Peak and off-peak electricity times explained

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Understanding peak and off-peak electricity usage times and rates is crucial to reducing your overall power costs – provided these times and rates apply to you. In this article, we’ll explain how peak and off-peak rates differ, what times of day they apply, and who actually pays these different charges.

When it comes to electricity, it’s easy to get confused by all the buzzwords and acronyms, with ‘peak’ and ‘off-peak’ some of those most widely used but easily misunderstood of them. So, what does it mean if you see these words on your power bills, or used with plans you’re comparing? Read on to find out.

What does ‘peak usage’ mean on my bill?

Most of us will see the words ‘peak usage’ on our electricity bills, but this will mean different things to different customers, depending on the type of energy tariff you’re signed up to.

  • If you have a single rate tariff, you pay the same price for electricity regardless of what time of day you use it. However, energy retailers still refer to these prices as ‘peak usage’. This is especially true if you have a controlled load whereby you pay for hot water heating or your pool pump at a reduced rate.
  • If you have a time of use tariff, you pay different prices for electricity depending on what time of day you use it. In this instance, the ‘peak usage’ component of your bill will reflect the amount of energy used during peak usage times (typically between 3pm and 9pm weekdays).

You will find peak usage information and costs alongside all other cost details – including other tariffs – on your bill. In the case of a household on a single rate tariff, the peak usage component will simply reflect all energy usage (with the exception of a controlled load, if applicable), while those on a time of use tariff will see peak usage costs next to off-peak and ‘shoulder’ costs (the time between peak and off-peak hours, if applicable), as well as daily supply charges.

The below example is an Origin Energy bill for a household with a single rate tariff, plus controlled load. Note that it shows general electricity usage as ‘peak usage’.

 

Do I pay peak and off-peak electricity rates?

You will only pay peak and off-peak electricity rates if you have signed up to a ‘time of use’ or ‘flexible pricing’ tariff. To do this, you will need to have a smart meter installed at your property.

You should only be on a time of use tariff if you have discussed this option with your energy retailer and believe it will prove financially beneficial (i.e. if you generally use more power at night than during the day). Canstar Blue research has shown that time of use tariffs can be a costly mistake if your energy consumption habits don’t correlate appropriately.

If you have a single rate tariff, you could easily get confused and think you pay different rates for power at different times of day. You may have been delaying your household appliances for years, for no reason. The reality is that the vast majority of Australian households are on a single rate tariff. If you’re not sure which tariff you’re on, check your bill or contact your energy retailer.

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Peak and off-peak electricity times

Peak, off-peak and shoulder electricity usage times vary between energy retailers and states, but as a general guide, we have listed times for AGL, Origin and EnergyAustralia below. If you’re with a different retailer, you can check their peak and off-peak usage times, and charges, by reviewing their energy price fact sheets.

AGL peak and off-peak electricity times

Peak and off-peak electricity times from AGL vary between states:

  • In NSW, off-peak electricity rates are charged from 10pm to 7am. A shoulder rate applies from 7am until 2pm, and from 8pm until 10pm, with peak hours between 2pm and 8pm. Peak rates are only charged Monday to Friday. Weekend rates are shoulder or off-peak.
  • In Victoria, off-peak electricity rates apply between the hours of 11pm and 7am, Monday to Friday and at all times on weekends. Victoria is different to other states in that there is no ‘shoulder period’ on time of use tariffs, meaning longer peak and off-peak hours instead during the working week.
  • In South-East Queensland, off-peak hours run from 10pm to 7am, with peak rates charged between 4pm and 8pm, Monday to Friday, and shoulder rates applying from 7am to 4pm, and 8pm to 10pm. Peak rates are not charged on weekends.

AGL does not offer time of use tariffs in South Australia. These tariffs are available in the state, but few retailers choose to offer them.

Origin peak and off-peak electricity times

Peak and off-peak electricity times from Origin are as follows:

  • Origin charges peak usage rates in NSW between 2pm and 8pm, Monday to Friday, with shoulder rates applying between 7am and 2pm, and 8pm and 10pm weekdays. Off-peak hours are 10pm to 7am. Only shoulder and off-peak rates are charged at weekends.
  • In Victoria, Origin’s off-peak electricity times run from 11pm through to 7am, with peak rates applying at all other times during the working week. Only off-peak rates are charged at weekends. There are no shoulder periods on time of use tariffs in Victoria.
  • Off-peak electricity times for Origin customers in SE QLD are from 10pm to 7am weekdays. Peak rates are charged between 4pm and 8pm, Monday to Friday, with shoulder rates applying at other times. Peak rates are not charged on weekends, with shoulder rates during the day and off-peak rates overnight.

In South Australia, Origin does not use time of use tariffs. Instead electricity customers in the state are charged based on how much power they use per day rather than when they use it. These are known as block rates. This way of charging for power is also common in NSW.

EnergyAustralia peak and off-peak electricity times

EnergyAustralia peak and off-peak electricity times are as follows:

  • EnergyAustralia customers on a time of use tariff in NSW are charged peak usage rates from 2pm to 8pm weekdays. Shoulder rates apply between 7am to 2pm, and 8pm and 10pm, with off-peak hours from 10pm through to 7am. Only shoulder and off-peak prices are charged at weekends.
  • Victorians are charged peak electricity usage rates between 7am and 11pm, Monday to Friday, with off-peak rates applying at other times, including weekends. There are no shoulder rates charged in Victoria.
  • Peak usage rates in SE QLD apply from 4pm to 8pm, with off-peak hours of 10pm to 7am. Shoulder rates apply from 7am to 4pm, and 8pm to 10pm. Peak rates are not charged at weekends.

Like AGL and Origin, EnergyAustralia does not offer time of use tariffs in South Australia.

While the times mentioned above are indicative, be aware that off-peak and peak hours can vary marginally between the different distribution networks in Victoria and NSW.

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Peak vs off-peak electricity prices

As you would expect, using power during peak times of day, rather than at off-peak times, will naturally result in higher costs – and higher bills. To give you an idea of how electricity rates differ between peak and off-peak hours, the following table shows indicative prices from EnergyAustralia, Origin and AGL in NSW. Prices are shown in cents per kWh.

Energy Retailer Typical Peak Pricing Typical Off-Peak Pricing
AGL 54c/kWh 15c/kWh
Origin 53c/kWh 14c/kWh
EnergyAustralia 55c/kWh 15c/kWh

Source: Respective retailer websites, September 2017. Rates from plans on Ausgrid network in NSW.

As you can see, there is a dramatic difference in peak and off-peak prices, so shifting a good percentage of your daily energy usage to off-peak times would clearly be a smart move – if you are signed up to a time of use tariff.

However, given the huge price difference – and the fact that you may have trouble delaying much of your energy usage to off-peak hours – you could be better off sticking with the certainty of a single rate tariff, whereby you’ll pay the same price for power at all times. For a time of use tariff to work out cheaper than a single rate tariff, you will likely need to shift around a third of your daily energy consumption to off-peak hours (generally 10pm to 7am).

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The final word on peak and off-peak electricity times

Before worrying about paying peak time electricity prices, make sure you first establish whether or not you’re actually being charged different rates for using power at different times. You may be worrying about nothing. You will only be charged different rates at peak and off-peak times if you have a smart meter installed at your property AND have a time of use or flexible pricing tariff.

If you are on a time of use or flexible pricing tariff, make sure that it suits your household and your lifestyle. If you’re home and use lots of power in the early evening, this is likely not the best move for you. You will need to reduce your peak time energy usage to a minimum to be better off. If you are on a single rate tariff, you won’t need to worry about what time of day you use power.

Whatever type of tariff you’re on, it’s always a smart move to regularly compare providers, plans and prices, to avoid paying too much.

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