Woman's hands using smart energy meter to check time of use tariff

What is a time of use tariff?

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In this guide we cover everything you need to know about time of use tariffs, including electricity peak and off-peak times, how this type of tariff compares to others, and if it’s suitable for your needs.

Australia’s energy grids reach peak demand during certain hours of the day, such as weeknights. That’s why there are specific types of tariffs (the way you’re charged for electricity) that may help you take advantage of cheaper energy rates, depending on the time of day.

One of these tariffs is called a ‘time of use’ tariff. Read on for info on how time of use tariffs work, and if they can save you money. 

What is a time of use tariff?

A time of use tariff charges customers different prices for electricity usage depending on the time of day.

  • Peak: Most expensive electricity rates during peak demand periods (i.e. weekdays from 4pm to 8pm)
  • Off-peak: Least expensive energy rates, usually overnight and on weekends
  • Shoulder: Slightly cheaper rates, typically between peak and off-peak periods

General guide only

In order to take advantage of peak and off-peak usage periods on a time of use tariff, you must have a smart meter. Provided you have a smart meter and your electricity retailer offers a time of use tariff, you will still be billed for two different charges; a usage charge and a supply charge. A time of use tariff only applies to the usage charge portion of your energy bill. You should only be on a time of use energy tariff if you have specially chosen to do so.

If you see different rates on your bill and it looks like you’re on a time of use tariff, but you didn’t opt to do so, you should contact your retailer straight away. Used incorrectly, a time of use tariff can end up adding to your power bill.

What does a time of use tariff look like on my energy bill?

You can find details on any time of use rates under the ‘charges and credits’ section of your power bill. Keep in mind that some electricity retailers may use different terms for their time of use tariffs, such as flexible pricing.

Below is an example of a sample bill with a time of use tariff from AGL. Take notice of the time periods listed as peak and off-peak, which have different usage rates.

AGL bill with time of use tariff

Single rate electricity prices

Below we’ve listed the prices suitable to those who’d prefer to be on a single rate tariff and pay for energy without peak or off-peak prices.

Here are some of the cheapest published deals from the retailers on our database that include a link to the retailer’s website for further details. These are products from referral partners†. These costs are based on the Ausgrid network in Sydney but prices may vary depending on your circumstances. This comparison assumes general energy usage of 3911kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Please use our comparison tool for a specific comparison in your area. Our database may not cover all deals in your area. As always, check all details of any plan directly with the retailer before making a purchase decision.

Here are some of the cheapest published deals from the retailers on our database that include a link to the retailer’s website for further details. These are products from referral partners†. These costs are based on the Citipower network in Melbourne but prices may vary depending on your circumstances. This comparison assumes general energy usage of 4000kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Please use our comparison tool for a specific comparison in your area. Our database may not cover all deals in your area. As always, check all details of any plan directly with the retailer before making a purchase decision.

Here are some of the cheapest published deals from the retailers on our database that include a link to the retailer’s website for further details. These are products from referral partners†. These costs are based on the Energex network in Brisbane but prices may vary depending on your circumstances. This comparison assumes general energy usage of 4613kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Please use our comparison tool for a specific comparison in your area. Our database may not cover all deals in your area. As always, check all details of any plan directly with the retailer before making a purchase decision.

Here are some of the cheapest published deals from the retailers on our database that include a link to the retailer’s website for further details. These are products from referral partners†. These costs are based on the SA Power network in Adelaide but prices may vary depending on your circumstances. This comparison assumes general energy usage of 4011kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Please use our comparison tool for a specific comparison in your area. Our database may not cover all deals in your area. As always, check all details of any plan directly with the retailer before making a purchase decision.

What are electricity peak and off-peak times?

The peak and off-peak times on a time of use tariff will depend on your energy retailer and which distribution network you live on. You can find your energy provider’s peak and off-peak usage times and charges by reading their energy price fact sheets.

What are the peak and off-peak electricity times in NSW?

There are three energy distribution networks in New South Wales: Ausgrid, Essential Energy and Endeavour Energy. Peak and off-peak electricity times in NSW will vary depending on which network you’re on, as well as which energy retailer you’re with.

AGL peak and off-peak electricity times NSW

  • Peak usage rates: 2pm to 8pm, Mon-Fri
  • Off peak usage rates: 10pm to 7am, Mon-Sun
  • Shoulder rates: 7am to 2pm and 8pm to 10pm, Mon-Fri | 7am to 10pm, Sat-Sun

Origin Energy peak and off-peak electricity times NSW

  • Peak usage rates: 52pm to 8pm Mon-Fri
  • Off peak usage rates: 10pm to 7am, Mon-Sun
  • Shoulder rates: 7am to 5pm and 8pm to 10pm, Mon-Fri | 7am to 10pm, Sat-Sun

EnergyAustralia peak and off-peak electricity times NSW

  • Peak usage rates: 2pm to 8pm, Mon-Fri (summer) | 5pm to 9pm, Mon-Fri (winter)
  • Off peak usage rates: 10pm to 7am, Mon-Sun (all year)
  • Shoulder rates: 7am to 2pm and 8pm to 10pm, Mon-Fri (summer) | 7am to 5pm and 9pm to 10pm, Mon-Fri (winter) | 7am to 10pm, Sat-Sun (all year)

The above usage rate times are for residential customers on the Ausgrid distribution network. Keep in mind that peak and off-peak rates will vary on the other distribution networks.

What are the peak and off-peak electricity times in VIC?

Time of use tariffs in Victoria are handled a little differently. As seen with single rate electricity tariffs, the state also offers a default offer called the two-period time of use Victorian Default Offer to customers. This means that in addition to price, the peak and off-peak electricity times in Victoria are set as a default for each retailer, on each distribution network in the state.

There are five energy distributors in Victoria, including Citipower, Jemena, Powercor, AusNet Services and United Energy distribution. We’ve listed the default peak and off-peak times for all Victorian energy providers on these networks below.

Victorian default peak and off-peak electricity times

  • Peak usage rates: 3pm to 9pm, everyday
  • Off peak usage rates: 9pm to 12am and 12am to 3pm, everyday
  • Shoulder rates: Not applicable

Residents in Victoria also have access to a ‘flexible pricing’ tariff, which offers different pricing and peak and off-peak times to the two-period time of use tariff. 

The above usage rate times are based on the two period-time of use Victorian Default Tariff for residential customers on the Citipower network. Keep in mind that peak and off-peak times may vary with a flexible pricing tariff.

What are the peak and off-peak electricity times in QLD?

In south east Queensland, Energex is the only energy distribution network for residential customers. With this in mind, peak and off-peak electricity times in QLD will be set by Energex and your energy provider.

AGL peak and off-peak electricity times QLD

  • Peak usage rates: 4pm to 8pm, Mon-Fri
  • Off peak usage rates: 10pm to 7am, Mon-Sun
  • Shoulder rates: 7am to 4pm and 8pm to 10pm, Mon-Fri | 7am to 10pm, Sat-Sun

Origin Energy peak and off-peak electricity times QLD

  • Peak usage rates: 4pm to 8pm, Mon-Fri
  • Off peak usage rates: 10pm to 7am, Mon-Sun
  • Shoulder rates: 7am to 4pm and 8pm to 10pm Mon-Fri | 7am to 10pm Sat-Sun

EnergyAustralia peak and off-peak electricity times QLD

EnergyAustralia doesn’t currently offer a Queensland time of use tariff to its customers. It does however, offer a demand tariff, which has a peak time from 4pm to 9pm.

The above usage rate times are for residential customers on the Energex distribution network.

What are the peak and off-peak electricity times in SA?

In South Australia, SA Power Networks is the only energy distribution network for residential customers. With this in mind, peak and off-peak electricity times in SA will be set by SA Power Networks and your energy provider.

AGL peak and off-peak electricity times SA

  • Peak usage rates: 6am to 10am and 3pm to 1am, Mon-Sun
  • Off peak usage rates: 1am to 6am, Mon-Sun
  • Shoulder rates: 10am to 3pm Mon-Sun

Origin Energy peak and off-peak electricity times SA

  • Peak usage rates: 6am to 10am and 3pm to 1am Mon-Sun
  • Off peak usage rates: 1am to 6am, Mon-Sun
  • Shoulder rates: 10am to 3pm Mon-Sun

EnergyAustralia peak and off-peak electricity times SA

  • Peak usage rates: 12am to 1am, 6am to 10am and 3pm to 12am Mon-Sun
  • Off peak usage rates: 1am to 6am, Mon-Sun
  • Shoulder rates: 10am to 3pm Mon-Sun

The above usage rate times are for residential customers on the SA Power Networks distribution network.

What is a smart meter?

Otherwise known as a digital meter, a smart meter is a device that helps customers on a time of use tariff monitor their electricity usage. Smart meters are essential for flexible pricing as traditional meters can only record energy use at one rate. 

Smart meters also provide electricity retailers with regular updates of a customer’s electricity usage, and unlike traditional meters, do not require manual meter readings.

Aside from tracking your energy consumption, smart meters can also:

  • Allow the electricity supply to be switched on or off remotely
  • Alert the electricity distributor when there is a power outage

How do smart meters work?

By using live-usage technology, a smart meter works by recording your electricity usage per kilowatt hour (kWh) up to every 30 minutes, with the information then sent to your energy provider for billing. Smart meters are usually attached to time of use tariffs, allowing customers to capitalise on an array of in-house statistics which helps track energy costs.

What is the best electricity tariff?

Finding the best electricity tariff shouldn’t just be about cheaper rates. You should consider all of the features of an energy plan, like discounts and benefit periods, plus sign-up incentives. Each type of tariff will have an impact on your overall energy costs, so it’s important to do your research and work out which one is best suited to you.

Below is a quick list of type of households who may benefit from time of use versus single rate tariffs.

Tariff type Good for homes:
Single rate
  • Without a smart meter
  • Who use energy at all times of the day
  • Who tend to use more energy during peak evening hours
Time of use 
  • Who want a smart meter
  • Who want to track and manage their energy usage
  • Who use lots of energy during off-peak hours

A time of use tariff can be a viable choice if you are conscious of when and how you use electricity. Given that time of use tariffs give you access to cheaper electricity rates during off peak times, you could decrease your energy bills. However, it’s worth noting that your tariff is not the only aspect contributing to overall electricity costs.

Make sure to compare plans across multiple retailers in your area, to ensure you’re getting a good rate regardless of the type of tariff you’ve signed up for.

 

Jared Mullane
Energy Contributor
Jared Mullane was a content producer and editor at Canstar Blue for three years until 2022, most recently as Energy Editor. He holds a Bachelor of Journalism from Griffith University.

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