Understanding Reference Price: Read this if you pay for electricity

The reference price: What is it and how does it affect you?

Here’s what you need to know about the reference price for electricity plans in NSW, SA, and SE QLD.

What is the electricity reference price or Default Market Offer? Default Market Offer
DMO Prices effective 01 July 2020 See prices

We’re reader-supported and may be paid when you visit links to partner sites. We don’t compare all products in the market, but we’re working on it!

Quick facts about the reference price

  • What is it? A new benchmark electricity price set by the government. It's also called the Default Market Offer (DMO). It's also a price cap on your energy bill if you don't actively look for a new plan and your original offer has expired.
  • When did it happen? 1 July 2019.
  • Who does it affect? Electricity customers in New South Wales, South East Queensland and South Australia. A similar scheme, the Victorian Default Offer, applies in Victoria.

Reference price vs Default Market Offer: What's the difference?

The Default Market Offer (DMO), is the maximum price that electricity retailers can charge for standing offer plans.

The reference price is essentially the same thing, but it helps you compare plans on the market on comparison services and provider websites.

Electricity retailers in New South Wales, South East Queensland and South Australia are required to advertise their plans against this maximum or 'reference' price, making it easier for customers to compare plans from different retailers. The exact reference price depends on where you live.

How does it work?

There are two parts to the reference price: a price cap (the DMO) and new advertising requirements.

1. The price cap or maximum price

The energy regulator has set a price cap for standing offers, meaning retailers can't charge customers more than the reference price for standing offers.

This price cap doesn't apply to customers on market offers. However, market offers often include discounts, special prices and cheaper rates than the DMO.

2. Advertising requirements

Energy retailers in New South Wales, South East Queensland and South Australia used to be able to advertise discounts that were calculated from different base rates. This made it challenging to compare discounts from different retailers.

With the new reference price, energy retailers must advertise pricing and discounts in relation to the reference price, leading to more transparent pricing and easier comparison. If two retailers offer 20% discounts, you know the discounts are equivalent because they are calculated from the same base rate.

DMO Prices effective 01 July 2020

The first DMO came out in 2019. This year it was reviewed again to reflect changes in wholesale prices and that's why you can find 'DMO 1' and 'DMO 2' below.


Distribution regionAnnual usageDMO 2 PriceDifference to DMO 1
Ausgrid3,900 kWh$1,462-$5 (-0.3%)
Endeavour4,900 kWh$1,711-$9 (-0.5%)
Essential4,600 kWh$1,960+$3 (+0.2%)
Energex4,600 kWh$1,508-$62 (-3.9%)
SAPN4,000 kWh$1,832-$109 (-5.6%)

Residential with Controlled load

Distribution regionAnnual usageDMO 2 PriceDifference to DMO 1
AusgridGeneral usage
4,800 kWh +
CL 2,000 kWh
$2,024-$35 (-1.7%)
EndeavourGeneral usage
5,200 kWh +
CL 2,200 kWh
$2,165-$1 (0.0%)
EssentialGeneral usage
4,600 kWh +
CL 2,000 kWh
$2,356-$19 (-0.8%)
EnergexGeneral usage
4,400 kWh +
CL 1,900 kWh
$1,812-$115 (-6.0%)
SAPNGeneral usage
4,200 kWh +
CL 1,800 kWh
$2,244-$176 (-7.3%)

Small Business without CL

Distribution regionAnnual usageDMO 2 PriceDifference to DMO 1
Ausgrid20,000 kWh$7,240-$131 (-1.8%)
Endeavour20,000 kWh$6,177-$27 (-0.4%)
Essential20,000 kWh$8,041-$4 (0.0%)
Energex20,000 kWh$5,760-$265 (-4.4%)
SAPN20,000 kWh$8,305-$815 (-8.9%)

What's the difference between the reference price and the Default Market Offer?

The reference price and DMO are often used interchangeably, since both terms refer to a single price, as explained above. Reference price is used for either case, while the DMO mostly refers to the price cap on standing offers.

How does the reference price affect you?

If you live in New South Wales, South East Queensland or South Australia, it might affect you. Victorian customers may be affected similarly by the Victorian Default Offer.

There are two different types of electricity plans in Australia: standing offers and market offers. It only directly affects standing offer customers.

If you are on a 'standing' offer

Almost 800,000 residents in New South Wales, South Australia and South East Queensland are on standing offer electricity contracts. If you were on a standing offer when the new regulations took effect, you might have seen an adjustment in your rates. If you have since joined a standing offer, you can be assured your rates won't exceed the max set by the DMO.

Depending on where you live, an average household on a standing offer could save between $129 and $181 per year (with the reference price), and a small business could save up to $896 per year.

If you are on a 'market' offer

If you're on a market offer, the DMO doesn't directly apply to you. However, retailers show the difference between their plans and the reference price. For example:

Plan 1Plan 2Plan 3
5% less than reference price10% less than reference price15% less than reference price

Keep in mind, while the reference price helps you compare plans and providers, you might end up paying more or less than the advertised rate depending on your usage.

How to switch energy providers

Standing offers vs Market offers

If you're comparing energy you may have come also across the following terms: Standing offers and Market offers. Our infographic below helps explain the difference.



Picture: GettyImages

Frequently asked questions

How you can use the reference price to compare energy prices

How to save on your energy bill

More guides on Finder

Lower your household bills

Ask an Expert

You are about to post a question on finder.com.au:

  • Do not enter personal information (eg. surname, phone number, bank details) as your question will be made public
  • finder.com.au is a financial comparison and information service, not a bank or product provider
  • We cannot provide you with personal advice or recommendations
  • Your answer might already be waiting – check previous questions below to see if yours has already been asked

Finder only provides general advice and factual information, so consider your own circumstances, or seek advice before you decide to act on our content. By submitting a question, you're accepting our Terms of Use, Disclaimer & Privacy Policy and Privacy & Cookies Policy.
Go to site