The New South Wales energy market has undergone some pretty big changes over recent years. With price deregulation, the rise of smart meters, solar and constantly changing regulations, it’s reasonable if you feel out of the loop when it comes to electricity in the state.
With that in mind, if you’re on an electricity tariff that’s not right for your energy usage habits, you could be spending much more than you need to. In this report, Canstar Blue takes you through everything you need to know about electricity tariffs in NSW.
What is an electricity tariff?
A ‘tariff’ refers to the pricing structure from which you are charged for electricity. It could be that you pay a different rate depending on how much electricity you use, or your usage rate varies with the time of day – these are both examples of an electricity tariff.
Before continuing to explain tariffs, it’s important you understand the two types of charges on an electricity bill. There are usage charges and supply charges.
- Usage charges: These charges reflect the cost of electricity a property has used. A property is charged for each Kilowatt Hour (kWh) of electricity consumed, with costs varying anywhere from 10c to 55c depending on the tariff, retailer and network.
- Supply charges: This is a cost imposed by the network distributor for the maintenance of energy infrastructure. It is a daily charge that applies regardless of how much or how little power is used.
Single/Peak rate tariffs in NSW
Under a single rate tariff in NSW, a flat usage rate is charged for ‘blocks’ of electricity consumed. This could either be a limited amount per day, or a set amount per quarter. Some retailers include a second block of electricity usage for which a different usage rate is charged. If electricity usage exceeds these blocks, yet another new rate will be charged for all additional usage. Residential single rate tariffs vary considerably across retailers, anywhere from 21c/kWh to as much as 33c/kWh. Often, but not always, the rates you pay will decline with each block of electricity you consume, so you are not ‘punished’ for using more, as it were.
It might sound a little confusing, but this is actually NSW’s most basic electricity tariff for households and small businesses. To help illustrate, below are two examples of ‘single rate’ tariffs you might encounter.
|First 4000 kWh usage per quarter||27 cents per kWh|
|Next 4000 kWh usage per quarter||26 cents per kWh|
|Remaining usage per quarter||20 cents per kWh|
|First 11 kWh usage per day||25 cents per kWh|
|Next 8 kWh usage per day||24 cents per kWh|
|Remaining usage per quarter||21 cents per kWh|
Examples of typical single rate tariffs in NSW
While ‘single rate’ is the most universal term for this tariff in NSW, it will often appear on bills and energy price factsheets as a ‘Domestic’, ‘Peak’, ‘Continuous’ or ‘Block’ rate. This tariff is available to virtually all New South Wales residential and business customers regardless of the type of meter they have. A single rate tariff is a safe choice for anyone who is unsure what’s best suited for their needs.
Time of use tariffs in NSW
Customers on a ‘time of use’ electricity tariff are charged different usage rates depending on when power is used. There are three time bands which loosely reflect the energy demand in that period – peak, off-peak and shoulder.
- Peak: Electricity is in peak demand around the morning and early evening. Electricity is most expensive at these times.
- Off-Peak: Demand for electricity is low late at night. Electricity is cheapest in this period.
- Shoulder: This is a period of mild demand between peak and off-peak. Intermediate prices are charged during these hours.
Peak, off-peak and shoulder electricity times and rates in NSW
|Distributor||Hours||Expected Residential Rate|
|Peak||2pm – 8pm Weekdays||53c/kWh – 55c/kWh|
|Off-Peak||Weekend & 10pm & 7am Weekdays||11c/kWh – 13c/kWh|
|Shoulder||7am – 2pm and 8pm – 10pm||19c/kWh – 22c/kWh|
|Peak||7am – 9am & 5pm – 8pm Weekdays||32c/kWh – 35c/kWh|
|Off-Peak||Weekend & 10pm – 7am Weekdays||16c/kWh – 19c/kWh|
|Shoulder||9am – 5pm and 8pm – 10pm Weekdays||32c/kWh – 35c/kWh|
|Peak||1pm – 8pm Weekdays||33c/kWh – 37c/kWh|
|Off-Peak||Weekend & 10pm – 7am Weekdays||13c/kWh – 14c/kWh|
|Shoulder||7am – 1pm & 8pm – 10pm Weekdays||27c/kWh – 30c/kWh|
Source: Respective energy distributor websites
Your meter must be able to take multiple readings in order to be eligible for a time of use tariff. Smart meters and some analogue meters are compatible with a time of use tariff. Time of use tariffs are great if you stay up late or are home a lot throughout the day. If you’re a 9-5 worker who mostly uses electricity in the early evening, then this tariff might cost you more.
Controlled load tariffs in NSW
A ‘controlled load’ is a specialty tariff designed for large, high-energy consumption appliances. Your nominated appliance will be metered separately to the rest of the property and charged at a controlled load rate, which is usually lower than standard usage rates. In exchange, electricity supply to appliances on a controlled load will be limited to off-peak hours, generally around the morning and early evening.
Because electricity won’t be supplied during busy periods, a controlled load tariff is not suitable for appliances that regularly or constantly need electricity. The most common applications of controlled loads are for electric storage hot water systems, pool pumps and heat slabs.
There are two types of controlled load tariffs in NSW: Controlled Load 1 and Controlled Load 2. Charges and prices vary across networks.
- Controlled Load 1: Electricity is supplied for 5 to 9 hours overnight on weekdays, with possible extra hours on weekends. Controlled Load 1 has cheaper rates than Controlled Load 2.
- Controlled Load 2: Electricity is supplied for 10 to 18 hours overnight on weekdays and all hours on weekends. In exchange for the extended supply hours of electricity, rates on Controlled Load 2 are a little higher.
Approximate controlled load (CL) charges in NSW
|CL 1||CL 2||CL 1||CL 2|
Your energy distributor will select which hours it supplies electricity to appliances on a controlled load. For Controlled Load 1, these hours will usually be between 10pm and 7am weekdays. For Controlled Load 2, electricity will generally be supplied at all hours except 2pm to 8pm weekdays.
Only nominated appliances on a dedicated circuit will benefit from a controlled load tariff. All other electricity usage will be tariffed at either a single or time of use tariff. Controlled loads are a great option and will usually help you save money so long as you’re comfortable with limiting the use of certain appliances.
Feed-in tariffs in NSW
When solar panels produce electricity but no one is home to use it, that energy is exported to the local energy grid. In exchange, the property will receive a small credit for each kWh of electricity that their solar panels shared with the grid. This is called a feed-in tariff, sometimes abbreviated by retailers as FiT.
In New South Wales, a feed-in tariff will usually be around 6c per kWh of exported solar power. Some retailers may offer higher feed-in tariffs of 10c/kWh or more on some of their plans. If you were a customer on the NSW Solar Bonus Scheme which closed at the end of 2016, make sure you know what feed-in tariff you’re now receiving and whether it’s the best value product for you.
Small business electricity tariffs
Businesses in New South Wales have access to all the above listed tariffs in most situations, albeit at slightly different rates. While different conditions might apply and some retailers may not offer certain tariffs to select businesses, the tariffs are structurally identical to what’s offered to residential customers.