Energy Frequently Asked Questions

Electricity & Gas Explained

Energy is an expense that’s hard for Aussies to escape. Whether it’s electricity or gas, there are so many questions left unanswered and customers are still left to pay the bill. That’s why we’ve created this page to help you better understand your energy bills. So, if you’re a little unsure about what tariff you’re on or why power prices change so often, then we’re here to set the record straight. Click on any question below for a quick answer.

Energy Bills

Your energy bill will vary in appearance based on which provider you’re signed up to. That being said, all of the key details should generally be outlined on the first page, such as total amount payable, due date, any discounts applied and the supply address. Further information about rates, charges, tariffs and billing periods are usually located a little further down, or on the next page.

Information about how to read your power bills may also be available on your energy retailer’s website. Be sure to compare your electricity usage to the previous billing period, as this may help you understand your energy consumption habits.

In January 2021, the average electricity bill was recorded in each state via our Canstar Blue customer satisfaction survey. As you’ll see below, the average annual power bill in Australia depends on your state:

• New South Wales: $1,421
• Victoria: $1,012
• Queensland: $1,240
• South Australia: $1,444

As outlined above, customers in SA reported the highest bills, while those in Victoria stated the lowest. These figures are a general guide only.

The average gas bill in Australia is $179 per quarter. A Canstar Blue survey conducted in January 2021 found the following quarterly averages across each state:

• New South Wales: $184
• Victoria: $186
• Queensland: $172
• South Australia: $223
• Western Australia: $108
• Australian Capital Territory: $295
• Tasmania: $367

On average, natural gas bills were the most expensive in Tasmania, while customers in WA reported the cheapest. These figures are a general guide only.

Electricity usage rates are the prices you pay to use power in your home. Usage rates are charged per kilowatt hour (kWh) and will vary between plans and providers. These charges are deregulated across NSW, Victoria, south east QLD and SA, meaning energy retailers have flexibility around setting the price for electricity per kWh. Although prices aren’t set in stone, they are supposed to somewhat reflect wholesale energy prices, which are updated every 30 minutes via the National Electricity Market (NEM).

Electricity supply charges refer to the rate you pay for power to be supplied to your home. This means you are charged a fixed fee for being connected to the electricity grid and gas mains. Supply rates are charged daily (c/day) and are separate from usage charges. The price you pay for supply varies between distribution networks, retailers and plans.

There are many factors behind skyrocketing energy bills, including:

• Seasonal habits: Are you using the air con in summer or heater in winter?
• Usage increase: Are you staying at home more or turning on the dishwasher every night?
• Lifestyle factors: Has your household changed in size or are you renovating?
• Energy-efficiency: How old and energy-efficient are your appliances and lighting?
• Estimated bills: Are you receiving an estimated reading because your provider can’t access your meter?
• Meter details: Does the meter number on your bill match the number on your meter?
• Concessions: If you receive a concession or rebate, has your retailer applied them to your bill?
• Energy rates: Have your rates increased since your last bill?

Energy bill smoothing is an option offered by most retailers where you can choose to make regular payments rather than receiving a large bill every quarter. How it works is your energy provider calculates your estimated yearly usage from previous bills, or uses data from similar households in your area. Some companies may suggest bill smoothing if you’re falling behind on bills.

Estimated energy bills are what retailers can fall back on if a meter reader is unable to carry out a reading on your electricity or gas meter. Homes with analogue meters require somebody to physically attend your property and read your meter, which is usually carried out by a contractor employed by your retailer.

You may receive an estimate energy bill if access to your meter is blocked by a gate or you have an unsecured dog, for example. Another instance may include being on a monthly billing cycle, where your retailer estimates your bills and only carries out an actual reading every quarter. To see if your next bill is estimated, check to see if there is an (E) marked next to your usage costs. This will signify that your energy usage has been estimated rather than calculated from an actual meter reading.

Energy Prices & Discounts

While it’s hard to pinpoint the cheapest electricity provider across all states at any one time, it’s fair to mention that ReAmped Energy, Mojo Power and Powerclub are consistently some of the top performing brands for price. It’s worth mentioning prices will differ between distribution areas, meaning the cheapest provider in Melbourne may not be the cheapest in Ballarat. Likewise, some providers may not operate in all states or areas.

Finding the cheapest retailer in your area will require you to compare brands on a frequent basis. This can be done by using our free comparison tool where you can filter the search results by price.

Electricity and gas prices can be compared by using our free energy comparison tool. Simply enter your postcode and click on the ‘Compare’ button. From here you can sort plans by price which will show you the cheapest deals available in your area. Click on the ‘more details+’ tab on each plan to see a breakdown of fees, rates and charges.

Electricity prices change all the time to reflect market and wholesale conditions, meaning it isn’t always a case of rates going up. That’s why it’s so important to regularly check prices. At Canstar Blue we record price fluctuations to show you which providers have increased or decreased costs. Save time by checking out our page here.

An electricity usage rate of around 20c/kWh would be recognised as a fair rate in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, while a rate of 30c/kWh in South Australia would be deemed reasonable. As for supply charges, 90-95c/day or under would be considered a good electricity rate.

Plans with discounts are naturally going to draw your attention, but aren’t always going to deliver the best value. This is because a discount could be hiding inflated energy rates or the discount may only apply to the usage portion of your bill. Energy discounts were once a dominant feature for retailers attracting customers, however since industry reforms came into effect in July 2019, these headlining offers have diminished.

Much like a home loan, energy plans either have fixed or variable rates. A fixed rate plan will allow you to lock in rates for a set amount of time – typically one or two years – and can be great if you’re worried about future price rises. On the other hand, variable rate plans are a standard type of deal offered by most retailers, which sometimes offer cheaper rates than fixed rate plans.

The challenge for you is deciding whether to commit to fixing your energy rates, or choosing a variable rate plan and hoping prices don’t change too much. You can take comfort in knowing that retailers must notify you of price changes in advance and most plans today come without exit fees, meaning you’re free to leave without incurring any breakaway fees if you’re unsatisfied.

If you’ve heard the term ‘wholesale energy prices’, it’s basically referring to power that’s been bought from the National Electricity Market (NEM) by a retailer. Your retailer then marks up the prices and on-sells these rates to you. Some companies will let you buy wholesale rates, but it usually comes with a catch. Your energy provider is a business after all so expect to see a membership fee in exchange for access to cheaper wholesale rates.

Energy Comparison

By using our comparison tool, you can compare plans and prices from more than 35 energy providers. Keep in mind that depending on where you live, the number of companies will vary. Simply type in your suburb and hit the ‘compare’ button and sort results by brand.

Choosing the best energy plan for your circumstances will come down to a few factors. Some of the questions you should be asking before signing up to a plan include:

  • Price: Does the deal have low usage and supply rates?
  • Incentives: Are there any bill credits, discounts or rewards programs included?
  • Customer service: How does the retailer fair for customer satisfaction?
  • Hidden fees: Are there any sneaky credit card fees or connection charges?
  • Payment options: Are there flexible payment options, like BPAY or monthly billing?

If you haven’t changed energy providers in years, then chances are you’re on a standard contract – a basic plan with rates that should mirror default energy prices. Conversely, a market offer is usually a more competitive deal that has cheaper electricity prices as well as other incentives, like bill credits, discounts and rewards programs.

Energy Tariffs

To find out which energy tariff(s) you are on, you’ll need to take a look at a previous bill. The types of tariffs should be listed under a section that outlines each of your billing period’s energy charges. For example, a bill may have the following details where your tariff information is listed: tariff description, meter number, current reading, reading type, previous reading, total usage, charge and amount due.

The most common tariff for residential customers is a single rate tariff, which applies the same rate on energy usage at all times. Single rate tariffs may also be referred to as peak, demand, standard or flat rate. Other tariff types include time of use, block rate, controlled load and solar feed-in tariffs. All tariffs consist of a fixed daily charge for power supply and a variable charge for usage, listed as cents per kilowatt hour (c/kWh) for electricity and cents per megajoule (c/MJ) for gas.

A single rate tariff charges the same rate on energy usage at all times. It is the most common tariff type offered by retailers without peak or off-peak time periods. This means you’ll pay the same price for power regardless of when you use electricity. Single rate tariffs may be called ‘peak’, ‘anytime’ or ‘general usage’.

Time of use tariffs charge you different rates for using electricity at certain times of the day. This tariff type has peak, off-peak and shoulder periods where energy costs change depending on demand. For example, electricity will be most expensive during peak periods, such as weekdays from 4pm to 8pm, while power will be cheaper during off-peak periods, like overnight or on weekends.

It’s worth noting that you’ll need a smart meter to be connected to a time of use tariff, and you’ll also need to find out if your retailer offers this type of tariff. Unlike a single rate tariff where you’re charged for one standard rate, you’ll need to be vigilant about when you use power, otherwise it could end up costing you much more to run your home.

Electricity can cost more during different times of the day if you’re on a time of use tariff. That’s because on this flexible pricing tariff it has peak and off-peak electricity times. For instance, when power is in peak demand, it may cost you 25c/kWh, while when energy is not in peak demand, it may cost you 18c/kWh.

Most residential customers are connected to single rate tariffs, which only charge you a single rate irrespective of when you consume energy. A single rate tariff is typically more expensive than a time of use tariff’s off-peak or shoulder rates, but less expensive than its peak rate, making it ideal if you’re not keen on waiting for a certain time to use power.

A controlled load is a tariff that charges you separately for powering large household appliances like pool pumps, hot water systems and floor heating. High energy-use appliances that are on a controlled load tariff will be on their own dedicated circuit and will be charged at a lower rate from the rest of the energy being consumed in your house.

Block rate tariffs are usually only available to natural gas, small businesses and some electricity customers on particular distribution networks. Instead of charging you a flat rate or charging you for using power at certain times of the day, a block rate tariff charges you in blocks (i.e. quantity of power usage). For example, your gas supplier may charge you 4c/MJ for the first 30MJ a day, and then 3.5c/MJ for the next 30MJ a day.

Switching Energy Providers

Switching energy providers is generally a straightforward process that will involve you contacting your new chosen provider. You can do so by comparing a range of power companies on our comparison tool where we link off to certain partnered brands when clicking on the ‘Go to site’ button. From here, the company you’re looking to switch to will likely handle the paperwork on your behalf and will inform you of any steps you may need to do for them to take over your account.

No, if you’re up to date with paying your bills then your power should never be turned off. When you switch energy providers it’s normally a case of your new company taking over your account, while your old retailer schedules in a final meter reading. You’ll likely receive a final bill from your old provider before your next bill which will be from your new company.

Changing energy providers online or over the phone can take as little as five minutes, and usually all you’ll need is a few personal details, such as your address as well as an eligible form of ID. For your electricity account to be transferred over to your new provider, the switching process will take two business days.

For natural gas, the timeframe will ultimately depend on when your old retailer carries out a final meter reading and how long your new provider takes to assume your account. If in doubt, it’s best to contact the company you’re looking to switch to.

Green & Solar Energy

Solar energy is produced when photovoltaic (PV) panels convert direct sunlight into electricity. The photovoltaic cells inside solar panels harness the sun’s energy to produce power that can be used by homes and businesses. That’s why you’ll find solar systems located on rooftops where exposure to the sun is most frequent.

Yes, solar is a renewable source of energy as it comes directly from the sun. This means if you have solar you will be able to produce electricity that replenishes itself naturally, as opposed to non-renewable fossil fuels like coal and oil. In the world of energy, solar is considered one of the greenest power sources as systems emit zero carbon emissions and only require the sun to shine for the process to work.

The cost of solar installation will vary from supplier to supplier, so it’s best to ring around and grab a few quotes before committing to such a large upfront expense. That said, expect to pay between $3,000 and $12,000, with costs dependent on location, size and type of system, the company you choose and any rebates that may be on offer. For more info, check out page on average solar system costs.

A solar feed-in tariff (FiT) is basically a rate paid to you for exporting electricity back into the grid via a solar system. For any leftover kilowatt hour (kWh) of power you feed back into the grid, you’ll receive a rebate on your bill. Feed-in tariffs can vary dramatically depending on your location, provider and if there are any government initiatives available.

Finding the best solar feed-in tariffs (FiTs) will ultimately depend on where you live, as some FiTs can be in excess of 23 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh). To find out which are the best FiTs available in your area right now, click on your state below:

Yes, there are numerous providers that offer solar energy plans in Australia. These deals usually come with higher feed-in tariffs than standard plans and are tailored to customers with solar. If you’re chasing a solar-specific plan, be sure to check the usage and supply rates as well as the feed-in tariff (FiT), particularly if you don’t export a lot of power back into the grid.

Sometimes it’s a matter of weighing up your options; do you choose a plan with a higher FiT or do you go with an offer that has lower rates? Be sure to check the fine print and don’t be sucked in by a massive FiT if the base rates are not reasonably priced.

The term ‘green energy’ refers to power that’s been sustainably sourced, such as renewables. Energy generated by solar, wind, hydro, tidal and geothermal are considered to be green energy, while power sourced from fossil fuels like coal and oil are known as non-renewable or dirty energy.

Unless you’re producing enough electricity with your solar panels, there’s no way you can be sure that the energy you purchase comes from renewable sources. That’s because all of our energy feeds into the same source which is then distributed across different networks, meaning our grids comprise of both dirty and green energy. If you’re conscious about your carbon footprint, there are a range of energy providers that offer greener energy at an additional expense covered by you.

Powershop is recognised as Australia’s greenest energy company, scoring a 9.7 rating in Greenpeace’s Green Electricity Guide in 2018. Other retailers featured high on this green energy list include Diamond Energy, Energy Locals and Enova Energy. According to Greenpeace, factors determining which companies are the greenest included carbon emissions, carbon offset programs, fossil fuel policies and corporate sustainability, to name a few.

Yes, GreenPower plans are generally more expensive than standard energy plans, costing anywhere from five to 10 cents more per kilowatt hour (kWh). Costs vary between retailers and how much you choose to pay in GreenPower on top of your electricity usage, be it 10%, 20% or 50%, for example.

Keep in mind there are power companies that offer GreenPower as standard in some plans, such as Origin and OVO Energy. But you’ll need to check to see if these deals are always available.

General Energy

Yes, you can purchase electricity and gas from the same company, provided dual fuel is offered. There are more than 15 electricity and gas providers operating in Australia. Remember that not all dual fuel providers operate in all states and areas, so it’s best to check directly with a company’s website before signing up.

You can lower your household energy costs by knowing when and where you use power the most. To reduce your energy bills, you’ll need to have a think about the following:

  • Have you installed energy efficient lights?
  • What temperature do you have your air conditioner set on?
  • Do you wash your clothes with hot water?
  • Are your appliances turned off at the wall?
  • Is your home insulated and are doors and windows closed when running you’re A/C?
  • Can you monitor your energy use with a smart meter?
  • Are you paying too much for electricity?

There are currently more than 35 energy providers operating across New South Wales, Victoria, south east Queensland and South Australia. If you live in a deregulated state, then you are free to choose your electricity and gas provider. You can compare plans from a range of power companies in your area by using our comparison tool.

If you live in a state where the retail energy market has been deregulated, you will be able to choose your own power company. This includes New South Wales, Victoria, south east Queensland, South Australia, the ACT and Tasmania (to a degree). If you live in Western Australia, regional Queensland or the Northern Territory you will not be able to choose your electricity provider.

The largest energy companies in Australia are Origin, AGL and EnergyAustralia. These retailers are known as the ‘big three’ and hold majority of the retail market share in Australia for both electricity and gas. This includes residential and small business customers. If you’d like a more detailed report on who are the biggest energy companies in your area, visit our pages below:

There are a number of Australian-owned energy providers in operation, some of which include Red Energy, Momentum Energy and Sumo. Keep in mind that Aussie owned doesn’t guarantee better service or cheaper electricity prices, but if ownership is high on your priority list, then head over to our detailed report on Aussie-owned power companies.

If you’re disputing an energy bill and would like to make a complaint to your provider, then it’s best to get in direct contact, usually via a phone call. Talk firmly yet calmly to a representative and take note of the time you called as well as the person’s full name.

If a resolution cannot be reached, politely ask to speak to the manager and discuss your options. Once a course of action has been agreed upon, ensure it has a reasonable timeline. If there’s no way of resolving an issue, then perhaps it’s time to take your complaint further to the energy ombudsman.

Energy distribution networks cover certain geographical areas across Australia and are responsible for delivering electricity and gas to your property. Your distributor is the company behind maintaining the powerlines, poles, pipes and power stations in your network or zone. It is the company you’ll likely never hear from unless there’s a planned power outage in your area.

To find out who your energy distributor is it’s best to input your postcode or suburb into our comparison tool. By doing so we’ll bring up a range of energy deals available in your area and distribution network.

The energy reference price applies to residential and small business customers in New South Wales, south east Queensland and South Australia. It is also known as the Default Market Offer (DMO) that serves as a price cap for energy retailers as well as a point of reference for consumers to compare plans. In a nutshell, you’ll now be able to see how plans compare to the reference price in your distribution region, meaning you’ll find it easier to identify which is or isn’t a good deal.

The reference price came into effect in July 2019 to help safeguard customers who weren’t engaged in the market. It meant for those who didn’t regularly compare plans and prices were likely left on expensive standing offers. Now, there is a maximum price an energy provider can charge, and all products must be advertised with a percentage showing how much it differs from the reference price. For example, you may see an electricity plan displaying 12% less than the reference price.

As the name suggests, the Victorian Default Offer (VDO) applies to residential and small business customers in Victoria. The VDO was introduced in July 2019 to protect customers who were less engaged in the market from being shifted onto expensive standing offers. It acts as a price cap for electricity if you have not changed plans or providers in a while.

Each energy distribution region in Victoria has its own VDO reference price. For example, the VDO for residential customers who live in Melbourne on the Citipower network is different to those who live in Bendigo on the Powercor network. You will notice that all energy plans now show a percentage less or more than the VDO, or equal to the VDO, which helps you identify the good deals from the not so good.

A smart meter is a digital device that measures your property’s energy usage and sends the information to your retailer for billing. Unlike traditional meters, a smart meter transmits your consumption data remotely every 30 minutes, making it an effective way of identifying your usage habits, as well as having access to an array of other helpful insights.

If you’re looking at getting a smart meter installed, you will need to contact your energy retailer to arrange a suitable date and time. You’ll also want to ask about the costs involved and ensure your retailer’s contractor has safe access to install the meter at your premises. As of 2017, smart meters are mandatory in new meter installations or replacements. A smart meter will also allow you to choose a time of use tariff, where you’ll be able to monitor your usage and consume power when cheaper rates are available.

An embedded electricity network applies to customers who live in apartment blocks or other types of residential complexes where switching energy providers is not an option. Essentially it is a contract in place between a building owner and a retailer that’s in charge of supplying power to all properties part of the dwelling.

Embedded electricity networks run by having a single metered point with sub-meters that measure each tenant’s individual power usage who are then billed accordingly. Some of the cons of an embedded network include having no say in who your retailer is and that you’re effectively locked in to a company that has little incentive to be competitive. On the other hand, it can be convenient for customers as it takes the fuss out of choosing a provider and the retailer could have initiatives in place that favour residents.