All you need to know about powering your business

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How is business electricity different?

Business electricity is not like finding a power plan for your home. Instead, it depends more on the size of your business and how your business uses power. Powering your workplace should be simple and hassle-free, so learn what to look for in a business electricity or gas plan and consider using an energy consultant to help make an informed choice.

On average, Australian businesses pay $950 too much each year for electricity.

How do I find a business energy broker or consultant?

If you’re connecting energy to a large business, it’s best to speak to a professional and get plenty of quotes. You can discuss the various plans and options for your business with the energy provider or contact a specialist energy consultant to help you with the decision.

  • Small businesses

Small businesses are easier to organise energy for than large ones. However, if your business has multiple sites, you may be eligible for a dedicated accounts manager.

  • Big businesses

For big businesses, there is more room for error in selecting your own energy set up. Many energy providers offer specialised quotes. You should also consider whether your energy provider will provide a dedicated accounts manager.

What do I look out for when selecting a plan and/or provider?

  • Discounts on market usage rates. This is the amount you are charged per unit of power. The discount may be a limited-time offer, so make sure to check the benefits duration and how this corresponds with your contract duration.
  • Duration of contract. Contracts can "lock you in" for anywhere between six months and two years. Leaving prematurely can mean paying an exit fee (see below).
  • Exit fees. These are generally higher for business customers than for residential ones. Also, business contracts are generally longer, meaning there is a longer period under which to be charged. Exit fees in the first year can be anywhere between $100-$200 and $50-$100 for the second year of the contract.
  • Accuracy of energy billing. When calculating your electricity usage, your provider can either estimate your usage, potentially overcharging your business, or actually measure it. It is worth investigating the technique employed by your retailer or package.
  • Simplicity. Different energy providers place different emphases on simplicity. Some offer a wide range of subtly different packages to suit their customers, while others offer just one or two packages that are simple to understand and sign up to.
  • Rates on electricity use. These rates vary depending on your provider and your plan. With a simple general supply plan, these costs are often average rates, ranging between 25 and 30 cents per kilowatt hour. For other tariffs, such as an on-peak/off-peak plan, you save money if you can shift your usage to weekends and evening energy usage. On-peak prices are higher than the general supply rates, over 30 cents/kWh, while off-peak ones are lower, around 20 cents/kWh.
  • Flexible payment options. There are many ways to pay your bills, and it often pays to have many options with your provider. Make sure they offer services such as BPAY, direct debit, mail etc.
  • Whether they’re available in your area/state. Only residents and businesses of Victoria, New South Wales, ACT, South Australia and Queensland are able to switch either their gas or electricity providers. Tasmanian business owners can choose between gas retailers, but not electricity, which is provided by the government-owned Aurora Energy. Businesses in Western Australia or the Northern Territory are unable to choose their retailer. Electricity is provided by Synergy in Western Australia and by the Power and Water Corporation in the Northern Territory.
  • Sign-up discounts. Some plans offer discounts upon signing up. These may be flat credits that go towards your first bill or percentage discounts that reduce your bills for a limited period.
  • Customer service quality. Some companies may offer special discounts if you sign up for both gas and electricity services simultaneously.
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What is GreenPower?

Businesses, as well as residential homes, can access a variety of environmentally friendly energy options. Given the sheer volume of energy used in a large business, establishing a greener energy-use scheme for your business has the potential to offset the equivalent amount of fossil fuels from dozens, if not hundreds, of homes.

GreenPower is a government-certified, environmentally responsible energy scheme that allows you to purchase "green electricity", which is produced from renewable sources, and fit it into the system. You can purchase different portions of your electricity usage to commit to green electricity (including 100% of it), but this power isn’t directly used to power your home. Instead, it is fed into the system. The GreenPower program is comparable to the Oxfam Unwrapped program where you can purchase a goat for charity.

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How do I exit my existing contract?

Upon commencing a new energy contract, your previous one will dissolve. It would be beneficial to notify your energy company of your moving date and take note of this to ensure you get billed appropriately for the partial payment period.

If you are relocating your business and would like to keep your previous provider, contact a representative from your energy supplier.

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What do I do if I have a complaint about my provider?

First and foremost, it is a good idea to give your provider a call. Who to contact should be clear from your energy bill. Most, if not all, energy bills have a box with points of contact. If they are unable to address your concerns, ask who is able.

If neither of these two groups can resolve your issue, the next step is to contact your state energy ombudsman. Ombudsmen are responsible for resolving a wide range of issues and will describe the correct course of action. When first contacting your ombudsman, you will need to get together some details: Who you are, who your supplier is, your details, the issue and your ideal resolution to that issue. When providing the latter two points, try and make it concise and logical. Keep every document or piece of evidence pertinent to the case and have this information on hand while dealing with the ombudsman.

Powering Your Business

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How do I read my bill?

The bills for small businesses are almost identical to those of residential plans. However, bills for a big business have much more information. These bills breakdown where the costs for your bill come from, and what your tariffs are going towards. There is information about tax and energy losses due to resistance in the system and information about how to compensate for price in other areas. There are often informative depictions of pollution, including the average state and national production of carbon emissions. We've broken down how to read your bill to help you interpret all the details.

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What is the difference between accumulation, interval and smart meters?

  • Accumulation. This meter records your total electricity usage, with no information regarding time of use (eg, peak vs off-peak). A retail employee must physically read these meters on a periodic basis.
  • Interval. Interval meters measure your electricity usage at set intervals, such as every 30 minutes. This allows your retailer to charge you the appropriate amount based on time of use. The cost is usually cheaper for off-peak times and more expensive for peak times. These units must also be read manually.
  • Smart. Where the previous two meters involve estimations on your usage, smart meters measure your actual usage. They also establish a wireless communication feed between your unit and your energy provider. This negates the need for a reader to come to your property to connect, disconnect or read your electricity engagement. Further, it can optimise "feed-in" processes where residents with solar panels direct excess electricity back into the grid. The resident can access and read the smart meter's information to find out how and when they can reduce their power consumption.
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How do I save energy around the workplace?

  1. Switch off computers, printers and faxes when you can. Many machines are left on causing large amounts of unnecessary drain.
  2. Install automatic light switches and fans for bathrooms and other rooms that don’t need constant lighting/services.
  3. Move hot items from cool places and cool items from hot places. For example, don’t place your fridge and oven next to each other and keep your heaters away from your windows.
  4. Close doors and don’t bother to heat or cool unoccupied rooms.
  5. For more helpful tips, checkout our energy-saving tricks.
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