All You Need to Know about Powering Your Business

Information verified correct on October 22nd, 2016

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Setting up power for your business requires a lot of consideration; we’re here to make all of those factors clear.

Our work lives are built around power, and when it comes to starting a business — big or small — we are able to customise the way we pay for it. When choosing a provider, you want to look for flexibility in how you are serviced, how you can pay, and more. Powering your workplace should be simple and hassle-free. Let this be your guide.

I’m starting a new business — what do I do with my electricity and gas?

Are you a small or large business? Energy is provided to these two sizes of organisations differently. If your business spends more than $30,000 on electricity and gas each year, you may have a big business.

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 business

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

  • Big business

For big businesses, there is more room for error in selecting your own energy set up. Many energy providers offer specialised quotes. Further, you may need to consider if your energy provider will provide a dedicated accounts manager, too.

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. How long you are rewarded with a discount rate can be limited though, 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 to $200, and $50 to $100 for the second year of the contract.
  • Accuracy of energy billing — to be charged for 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 plan. With a simple general supply plan, these costs are often ‘middle of the road’ between 25—30 cents per kilowatt hour, for example. For other tariffs such as an on-peak/off-peak plan, you save money if your usage can be shifted 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. And businesses of Western Australia or the Northern Territory are unable to choose their retailer and have their electricity provided by Synergy and Power and Water Corporation, respectively.
  • 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 with residential, are offered a variety of ‘environmentally friendly’ energy options. The power of a business though, is in the sheer volume of energy used. 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’, that 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, purchase a goat for charity, scheme. For more information, read here.

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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, though, 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 and speak to a representative from your energy supplier.

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What do I do if I have a complaint with 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 of small businesses are almost identical to those of residential plans. Big business bills, however, have much more information. These bills breakdown where the costs for your bill come from, and who 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 can also be informative depictions of pollution, including the average state and national production of carbon emissions.

Click here to know more about reading your bill.

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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, i.e. peak, off-peak etc. These meters must be physically read by a retail employee on a periodic basis such as quarterly.
  • Interval: Interval meters measure your electricity usage at set intervals such as every 30 minutes. This allows your retailer to charge you the appropriate amounts based on time-of-use, cheaper for off-peak and more expensive for peak. 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 meters 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 whichever computers, printers, and faxes 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, i.e. 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, visit this page.
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