Nearly 75% of our 2018 survey respondents said their energy bills had increased noticeably over the last three years1. That’s right: three in every four Aussies.

Frustratingly, the energy market is one that often confuses Aussies, meaning more and more of our hard-earned savings are zapped by a product many of us don’t understand as well as we should.

Let’s put the power back in your hands. Want to make a more informed decision that’ll do more for your budget? Then read on!

We shed light on the following:

Energy retailers vs distributors

What’s an energy retailer?

You’ve probably already built up a solid relationship with your energy retailer – this is the company who sends you an energy bill every few months, charging you for your energy usage.

In fact, there’s a growing number of small, medium, and large private energy retailers throughout certain Australian states, territories and regional areas who offer Australians the chance to find a competitive price on their electricity and gas plan – something deregulation has made possible for many residents.

Those living in the following Australian states and territories cannot choose their own energy retailer due to regulation:

What’s an energy distributor?

You may not be as familiar with your energy distributor as you are your retailer. Energy distributors are the people who deliver electricity and gas to homes and businesses throughout Australia. Distributors own infrastructure, like power lines, pipes, meters and so on that transmit power and natural gas to your home/business.

It’s important to know who your energy distributor is, as it’s their job to keep all energy infrastructure maintained and are the people you call when there’s a problem, like a power outage.

What are the various tariff types?

The word ‘tariff’ gets thrown around a lot when we talk about electricity, and it’s often difficult to quickly discern the different types and which tariff may better suit your individual energy needs and budget. This is problematic, as tariff rates directly impact how much you’ll owe on your next energy bill.

Overall, there are five types of electricity tariffs:

Time of use tariff

What is it?

As its name suggests, time of use means your electricity usage is more expensive or cheaper at different times of the day and night. These times are known as peak, off-peak and shoulder.

Peak (usually 2pm-8pm weekdays): This is when your electricity usage costs the most. You may notice energy usage on weekday evenings are more expensive, as, typically, more people are home and watching television, using electric stovetops/ovens, washing clothes (or not).

Shoulder (typically 7am-2pm and 8pm-10pm): Shoulder rates are the bridging the period between peak and off-peak rates. Shoulder rates are usually cheaper than peak periods.

Off-peak (all other times): You guessed it: using the dishwasher during off-peak periods means you’re paying less for your energy usage. These rates are usually in motion overnight on Saturday and Sunday.

Who could benefit?

Those who:

  • are generally out weekday evenings;
  • use appliances, like their dishwasher and washing machine on weekends; and/or
  • are home during weekdays and weekends.

Single rate tariff

What is it?

A single rate tariff (also known as flat rate, standard rate, peak rate and anytime rate) do not have peak or off-peak periods. So, you’ll pay the same rate for your energy use at any time of the day or night.

Single rate tariffs are usually lower than peak rates of time of use tariffs.

Who could benefit?

Those who:

  • are home most evenings from Monday to Friday; and/or
  • use appliances, like the dishwasher or washing machine, more often during the week.


Controlled load tariff

What is it?

Controlled load tariffs (also known as dedicated circuit consumption) can apply to a specific appliance, like underfloor heating or electric hot water systems.

If you opt for controlled load tariffs for certain appliances, your retailer charges a specific rate for the energy that appliance uses. Usually, these appliances will have their very own meter.

Who could benefit?

Those who have appliances that run overnight or in off-peak times (e.g. hot water systems, pool pumps). This means controlled load rates are typically lower.

Demand tariff

What is it?

Demand tariffs, measured in kilowatts (kW), charge you on how much electricity you use at a point in time, rather than your electricity usage over time.

This means if you have your dishwasher and washing machine on at the same time, for example, your electricity demand will be greater, and you will attract a higher charge.

You must have a smart meter to take advantage of energy plans with demand tariffs. These tariffs have extra demand charges placed on top of regular usage and supply charges.

Who could benefit?

Australians everywhere. Demand tariffs are said to optimise the energy network, as more households will avoid using high-power appliances at the same time to reduce strain on the network. This could result in lower overall network charges in the future.

Solar feed-in tariff

What is it?

A solar feed-in tariff is an amount you’ll receive back for any solar energy your solar panel system sends back into the grid.

It’s important to remember that the amount your provider credits you will vary, depending on the type of solar system you have installed, the feed-in rates your state or territory government have implemented, and whether or not your energy retailer decides to add more to the government’s rate.

The two types of solar feed-in tariffs include:

  • Gross feed-in. Used in the Australian Capital Territory, the Northern Territory and New South Wales, your retailer credits you for the electricity your solar system feeds back into the grid. For any electricity you use, your provider then charges you separately.
  • Net feed-in. Available in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria. These tariffs credit you for any excess electricity that your solar system generates that goes unused by your household/business and feeds back into the grid.

Who could benefit?

Those who already have solar panels installed on their property.

Which discounts are available to me?

Energy retailers can offer discounts on their customers’ plans. These can include:

  • Direct debit discounts. Retailers offer these discounts when they direct debit payment from your bank account or credit card.
  • Pay on time discounts. If you pay for your energy bill in full on time, you can receive a discount. It’s essential you carefully consider pay on time discounts. If you think you may struggle to pay for your energy bill at times, it may be a better option for you to opt for a lower tariff rate.
  • Bundling discounts. If you bundle your gas and electricity with the same retailer, you may receive a discount on your plan.
  • Paperless billing discounts. You can receive a discount if you opt in to have all your bills sent to your email.

Don’t forget; it’s important you consider the cost of your entire energy bill and not just the discounts on offer. While one plan may offer a generous discount, it may also have higher overall usage charges. On the other hand, you may find another plan with a smaller discount, but a tariff rate that will benefit you – and your hip pocket – in the long run.

Also, discounts often expire after 12 months, which means you can, without realising, revert back to higher rates after this period. Therefore, it’s essential you keep track of how long your discount has left and ask your provider if you can take advantage of any other discounts or offers.

Before contacting your provider about discounts, it’s a good idea to compare energy plans with our free comparison service to find out what other retailers are offering. Our panel comprises of 10 major Australian retailers, making it easy for you to compare a range of discounts and pricing all in the one place, saving you from searching through multiple websites.

If you find another retailer with a more competitive price and discount, you can either switch over or you could ask your current provider to match discounts and pricing.

What’s the go with electricity meters?

Your electricity consumption is measured by meters – the information on these meters is used by your retailer to calculate your electricity bill.

Three main types of meters that can impact your power bill. These include:

If your property has an accumulation meter, you might like to update to, say, a smart meter, if you’d like to take advantage of a time of use tariff, live electricity consumption monitoring, or if you’re planning to install a solar panel system.

How does solar power work and can it benefit me?

More and more Aussies are opting in for energy solutions that are better for the environment than other generation methods (i.e. fossil fuels, like coal and oil). Solar power is one such solution that can both help the environment from reduced emissions and may even save you money on your energy bill.

Solar panels (also known as photovoltaic or PV panels) transform the sun’s energy into electricity that can be used around your home and business. These solar panels are either connected to the electricity network (the grid) or separate system (off-grid). They are typically mounted on the roof of a building and connect to the mains power supply through an inverter.

Depending on government regulations and if your retailer has a solar feed-in tariff, some Australians may receive money for the electricity they put back into the grid (if they’re connected to the grid).

Can I earn money with a solar panel?

Having a solar system doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have a cheaper electricity bill. How much you save depends on a few factors, like:

While the initial setup can be pricey, there are government schemes available, like the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme, which offers a financial incentive for residents and business owners to purchase renewable energy systems with a lower price.

What are the benefits of GreenPower?

Aussies who are looking to reduce their carbon footprint may like to sign up for GreenPower, an Australian Government scheme where you can purchase power supply from renewable sources (e.g. the sun and wind) through your energy retailer. According to the official GreenPower website, more than 25,000 organisations and over 300,000 households participate in this scheme2.

It’s important to remember that your household may not run off power supplied by renewable energy even if you opt-in for GreenPower. The organisation explains that GreenPower and fossil fuel is mixed in the grid and then sent out to different households that are a part of the network. As such, it’s impossible to know if the electricity that powers your appliances comes from renewable sources. Despite this, GreenPower says Australians’ participation in the scheme increases the funding of renewable energy and adds “funding and adding more renewable energy on the grid”3.

So, how do you sign up for GreenPower? Well, different energy retailers purchase renewable energy from distributors and sell it to their customers; as the customer, you simply opt in for GreenPower on your energy plan, including the amount you wish to have from renewable energy sources.

While GreenPower can increase your power bill, the scheme can help encourage green energy generation. This extra cost may be around five to eight cents more per kWh than you electricity plan if you purchase 100% GreenPower4.

Why do I need to compare energy providers?

A better question to ask, perhaps, is, ‘Do you think you’re paying the cheapest and most competitive rate for your energy usage?’

Comparing energy plans, depending on where you live in Australia, helps ensure you’re paying the most competitive price for your electricity and gas. There’s no reason why you should funnel more of your money towards the same electricity if there’s a better deal available on the market.

To see what’s out there, try out our free energy comparison service. It takes only minutes to compare energy plans from 10 major Australian retailers to find one that suits your needs and budget.

[1] Independent survey, 25 June 2018.

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