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What is a controlled load?

Worried about boiling that kettle or the cost of that extra hot shower? Don’t be – that’s why we have controlled load tariffs. Here’s everything you need to know.

Not every device is energy efficient. Air fryers, kettles, air conditioners, dryers: all of these things use enormous amounts of energy over short periods of time, which can drive up your energy bill.

But there's a way you can save money while still warming your home or boiling that cup of tea. Controlled load tariffs are an option available with some energy plans that are designed to limit the power cost of energy-hungry appliances like water heaters.

What is a controlled load, and how does the controlled load tariff work?

Controlled load is a tariff available in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland and Tasmania that lets you have your electricity usage for certain devices — like heating systems, swimming pools or some form of irrigation — metered separately from the rest of your property. Exactly what appliances you can nominate for a controlled load tariff will depend on your provider and individual energy circumstances.

For devices on a controlled load tariff, this is how it works:

  • Your supplier will provide power to the controlled load circuit — which your nominated appliances draw power from — at certain times of day.
  • The power used will be billed at a lower rate than your regular energy usage.
  • You might also be billed for a "service charge" of a few cents every day, depending on your network.

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Are controlled load tariffs the same everywhere in Australia?

The kinds of controlled load tariffs available will vary depending on where you are in Australia. In New South Wales, Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory, customers can choose between 2 types of controlled load tariffs. Only 1 controlled load tariff is available in Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia. Western Australia customers do not have a state-wide option, but some individual providers do have plans for water heating systems that provide cheaper power for separate circuits, like a controlled load tariff would.

Controlled load tariffs can also have different names, depending on the state you're in:

  • In NSW, they're called Controlled Load 1 and Controlled Load 2
  • In Queensland, they're called Tariff 31 and Tariff 33
  • In Tasmania, it's called Tariff 62 or Tariff 63
  • Victoria calls them controlled load tariffs or a dedicated circuit charge
  • In ACT and South Australia, it's simply referred to as a controlled load

Some users in Tasmania may also still be charged under Tariff 61, an older controlled load tariff that kicks in during the afternoons, but the tariff is no longer available to new customers.

How can I tell if I'm on a controlled load tariff already? If not, how can I get connected?

Your existing energy plan — particularly for those in NSW and Queensland — may already include you on a controlled load tariff. But if you're not sure, or you're about to install a device that you think may benefit from the cheaper power, it's always best to call and check.

  • Call your retailer first. Your retailer will be able to advise if you're taking advantage of a controlled load tariff, and if not, they can guide you through the process of including one in your bill.
  • Check your metering. Controlled load tariffs often require that nominated devices have their own power meter. Your retailer can walk you through this process if you need to attach a dedicated meter to any existing or new devices.

It's also worth comparing your current energy plan to see if you can get a better deal on your controlled load tariff. Any major heating device — be it for your pool, living room or water — is a huge factor in your overall power bill, so use our comparison tool to make sure you're getting a good deal.

Are there any downsides to using a controlled load tariff?

The main catch of a controlled load tariff is that the plans are designed to only provide power to the nominated circuits, or devices, for a small amount of time each day. There may also be an initial cost in changing your metering set-up to support a controlled load tariff, although the long-term benefits of cheaper power for that device are typically worth it.

What's the difference between controlled load 1 and controlled load 2?

While each retailer will have their own advantages and disadvantages, the main difference for those with access to multiple controlled load tariffs is time and money.

Controlled load 1 tariffs are usually cheaper, but will only provide power for a short period, typically in off-peak periods. Controlled load 2 tariffs are more flexible about their hours, but you pay a slightly higher rate. In the ACT, for instance, a controlled load night tariff will cost around 15.510¢/kWh for anywhere between 6–8 hours of energy usage between 11pm and 7am. The controlled load day and night tariff, meanwhile, will power the nominated circuit or device for 13 hours a day, from 10pm–7am, and from 9am–5pm for 18.282¢/kWh.

Keep in mind retailers may have different terminology for their controlled load tariffs, and that terminology will also vary depending on where you live.

TariffControlled Load 1/Tariff 31Controlled Load 2/Tariff 33
Power availableA short stretch, usually overnight, e.g., 6 hours overnight on the Ausgrid network.A longer period, usually split into night and day segments, e.g., 6 hours or more overnight plus 4 hours or more between 7am and 5pm on the Ausgrid network.
Usage ratesSignificantly lower than general usage.Slightly higher than Controlled Load 1.
Can it include separate supply charge?Yes.Yes.
Most useful forCustomers with large water tanks that can store heat all day.Flexibility and customers with small water tanks that can benefit from heat during the day, too.

What is a tariff 33 controlled load and how does it differ from a tariff 31 controlled load?

Tariff 33 is the Queensland equivalent of a Controlled Load 2. It offers a longer minimum period over which electricity is available for your controlled load circuit, but charges higher usage rates than Tariff 31 (the equivalent of a Controlled Load 1 tariff).

How much money can I save with a controlled load tariff?

If you're not on a controlled load tariff already, you should strongly consider it. Every house has at least 1 major heating device — typically your hot water — and the larger that appliance is, the more money you can save.

Exactly how much money you can save is down to several variables. Distribution networks and tariffs vary from state to state, and then there's your individual usage to consider. You can also get a better deal on your existing set-up simply by taking advantage of new customer discounts.

But controlled load tariffs might not be ideal depending on when you use your appliances. The cost of adjusting your metering set-up (along with hiring a potential electrician) might not be worth it for those who are renting, while instant or continuous flow hot water systems might be better suited to more flexible energy plans.

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