You need to shop around to save on your energy bills
Now that we're well into autumn, it's time to start thinking about energy costs before you get that dreaded mid-winter bill.
Both electricity and gas prices have gone up (except in the ACT due to long-term renewable energy contracts). And global supply and transportation - coupled with the phasing out of old technology - mean the cost is not going to come down anytime soon, especially for those living on the east coast.
Energy prices spiked dramatically in 2022, with households paying on average $520 more last winter than in previous years. And higher energy prices are going to be with us for at least the next couple of years. So, if you do nothing else with your finances, at least give your energy bill some attention, to check that you are on the best deal and that you are reducing your usage.
Be prepared to walk away
When was the last time you called your energy company? I contact my provider every 12 months to confirm that I'm on the best deal. I tell them I am comparing offers.
And if I don't get a good deal, I'm prepared to walk. You might be shocked to learn that energy retailers rarely reward loyalty: just because you've been with the same provider for years doesn't mean you are on the best deal.
I also compare deals online using a comparison site. There are now more energy retailers in the market, so there is greater consumer choice. The federal government runs an independent comparison website, Energy Made Easy, operated by the Australian Energy Regulator.
It is free to use and if you have a PDF of your recent bill, such as an attachment to an email, it is especially quick: it took me about a minute to upload my bill and receive nine shortlisted deals out of 180 offers.
Some states and territories have their own energy comparison or information websites. For instance, there is Victorian Energy Compare, the Utilities Commission in the Northern Territory and the Economic Regulation Authority in Western Australia.
You can also avoid winter bill shocks by paying your energy bill fortnightly or monthly. My energy provider averages the annual cost and I pay a proportion every fortnight through an automated payment. Some energy retailers will offer you a discount, but the big advantage is avoiding the stress of a big bill.
Rebates and concessions
If you are a senior, pensioner or concession card holder, you may also be eligible for further rebates on your energy use.
For instance, in NSW, the seniors energy rebate provides $200 per household per financial year. The ACT offers a $750 utilities concession for pensioners and veterans and in the Northern Territory the seniors recognition scheme provides $500 and concession card holders could obtain up to $1200.
Reduce your usage
The less electricity you use, the more you save. But often we use energy without realising it until our bill arrives.
One way to counter this is by using a home energy monitor, which connects to a smart meter and sends data directly to your phone. Not only does this prevent things like heaters from being left on all day, but it can also provide oversight of household usage.
According to Claire Day, general manager of Emerald Planet, its electricity adviser can save households up to 35% on energy bills. The device is free for people living
in Victoria due to a state subsidy scheme.
Serina Bird's new Back to Basics column appears in Money magazine each month.
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