide, the more accurately we can estimate the prices of new plans.

Your results will be sorted by plans available in order of cheapest total estimated costs. From there, apply online or 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 or your rental agreement may affect how you pay for it. If you connected your own electricity as you moved in, you will likely pay for your own electricity.

Alternatively, the electricity account may be under the landlord’s name or body corporate. In this case, the electricity bill may be bundled in with your rent, or your landlord may forward the bill to you. This is particularly common with embedded networks.

Do Australians pay GST on electricity?

Yes, you do have to pay GST on electricity. The total amount owing in energy bills include GST, and the GST amount can usually be found next to the current invoice amount on your bill.

Do electricity rates change during the day?

Depending on the type of meter and tariff you’re on, the amount you’re charged for your electricity usage may change during the day. These electricity rates are commonly referred to as peak, off-peak, shoulder rates and controlled loads.

These times that these changes occur may vary depending on your provider, so it’s important to thoroughly read through the basic plan information and terms and conditions when you’re connecting or switching to a new plan.

If you’re on a single rate tariff, you’ll be charged the same amount regardless of the time of day and day of the week. The rates may change during any price change events (usually 1 January, 1 July, or at the end of your energy contract).

Note that your meter may only be read once per quarter (i.e., every three months), which is the reading that your bills are likely to be calculated with. Therefore, it may be difficult to determine what time of day you used up the most energy, unless you have a smart meter.

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

If you are experiencing financial hardship, providers will usually try and work with you to figure out how they can best help you pay your bills. For example, they may:

  • set up special payment arrangements to let the customer pay a set amount on each bill
  • let customers pay at shorter intervals (e.g., fortnightly or monthly)
  • provide opportunities to pay one missed bill at the next billing cycle
  • allow customers to pay in advance.1

In any case, transparency is usually the best policy when it comes to any financial difficulties. If the payments are going to be an ongoing problem, the energy charges of your plan might be too high. You may want to compare a range of plans and search for a better deal with our energy comparison service.

 

1 Essential Services Commission (2017). Payment difficulty framework. Accessed 20 April 2021.

Can I pay my electricity bill online?

Yes, energy providers will generally let you pay your bill online. This may be done through their online portal, BPAY or direct debit through your bank. People receiving Centrelink payments may also be eligible to use Centrepay, which is a free service designed to deduct bill expenses from your payments.

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 have a smart or interval meter, the cheapest time to use electricity will usually be during off-peak times, which differ depending on where you live, your provider and meter type. For example, customers in NSW may have off-peak times between 10pm-7am on weekdays and also the weekend.

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 will remain the same regardless of the time.

Can solar panels provide all my electricity?

Many homes don’t produce enough solar electricity to meet all their usage needs. However, the solar feed-in tariff may be able to help you pay off your energy bills. 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 day.1

In theory, a 5kW solar system with a solar battery could support this level of usage, since they can produce roughly 20kWh per day.

However, most batteries don’t reach or hold their rated efficiency and solar energy generation may vary depending on the weather (i.e., it won’t generate as much energy on cloudy days).  If there’s a thick layer of dust on your panels, its ability to convert sunlight into energy may also be compromised. The panels will also have to generate enough energy to meet all your demand peaks.

Considering this, 5kW solar system may not be able to comfortably generate enough electricity for a typical suburban home throughout the year and you may have to rely on the electricity grid.

 

1 Solar Quotes (2021). 5KW Solar System Information and Pricing. Accessed 20 April 2021.

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

You can change your provider* (often referred to as your retailer) by using our free online energy comparison service. Our service will show you some of the plans available in your area and provide an estimate of how much your bill may cost if you switch over.

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

It’s important to remember the difference between providers and distributors. Providers purchase energy from energy wholesalers. Distributors work with providers to connect customers to the grid.

How do I find out who my electricity provider is?

If you want to know who handles your account, your provider (commonly referred to as retailer) is the company that sends you your bills. Your provider’s logo can usually be found at the top of the invoice. In states with deregulated electricity, 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, or who to contact in the event of an outage, you’ll need to contact your electricity distributor. Your distributor’s contact information is located on your bill, but you can also find out through the Australian Energy Regular (AER) .

Note that you can’t switch distributors, since it’s based on 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 analog 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 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?

Off-peak times in New South Wales vary depending on the type of plan and tariff you’re on. However, as a general guide, a typical off-peak usage time for NSW may be 10pm-7am on weekdays and weekends.

To find out what the off-peak times for your plan, refer to your energy provider’s website.

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

No, you will not lose power when you switch energy providers. All energy in your area is supplied from the same distributor, which means all your provider has to do is simply take over your account. However, it’s worth noting that the switch itself might not happen straight away – it may take place from your next billing cycle.

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

While your energy may come from the same provider and distributor as your neighbour, they may have a plan with cheaper energy usage charges. Another reason why they’re paying less could be because of discounts, some of which are only available to new customers.

Furthermore, the discounts from your original contract may have expired, meaning you are paying more than you originally thought. For all these reasons, it’s important to constantly review your energy plan to see if you can get better prices.

To see if you’re still on a great-value deal, use our energy comparison service to see how your plan compares. Within minutes, you can see how much your next bill might cost under a different plan. Note that your energy usage directly impacts the size of your bill. Consider changing some of your energy consumption habits to further reduce your bill.

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 on how you’re using gas in your household. If you have a gas hot water system, one way to save on your gas bill is to monitor how much hot water you’re using. To save on your bill, consider cutting down on the duration and frequency of hot showers and baths (within reason) and washing your clothes in cold water.

Another way to save is limiting your use of gas-powered ovens and stovetops and prepare meals that don’t require heat. Using your microwave to heat up leftovers could help you reduce your reliance on your oven and stove.

Finally, if you have a gas central heating system, use it only when necessary. If you can, stay warm by wearing jackets, jumpers, scarves, or any other winter attire, along with heavier blankets when you’re sleeping. It’s worth trying if you’re looking to save on your gas bill.

Read our gas saving tips guide 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 you’re moving into a new premise and the gas has been disconnected, 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 providers within minutes.

If you need to reconnect because you weren’t paying your bills, you should get in touch with your provider immediately and see if they can implement any tools or services to help you pay off your account.

If there’s been a problem with the gas line itself, you should get in touch with your distributor and let them know what’s happened.

How is gas measured in Australia?

Gas usage in Australia is measured in megajoules (MJ), except in Western Australia where gas is measured in units (one unit is equal to 3.6MJ). Your megajoule consumption will be recorded in cubic metres (M3). How much you use on your bill is usually measured using three factors:

  • your meter readings: your energy usage is calculated by subtracting the value of your previous reading from your current reading. For example, if your previous reading was 9000, and your current reading is 9076, the difference between readings would be 76;
  • pressure factor: 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); and
  • heating value: quantifies the heat and pressure of the gas in your household. This is usually dictated by the distributor.

The total MJ or Unit you’ve used over a billing period is usually calculated with this formula: the difference between meter readings x pressure factor x 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 do I know if I am on a contract for electricity or gas?

Anyone who receives electricity or natural gas bills for using power and/or gas at home or work has a contract with an electricity or gas provider. Electricity and gas contracts are binding legal agreements allowing you to receive a supply of electricity or gas at your home or business.

How does the National Energy Retail Law work?

The National Energy Retail Law (NERL) makes it possible for Australians covered by the NERL to access the best deal for their energy by allowing interstate trade in gas and electricity. 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.

The NERL currently applies to all Australian states and territories except Western Australia and Northern Territory.

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. Check your current providers fees, however, most residential plans don’t have exit fees, so you can always switch to another provider if you see a better offer out there.

To get an idea of whether there’s a better plan available, you can compare a range of options through us. 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 in order of price, which will give you a better idea of what you could be paying.

How do I make a complaint about an energy company?

All energy providers have an internal dispute resolution process. Here are the steps you should generally follow (with any luck, you will only need the first):

  • Contact your provider.If you have a complaint to make about your provider, it’s generally recommended to contact them first. Make sure you’re 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.
  • Contact the Ombudsman.If you still haven’t had your complaint resolved through your provider, you can go directly to the energy ombudsman in your state.

What energy providers are available in my area?

Depending on where you live, you may have multiple providers (known as retailers) available to you. You can see the different retailers who provide energy plans that may be available to you on our energy partners page.

However, if you live in a state or territory where electricity 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 from our selection of great partner brands.

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 providers.

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?

Like moving boxes and furniture, setting up gas and electricity for your new place is a straightforward process if you plan for it. A great time to set up your utilities is:

  • a week before you start settling into your new home; or
  • when 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 online service offers connection within five business days. Same day or next day connections can be offered over the phone, but you may have less options.

Our energy comparison service allows you to select 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 home or the one you plan to move into.

After you’ve completed your comparison and selected the plan you want, you can sign up online or call our experts who can plan everything for you. Note that some retailers may only let you sign up online; however, our experts can walk you through this process if you need.

To start setting up your electricity, use our free online energy comparison service.

When can I switch my energy provider 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’s terms and conditions.

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.

For business accounts, it might be worth holding onto your utility bills, since you may be able to claim expenses on your annual tax return. Refer to the ATO website and discuss this with your accountant.

How can I choose my electricity and gas provider?

You can compare plans from a variety of providers, and you can even get an estimate of your first bill through our free energy comparison service. We estimate prices by, firstly, finding the individual retailer’s reference price (average usage amount as defined by the AER). Then we use the information you provide about your current bill usage to estimate what your first bill could be based on the available products.

However, your ability to choose who your electricity and gas provider is will depend on the state or territory you live in. In Western Australia (for electricity only), Tasmania, regional Queensland and Northern Territory, retail competition is regulated by the government, which means you may not be able to choose your providers. In other regions, the market is deregulated, and your options may 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 provider needs to do is simply take over your billing account for your property address, which means you won’t lose power during the process.

You can speak to our consultants (call 1800 990 003) who can sort everything out for you. They’ll 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, take over the billing, and start your new electricity or gas plan.

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

Reviewing your options

Why should I switch to a market contract?

If you’re on a standing offer (a basic energy plan without any discounts or benefit periods), you’ll likely be paying the maximum price that providers are able to charge.  You may be able to save money on your power and gas bills by switching to a market contract. Market contracts (also known as market offers) are competitive plans offered by energy providers.

Depending on where you live, there could be many  providers to choose from, each offering different pricing, discounts, bonuses and other incentives. Make sure you read the terms and conditions and make sure the switch is right for your circumstances.

Can I cancel my plan once I’ve purchased it?

If you choose to make a purchase or switch through us, but change your mind, you may cancel the application. You can do so without charge if your plan is cancelled within the 10-business day cooling off period. Note that the cooling off period commences the day after you receive the receipt of the Welcome Pack.

However, if you wish to cancel your application to switch or connect after your 10-business day cooling off period, you may incur an exit fee. An exit fee may not apply for certain plains – check the terms and conditions.

For any cancellation request with your new provider, you’ll need to call them to cancelYou’ll receive a confirmation when you switch provider, and the new one will detail the procedure for cancelling the contract.

The procedure varies for move in connections. If you choose to move in and decide to cancel during the cooling off period, you’ll not be charged an exit fee. However, if during that period your property has been connected with energy supply, you may be charged a connection fee. Although it’s billed by your provider, this charge is typically imposed by the distributor.

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 provide us with some details (e.g. your typical energy usage), the available plans will be listed with the cheapest estimated bill at the top of the page.

It only takes a few minutes to find great deals. Best of all, it’s free to use!

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

It isn’t difficult to switch energy providers. By using our service, it’s easy to figure out which plans could be a better fit for your household; based on a bill estimate, contract period, and discount amount (if applicable) 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 energy for your region is connected by the same distributor, meaning that your new provider only needs to 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 switch over. Depending your property address and the type of meter set up at your property, you may have to wait until your next billing period. However, you may choose to bypass this process by requesting a special meter read, if this is available. Note that you’ll have to pay for this meter read yourself.

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:

  • supply charges (fixed daily cost of electricity or gas)
  • usage rates (variable costs based on the amount of energy you consume).

When you use our service, energy plans are compared by the total estimated bill costs (to be paid annually, quarterly or monthly), including contract periods and discounts and perks. 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 providers can be highly competitive and regularly advertise new ways to provide their customers with a good deal. So, start the ball rolling by reviewing a range of plans.

There are a number of charges that make up your total energy bill. You have the supply charge (i.e. the cost to deliver energy to your household) and usage charge (i.e. the amount you used during the billing period). If you have a smart meter installed, you may be able to take advantage of different tariffs.

  • 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.
  • Search for plans with a discount applied to your energy charges. Be mindful that these discounts may only apply for a certain period (e.g., 12 months).
  • 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 your property is configured for these types of tariffs.

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 electricity and gas bill:

  • Avoid leaving your air conditioners and heaters running when they’re not required, or nobody is home.
  • Set your thermostat to 26°C in summer and 18°C in winter (air conditioners and heaters).
  • Select the cold wash option instead of 40°C.
  • Make use of free appliance energy calculatorsto 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)*.
  • Use smartphone and tablet apps to monitor your energy usage if you have the appropriate meter to do so.

*You may need to pay a qualified electrician to configure these appliances.

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