Comparing electricity rates
We have always kept an eye on rates being charged by electricity suppliers. Which is an art in itself. Energy companies have taken a leaf from the playbook of phone companies, making it as confusing as possible to compare rates, burying the long-term information you need behind one-off special offers designed to grab your attention and entice you to sign up without any further investigation.
And, much like insurance companies and banks, energy suppliers provide little incentive for customer loyalty. In fact they tend to exploit that loyalty – new customers often receive a better deal than existing customers.
The NSW government provides the Energy Made Easy website that is supposed to make comparisons, well, easy – just submit your latest electricity bill and the website will use the information you provide to suggest the energy provider with the best rate for you.
Except the energy companies have gamed the comparison process by including short term introductory offers to make their ‘plans’ rate high on the list, or focusing on variable rates with a low off-peak rate to suck you in, masking the higher rate that you will pay during peak times when you will actually be using the electricity.
So, use caution when comparing electricity company plans. Look for key indicators, so that you can compare apples with apples.
What should you be looking for?
The unit rate – cents per kilowatt hour (c/kWh). Look for the ‘general’ or ‘peak’ rate that you will be paying for electricity during the time when you will be using the electricity – which is likely going to be between when you arrive home in the evening and when you go to bed. And ditto for in the morning before you head out for the day. Anything from around 34c to 40c per kWh is the going rate (September 2023). You might be using anything between 5kWh and 30kWh per day, depending on a wide number of variables, including how many people live in your home, if you have central heating/cooling, if you have a swimming pool/spa, if you are heating hot water, etc, etc, etc.
Daily supply charge – A fixed daily fee, which might be anything between $1.00 and $1.50 per day, just to have the power connected. Whether you are using it or not.
Solar feed in tariff – If you have solar panels. How much will the company pay you for your excess solar output. Anything from 5c to 15c per kWh.
Super off-peak – A special rate for charging an electric car. Usually available in the wee small hours of the morning. Anything from 8c to 25c per kWh. (This rate may also be available in the middle of the day, or on weekends.)
Controlled load – Off-peak rate for storage hot water heaters. Around 25c/kWh. (Not a factor for us, as we don’t have a storage hot water system.)
Choosing our plan
Out with the old: We have been with Powershop since we installed our solar panels in 2015. We have always had a flat rate, most recently 33.6c/kWh, with a 5c/kWh solar feed in tariff. Powershop has always been reasonably competitive with other providers when I have checked. Up until now!
Our purchase of an Electric Vehicle (EV) sent us off in search of EV-friendly charging options.
The best that Powershop could offer was 14c/kWh between 12:00am and 4:00am to charge the EV, but this was balanced (for them) by moving us from a flat rate of 33.6c/kWh for our general usage to a ‘variable’ rate, which increased our evening rate to 40c/kWh. Their solar feed in tariff remained at 5c/kWh, and their daily supply charge was $1.43.
In with the new: We have switched to AGL’s Night Saver EV plan – 8c/kWh between 12:00am and 6:00am, 33.6c/kWh flat rate at all other times, 7c/kWh solar feed-in, and $0.97 daily supply charge. (Even based solely on the daily supply charge, we will be $14 a month better off with AGL.)
AGL also offer a $25 rebate each quarter, and a 5c/kWh discount at BP Pulse chargers. (The $100 pa rebate seems to be a common offer from a number of providers that we checked.)
This plan is for 12 months, so we may (or may not) be in the market again this time next year. But for now it is the best offer we can find (September 2023), and makes our EV charging more affordable. From a bigger picture perspective this plan is also spreading the grid load to a time of day when there is little energy demand, rather than soaking up energy to charge the EV when essential residential and business demand is much higher.
Qualifier: AGL electricity rates are good, compared to other providers. However, if you need to talk to someone, their service is a shocker. No email or message service available, only phone or chat – and you could be waiting an hour or more for someone to respond on either. (I guess they can supply cheaper electricity by employing fewer people.)
|Quote Note: When contacting providers for a quote, don’t accept their comparative rates claims based on a % reduction from the reference rate. Ask specifically for the peak c/kWh rate and the daily supply charge, as well as solar feed-in, etc, if relevant.
Other EV charging plans available (for our location) include:
- Powershop EV Plan – 14c per kWh for EV charging, but increases peak rate to 39c, and provides only 5c feed-in. Daily supply is $1.37 compared to AGL’s $0.97.
- Red Energy EV Saver – Free electricity for EV charging, but only between 12pm and 2pm Saturday and Sunday. 34c flat rate at all other times, 7c solar feed-in, and $0.85 daily supply charge. (Only suitable for those who don’t go out on weekends, who can fully charge their car in 2×2 hour periods, and whose car’s charge will last all week!)
- OVO Energy EV plan – matches AGL’s 8c per kWh for EV charging, ups the solar feed-in tariff to 10c, and charges a daily supply rate of $0.99, but their flat rate for general use is 39c.
- Simply Energy EV plan – gives a paltry 6c discount off the 34c off-peak rate for overnight EV charging (bringing it down to 28c) – and still asking 46c for peak general usage, and offering only a 5.5c solar feed-in-tariff.