One of the easiest ways to reduce energy costs is to compare energy offers.
There are free and independent government energy price comparison tools and websites. They can compare the offers from all of the energy retailers operating where you live to help you find the best and cheapest energy offer.
To use these services you'll need access to a device connected to the internet, a recent bill, and some information about your household.
The comparison only takes about 10 to 15 minutes, and users can typically save hundreds of dollars on their energy costs.
ACT Search for energy offers Energy Made Easy
NSW Search for energy offers Energy Made Easy
NT Choosing a power retailer PowerWater
Qld Search for energy offers Energy Made Easy
SA Search for energy offers Energy Made Easy
Tas Search for energy offers Energy Made Easy
Vic Victorian Energy Compare Government of Victoria
WA Household electricity pricing Government of Western Australia
Costs that make up an energy bill
Your bill is made up of the amount of energy you consume, multiplied by the price per unit. The price per unit can vary according to the time of day you use your electricity and the kind of contract you’re on. It can also vary depending on where you live, as each state and territory makes its own decisions about the costs of the various components involved in energy supply.
Your gas and electricity tariff has 2 parts: a daily supply charge (sometimes called a service charge or fixed charge) and a usage charge (a consumption or variable charge).
This daily supply charge is the cost of getting electricity or gas to your residence (even if you don’t use any) and appears on your bill as a total amount, or in cents per day.
The usage charge is the cost of the electricity or gas you use and appears on your bills in cents per kilowatt hour (c/kWh) for electricity or cents per megajoule (c/MJ) for gas.
Some bills might show more than one usage charge. For example, a time of use offer might have different usage charges for different blocks of time, which are usually called peak, shoulder, and off-peak.
Energymadeeasy.gov.au has sample electricity and gas bills to help you work out what the key terms on your energy bills mean.
Offers and contracts
Depending on where you live, you may have a choice of which energy retailer to use. Even if there’s only one retailer in your area, they may have various offers available. Choosing the most suitable offer can be difficult, so understanding how and when you use energy is helpful.
Contracts that reward off-peak energy use may result in savings if you can move activities such as washing and cooking to these periods. However, this may increase your costs if you need to run heating and cooling systems at peak times. If you choose a contract that doesn’t suit your household or lifestyle you could end up paying more.
Carefully check the terms and conditions before agreeing to a contract.
- You can talk to your retailer and ask questions to find out whether you would benefit by switching. Compare costs accurately by looking at the price is in cents per kilowatt hour (c/KWh).
- Ask what the daily supply charge is and check if the charge is for the same number of days as on your existing electricity bill.
- Check if there are any extra fees such as for late payments or early contract termination.
- Ask if anything extra is included in the offer, such as bonuses or savings.
- Conditional discounts may not be worthwhile if you can't meet the condition. For example, a pay on time discount may not be beneficial if you often struggle to pay your bill on time.
- Check billing and payment arrangements, including how and when you're billed and payment options.
- Check contract conditions and ask what happens at the end of the contract period. How do you renew? What happens if you wish to change retailers?
Before agreeing to a new energy offer, read the terms and conditions on the contract. Asking a friend or family member to review the details can be helpful.
Laws are in place for customer protection on energy matters. Your retailer must provide a printed summary of any contract. The energy price fact sheet must include:
- all prices and charges
- early termination payments and penalties
- date and duration of the contract
- billing and payment information
- your rights and obligations.
After agreeing, you can change your mind within 10 business days without penalty.
If your energy bill seems wrong, your retailer must review it if requested. If you're not satisfied with their response, contact the energy ombudsman in your state or territory. An ombudsman is a free and independent dispute resolution service.
To ease financial stress you can have smaller amounts regularly deducted rather than receiving a large quarterly bill. Be sure to check with your retailer that there's no increase in the rate you'll be paying for energy.
If you receive Centrelink payments, the Centrepay service is available to make regular payments towards your energy bills. Centrepay can help you to better manage your finances by spreading out the costs of seasonal changes to your energy use. The MoneySmart budget planner can also help with managing costs.
If you're unable to pay your bill on time, contact your retailer to ask how they can help. Their hardship policy will outline the options available. You could go onto a payment plan and protect yourself from disconnection, interest payments and late fees
If you receive a disconnection notice from your retailer, contact them immediately to discuss your options. You should not be disconnected during a protected period, such as a weekend or public holiday. People registered as depending on a life-support system have further protections from disconnection.
Why energy prices are changing
Electricity prices are now decreasing, after having risen significantly over the past decade largely due to increases in network costs. The 'network' is the transmission and distribution system of poles and wires that delivers electricity to your home.
The repair and replacement of ageing poles and wires, increased peak demand (periods placing the highest demand on the energy network—such as hot summer days), population growth, and rising standards for power reliability have contributed to network cost increases.
Factors influencing gas prices include higher development and production costs for new gas resources, and bans, moratoria and regulatory uncertainty for onshore gas development in some states and territories.
Wholesale electricity and gas prices during the third quarter of 2020 dropped to levels not seen since 2014 and 2016 respectively. Reasons for this drop include the Australian Government’s Big Stick legislation and the introduction of Default Market Offer.
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