While there are some similarities, securing business electricity is not like finding an energy plan for your home. Choosing a provider will depend more on the size and nature of your business as well as how your business uses power.
It may be worth considering an energy consultant to help find the best plan for your business.
How do I find a business energy broker or consultant?
If you’re connecting energy for 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.
It may be easier to find an energy plan for a small business, as they generally have similar energy requirements to a residential property. Most providers will let you get a quote on a small business energy plan, but you can also use a broker or consultant if your gas or electricity needs are more complex.
If your small business has multiple sites, you may also be eligible for a dedicated accounts manager.
For big businesses, there is more room for error in selecting your own energy set-up. While many energy providers will still offer specialised quotes for large companies, a broker may be better positioned to find you the best deal.
Depending on the size of the business, you may also be given a dedicated account manager.
What do I look out for when selecting a plan and/or provider?
There are a number of things to keep in mind when sourcing energy for your business.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Customer service quality. Some companies may offer special discounts if you sign up for both gas and electricity services simultaneously.
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 costs above).
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.
Whether they’re available in your area/state. Energy providers do not necessarily operate in all states and territories, and the choice of providers may be limited depending on where your business is located in the country. Use the map below to see the provider options for your region:
This will depend on where in Australia your business is located, but in open energy markets, including NSW, Tasmania, the ACT and Victoria, you are free to switch from one plan or provider at any time. While the market is open in the Northern Territory and parts of WA, you may still only have the choice of one provider. You also have a choice of provider in South East Queensland, but for those in regional parts of the state, there is only one provider.
Depending on the nature of your plan, you may also be charged exit fees for ending your contract early, and these should be factored in to your decision when looking to switch.
How do I exit my existing contract?
Upon commencing a new energy contract, your previous one will end. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 (e.g. 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.
Tom Stelzer is a writer for Finder specialising in personal finance, including personal loans and car loans, as well as small business and business loans. He has previously worked as a freelance writer covering entertainment, culture and football. He has a Master of Media Arts and Production and Bachelor of Communications in Journalism from the University of Technology Sydney.
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