Switch electricity plans
Australians in most states could save hundreds of dollars on energy per year by switching to a better plan.
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Switching providers is a straightforward process and shouldn't cost you a thing if you're not locked into an energy contract.
What's the benefit of changing my power provider?
Energy plans tend to have the best value right when you sign up to them and usually get worse from there. There are a few reasons why you might want to switch:
- Your energy plan is stale. Discounts expire and rates change over time. Chances are a plan that was good a year or three ago has lost a lot of its original value and better deals are available.
- You're moving house. Moving house is the perfect time to re-evaluate your plan since you'll likely have to pay connection/disconnection fees anyway, and new offers may be available at your new address.
- You have solar. Solar leads to changes in grid energy consumption. Certain plans are better for solar customers than others.
- You want better service. If you're tired of being ignored or short-changed by your provider, you can search for one with a better record.
Who's allowed to change their retailer?
Most Australians can pick their electricity retailer, but not all. Here's a breakdown by state.
|State||Can I choose my power retailer?|
|New South Wales||Yes|
|Queensland||Yes (South East Queensland only)|
|Tasmania||Yes (very limited options)|
Choosing the best energy plan in three steps
1. Review your current plan
Establish a baseline with the plan you have now:
- Get a recent energy bill. This will help you when you're comparing options later.
- Do you have solar? If so, this will affect what energy plans are available to you.
- Check for exit fees. Some lock-in energy contracts may include an exit fee for switching or cancelling early, so make sure this isn't the case. If you're not on a contract at all, you're in the clear.
2. Compare what's available
When comparing plans, you want to make sure you're considering market offers, not standing offers. You can recognise market offers in the Energy Plan Finder because they will be marked with "X% less" than a reference price or how much you'd pay on a standing offer.
Plans may seem complicated on the face of it, but there are really only three core things that go into determining the cost of an energy plan:
- Supply charges. A flat fee you are charged for being connected to the energy network, measured in c/day.
- Usage rates. This is how much you're charged for every unit of energy you consume, measured in c/kWh. Securing lower usage rates is vital as they make up most of your energy bill.
- Discounts. These are usually a percentage discount on some or all of your bill, but they can take many forms. Discounts often require special conditions or apply for a limited time.
Every energy plan in Australia has an associated fact sheet summarising all of the rates, fees and so on. By comparing the usage and supply charges from a recent energy bill with other plans, you can easily see whether they'll end up cheaper or not.
However, beware of conditional or limited discounts. If you don't meet the conditions for a particular discount or the benefit period runs out, a plan that looks great on paper can suddenly become far worse value.
3. Watch out for the following
The outright price for power on a plan is important, but it's not the only thing that matters. Other factors to watch out for include the following:
- Late fees. Some retailers charge a bundle if you're late with a payment.
- Payment methods. Make sure your preferred method of payment is accepted and doesn't attract extra fees.
- GreenPower options. GreenPower options can offset some or all of the carbon cost of your plan. Some plans offer anywhere from 0 - 100% offsets, while others don't offer it at all.
- Contracts. Lock-in contracts can lead to expensive exit fees down the road.
- Concessions. If you have a valid concession card, you may be able to access discounted plans or other concessions.
- Customer service. Finder assigns retailers in its database a customer service score based on call centre hours, support options and more. Not all retailers are equal when it comes to customer service.
How long does it take to switch providers?
It depends, but the absolute longest it can take is three months. This is because your energy account will be moved from your old retailer to the new one after the next meter read.
If you have a smart meter and monthly billing, this will happen every month.
For customers with an older analogue meter or quarterly billing, this will be every three months. If you feel that this is too long to wait, you can usually request a special reading from your current retailer, although this will incur an additional fee.
What about tariffs?
You may see energy plans mention "tariffs". These are how your retailer charges you for your power usage and can be broadly split into four types:
- Single rate. You are charged the same rate for power, no matter when you use it.
- Time of use. The day is split up into peak, off-peak and shoulder periods, with usage rates higher in peak and lower in off-peak periods.
- Controlled load. This applies to one appliance (e.g. a water heater) instead of all your power use. These rates are usually lower than your general use rates and can exist alongside other tariffs.
- Block tariff. Usage rates change as you pass certain "blocks" of use. The more energy you use, the cheaper or more expensive it becomes.
While time-of-use tariffs are tempting, Finder's research has shown that they are more expensive than a single rate for the majority of people. Unless you have very specific usage habits, you'll be better off defaulting to a single-rate plan.
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