How a ‘controlled load’ tariff can save you money

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Most of us are familiar with basic electricity tariffs such as single rate and time of use, but what about a ‘controlled load’? Despite many households and businesses having a controlled load tariff – maybe without even knowing – it’s something that’s easy to overlook when comparing providers and plans. This could be a costly mistake, as a controlled load can help reduce overall energy costs.

In this article, Canstar Blue explains what you need to know about a controlled load tariff, whether or not it’s a good option for you, and how much you could potentially save.

What is a controlled load?

A controlled load is a tariff dedicated to large, high energy-usage appliances that is metered separately to the rest of a property. It’s most commonly used for hot water systems, however customers may have the option to connect multiple appliances depending on their network and metering set up.

Electricity usage of nominated appliances on a dedicated circuit will be tariffed at a lower price rate than energy used around the rest of the property. All other electricity usage will be charged at your primary usage rate, be it a single rate, time of use, block rate or some other tariff.

What’s the catch?

The catch with controlled load tariffs is that electricity will only be supplied to the nominated appliances for a limited number of hours each day, depending on the type of controlled load. While Victoria and South Australia households only have one type of controlled load, New South Wales and Queensland customers have two – Controlled Load 1 and Controlled Load 2. Some electricity retailers use different names to describe their controlled load tariffs, but they are functionally identical. EnergyAustralia refers to its controlled loads as Dedicated Circuit 1 and Dedicated Circuit 2, for example.

What’s the difference between Controlled Load 1 and 2?

The difference between controlled loads 1 and 2 is that the former is cheaper than the latter. In exchange, electricity is available for longer hours on Controlled load 2, making it the more versatile option. Your electricity distributor is responsible for electing which hours electricity is supplied, however it will usually be for eight to 18 hours each day at non-peak energy demand periods.

Can a controlled load save me money?

Provided you are comfortable with limiting the operating hours of certain appliances to non-peak times, a controlled load tariff can help most households save money. How much it could save you will depend on your energy provider, as well as your location, since electricity rates vary considerably across different states and distribution networks.

In this article, Canstar Blue uses sample prices to calculate how much customers across Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia might save with a controlled load tariff. In addition, we make the following assumptions:

  • A household has a single electric storage 125L hot water system
  • Average daily household energy consumption of 20kWh is used each day for one quarter (91 days)
  • Of this 20kWh, 4kWh is contributable to the hot water system on a controlled load, while 16kWh is from other activities
  • The property’s regular energy consumption is metered on a single rate tariff (for calculation simplicity)
  • The household doesn’t receive any discounts on its electricity usage (this is likely the case if you haven’t switched retailers in a couple of years)

We emphasise that this is a broad guideline. The larger an appliance tariffed on a controlled load is, the more you could stand to save. Also keep in mind that Controlled Load 1 and 2 are designed to suit different purposes. While Controlled Load 2 is more expensive than 1, electricity is supplied for longer hours, potentially making it the better option for households with small hot water systems or other appliances.

New South Wales

New South Wales has three major energy networks: Endeavour Energy, Ausgrid and Essential Energy. There are no supply charges attached to controlled load tariffs for customers on the Ausgrid network, making it easier to save.

Ausgrid network

Using the sample rates from providers on the Ausgrid network below, the household in our example would save close to $62 per quarter on Controlled Load 1 and almost $52 a quarter on Controlled Load 2.

Sample rates

Single rate (SR) Controlled Load (CL) usage rate
Usage rate Supply charge Usage CL1 Usage CL2 Supply (CL2 & CL1)
27c/kWh 85c/day 10c/kWh 12.8c/kWh $0.00

Sample quarterly costs

Single rate (SR) SR + Controlled Load 1 SR + Controlled Load 2
$568.75 $506.87 $517.06

The single rates used are for the first usage block

Endeavour Energy network

From the sample rates, Canstar Blue estimates that a household on the Endeavour Energy network could save close to $59 a quarter with Controlled Load 1 and around $39 a quarter on Controlled Load 2.

Sample rates

Single rate (SR) Controlled Load (CL) rates
Usage rate Supply charge Usage CL1 Usage CL2 Supply (CL2 & CL1)
25.8c/kWh 86c/day 8.2c/kWh 13.5c/kWh 6c/day

Sample quarterly costs

Single rate (SR) SR + Controlled load 1 SR + Controlled load 2
$547.82 $489.22 $508.51

The single rates used are for the first usage block

Essential Energy network

Households on the Essential Energy network are generally charged higher rates than customers on other networks in NSW. We calculated that a customer with a hot water system with Controlled Load 1 could save $47 each quarter while a household on Controlled Load 2 could save $26 a quarter.

Sample rates

Single rate (SR) Controlled Load usage rates Controlled Load supply rates
Usage rate Supply charge CL1 CL2 CL1 CL2
29c/kWh $1.48/day 12.5c/kWh 18c/kWh 14c/day 15c/day

Sample quarterly costs

Single rate (SR) SR + Controlled load 1 SR + Controlled load 2
$662.48 $615.16 $636.09

The single rates used are for the first usage block

Queensland

Residential controlled loads in Queensland are called ‘economy tariffs’, but are more specifically known as Tariff 31 and Tariff 33. There are only two major distribution networks in Queensland: Energex and Ergon. Energex services South-East Queensland, while Ergon is the distributor and sole retailer for the rest of the state.

Energex network

Customers on Tariff 31, also known as Controlled Load 1, could save a little over $34 per quarter, based on our example. Those on Tariff 33 would save a modest $12 a quarter.

Sample rates

Single rate (SR) Tariff 31 and 33 rates
Usage rate Supply charge Usage T31 Usage T33 Supply (T31 & T33)
25.9c/kWh $1.28/day 15.8c/kWh 21.9c/kWh 2.95c/day

Sample quarterly costs

Single rate (SR) SR + Controlled Load 1 SR + Controlled Load 2
$587.86 $553.78 $575.98

Ergon Energy network

Ergon customers on Tariff 31 could save a neat $34 every quarter based to our calculations. In the example we used however, Ergon network customers on Tariff 33 might only save a few dollars each quarter due to the relatively high supply charges.

Sample rates

Single rate (SR) Controlled Load usage rates Controlled Load supply rates
Usage rate Supply charge T31 T33 T31 T33
27.1c/kWh 98.5c/day 13.7c/kWh 20.8c/kWh 15.8c/day 22c/day

Sample quarterly costs

Single rate (SR) SR + Controlled Load 1 SR + Controlled Load 2
$582.85 $548.46 $579.94

South Australia

Controlled loads in South Australia are a little different to those in the other states. There is only one controlled load and there are no supply charges attached. It’s often referred to in SA electricity price factsheets as the ‘Off-peak’ tariff because, well – you guessed it – power is only supplied during off-peak hours. These hours are once again chosen by the distributor, SA Power Networks.

Keep in mind that some retailers, including AGL, do not list any offers on their website that include a controlled load option. Contact your retailer to see if this tariff is available to you.

SA Power Networks

In our example, a South Australian customer who puts their hot water system on a controlled load would be able to save $68 each quarter.

Sample rates

Single rate (SR) Controlled Load usage rate
Usage rate Supply charge Usage rate
35c/kWh 81.4c/kWh 16.2c/kWh

Sample quarterly costs

Single rate (SR) SR + Controlled Load
$711 $642.6

Victoria

Victoria has five major electricity networks: AusNet Services, Powercor, Citipower, Jemena Electricity and United Energy. Electricity prices tend not to vary too wildly across the networks (although they can between retailers), therefore the below table uses broad estimates of the prices you can expect to encounter across most Victorian electricity networks.

Similar to South Australia, there is only one controlled load option, and it’s almost always referred to as a ‘dedicated circuit’ on electricity price factsheets. Additionally, there are no extra supply charges for this tariff.

Sample rates

Single rate (SR) Controlled Load usage rate
Usage rate Supply charge Usage rate
28.9c/kWh $1.10 18.2c

Sample quarterly costs

Single rate (SR) SR + Controlled Load
$626.08 $587.13

The single rates used are for the first usage block

As you can see, Victorians could save in the vicinity of $39 per quarter with a controlled load tariff.

Is a controlled load right for me?

Most households should be able to save money with a controlled load tariff. While the amount a household stands to save will depend on a myriad of factors, it is unlikely that a controlled load will leave you worse off.

That said, if your controlled load tariff includes a supply charge, you might be spending more than is necessary if the house is often left empty, or the controlled load appliance isn’t used. That’s because supply charges apply regardless of whether any electricity is even consumed.

It is also important you consider whether you are comfortable with electricity supply being limited to off-peak hours for your nominated appliances. If you have an instantaneous, or small electric hot water system, a controlled load tariff might not be suitable. If you wish to nominate another appliance for a controlled load, such as a pool pump or air conditioner, then an electrician may be required to create a new dedicated circuit.

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