Comparing Electricity Plans

I used the Vic government energy comparison site to select my next provider. I keep spread sheets to use for 100% accurate comparisons but the allowance for ‘retailer creativity’ continues to surprise and has made them less than useful this year.

With smart meters and PV the time of use plans are usually cheaper than flat rates per annum, but sometimes not by much (eg $10 pa estimated that could almost be negated by making a few extra coffees on cloudy afternoons).

Surveying the offers shows the following significant plan differences that I expect are what most consumers focus on.

  • daily supply charge
  • peak time charge
  • off-peak time charge
  • solar FiT
  • variable or fixed rate

but then comes

  • plans define peak time differently
    – eg 0700-2300 M-F, 0800-2000 M-F, or 1500-2100 daily
  • some plans have flat rate FiTs, others have peak, shoulder, and off-peak FiTs
  • one retailer (plus a reseller of same) has a membership fee that is offset by low supply charges although the consumption charges reflect the competition; near deuce overall
  • one has a monthly fixed amount rebate regardless of use/FiT

edit: (thanks for that @person)

The Vic comparison reported a plethora of plans, the majority computing to one of a few explicit annual amounts. Some retailers have many different plans that end up as the same estimated annual amount.

It appears their pricing equations might be similar to A + B + C + D = CONSTANT

One could, with enough effort, create an analysis program taking all of the above into account using the grid operator’s detailed data file for the account. For now I’ll trust the Vic comparison hoping they include it all, or close enough.

One lower cost plan was not available on the retailer web site; I reported this to the Vic ESC. The retailer only had a much higher priced plan on their signup site, both plans having been ‘released’ on the same day as shown on the pro formas.

Has anyone noticed additional creative obfuscation to make objective comparisons difficult than those listed above?

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Some have a capped FIT i.e. X c/kWh for first Y kWh in the billing period and Z c/kWh thereafter (where Z is less than X, potentially significantly less).

This also serves to make it difficult to compare unless using software of some kind (be it a spreadsheet or a comparison web site like https://www.energymadeeasy.gov.au).

Just between you and me, I think this should not be allowed, at least within a defined electricity market. Within a given market, peak demand occurs the same for all - and even if it didn’t, this is just a sign of a confusopoly.

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The difficulty in deciphering information makes it almost impossible for the less educated to have any hope of working their way through energy comparison sites. One shouldn’t need a particular IQ or the ability to set up a spreadsheet to work out what is the best electricity plan.

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That is the purpose of the web site I linked above.

You look at your bill and find the National Meter Identifier (NMI), you enter the NMI on the web site (once you choose the “use my meter data” option) and it looks up all your recent bills and calculates the best plan for you (taking into account your physical location i.e. the plans that are available in your area).

(Let’s put aside the privacy implications of that …)

You will also need to say whether you want a combined (bundled) gas and electricity supply or electricity only (where gas is relevant). Bundling is part of the confusopoly but, yes, bundling can save you money.

No need for a spreadsheet unless you particularly like spreadsheets. I like spreadsheets. :slight_smile:

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It is very easy to do. We regularly check we are on the best plan (domestic and business) and allowing uploading of one’s data based on NMI makes the process significantly easier. We are still on the best available plans from today’s check.

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Using the government comparison sites should in theory make spreadsheets obsolete, but I have found discrepancies between my spreadsheet results using my year trailing data set as compared to whatever computation the Victoria comparison does. With the ‘new world order of complexity’ it is not clear if I will persevere because the number of permutations is getting a bit much.

I cross check the rates on the better reported plans and check the peak, off-peak, shoulder, etc charges and FiT games, check my solar output pattern (that also shows when I use power) and make the selection.

The best few plans shown from the Victoria system have always looked better than the others so has reduced what I look at. The biggest issue is when the retailer appears not to offer the ‘best plan’ as reported from the government comparator - but that is a difference issue.

I find all the plans specs almost a waste of time as they do not tell you how many units re on step1 etc. I generally select from the govt. site from one of my least disliked co’s. with the lowest advertised rate. The only true way to see what you are paying per unit overall is to log everything in the bill on a spreadsheet that keeps a running total of all the outs including the highly variable daily charge divided by your units usage. The only true results.

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You could ask the government to enhance the web site to give you that information (retrospectively).

Personally I don’t worry about total cost per kWh. I just look at the total bill. That is, I assume that my usage does not vary much from one year to the next, for a given quarter. Anyway, my usage is very low due to the vast majority being self-consumption from the panels. So the bill is dominated by the fixed costs, unfortunately, and it is just a question of whether I can generate enough excess consumption to use the FIT to recoup the fixed costs.

A little OT but last I checked a change from retailer to retailer always occurred on the next regular meter read unless one paid for a special read. I planned my current change expecting it to take effect with the next scheduled read on 12 August. My surprise – the change was fully actioned 4 days from signup with the new retailer, mid month, mid cycle.

This information is good for Victorians but the NSW Energy Made Easy asks for the bill data then selects on usage. My problem is I wanted to put in the OFFERED new higher rates so I could compare. I think I will need to create a spreadsheet calculating the rates. Previously my energy spreadsheet just tracked usage and solar export so I could compare the ‘estimated’ usage against my SolarEdge inverter monitoring. Very helpful in settling my claim of overcharging after a protracted battle with AGL. I am the sort of person that checks bank account usage and medicare rebates.

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Which plans that are actually available from the various companies on the VEC site is interesting. We are about to go out of contract with company X. On the VEC site the best plan from X has a higher connection charge, a higher cents/kWH and a lower FIT than is on our a letter of offer. Based on last year’s usage and solar production their “best” plan on the VEC site would leave us $100 worse off that what they are offering us.

I am not sure what is going on there.

The VEC site are offers available to new customers as well as old. The rates are rising smartly. If your current retailer has a fixed price contract you should compare it, and grab it while it is still available if it is good. Most new offers are variable priced and will go up.

FWIW 15 years back I got a good renewal offer from AGL. I tried to take it up and they refused to honour their own offer to an existing customer! Would/could it happen now? I do not know. I moved on.

As far as I can tell, the “Energy Made Easy” web site (linked above) is operated by the Commonwealth government. It covers the following states:

  • New South Wales
  • Queensland
  • South Australia
  • Tasmania
  • Australian Capital Territory
    i.e. the so-called National Electricity Market.

I take your point that if you have a special offer of some kind that is not present on the Energy Made Easy web site then you will have to revert to a spreadsheet. I guess that implied functionality would be a useful enhancement i.e. create a custom plan where you enter the plan details, and then the web site can compare the custom plans with the plans that are officially registered.

The loyalty penalty, if that’s what it was, is fairly common, still today.

Not a loyalty penalty in any imaginable way. Happy customer. Plan nears its end. Retailer sends attractive renewal offer. Customer [tries to] accepts it. Retailer flatly refuses to honour their own offer. In some jurisdictions they would have been breaking contract law.

Very different to a loyalty penalty.

I have been looking at plans currently on offer and the new prices AGL has sent to me are very generous and they have not reduced my already high feed in tariff. I was on a plan called Flora Solar that was handed over to AGL from Click Energy in Sept 2020 and due to a faulty smart meter had an ongoing dispute that has only recently been resolved. Maybe that’s why their new offer (commenced 1/08/2022) is so generous.