Electricity Tariff Comparison: A Simple Tool For A Complex World

Compare electricity plans - new online tool

Choosing the most suitable electricity tariff after installing solar panels or batteries can make a huge difference to your future power bills.

Unfortunately, electricity tariffs are getting more complex.

In a perfect consumer-friendly world, all electricity plans would be one per-kWh usage rate and one per-kWh feed-in tariff (FiT) rate; and nothing else.

Comparing electricity plans would be much easier for everyone.

But in a renewables-heavy grid, it makes sense to vary the per-kWh charge based on the time of day.  Incentivising people to use electricity outside of the morning and evening peaks accelerates the decarbonisation of the grid.

So, Australian electricity consumers are increasingly being pushed onto time-of-use (ToU) plans.

I’m cool with that. But what I’m not cool with is all the other complications keeping electricity tariffs really hard to compare:

  • membership fees
  • fixed daily charges
  • benefit periods
  • direct debit discounts
  • bundling discounts
  • paperless billing discounts
  • pay on-time discounts
  • account establishment fees
  • late payment fees
  • disconnection fees
  • reconnection fees
  • lock-in contracts with exit fees
  • demand charges

If you’re a solar owner, you also need to check if the feed-in tariff:

  • has a maximum system size
  • has a maximum export threshold
  • pays for all the kWh or only the first x per day or per month

If you are a battery owner, you also have:

  • a smorgasbord of VPPs (Virtual Power Plants) to consider.
  • the option of Amber Electric, which exposes you to prices from -$1 to +$15 per kWh in real-time1.

Here at SolarQuotes, we had an energy tool that tried to estimate which tariffs would give solar owners the lowest power bill. But the tariffs became so complicated we canned it.

With enough resources, it would be possible to build and maintain a tool – with predictions – that worked with the ever-more complicated tariffs – but I couldn’t justify the expense when our core business is not electricity plan comparison.

Why Did SolarQuotes Have An Energy Comparison Tool?

We provided the tool not to make money – it was not monetised2 – and we have no relationship with electricity retailers (we hate them too); but because we saw it as an important part of the solar and battery buying process – before and after buying.

Before – because knowing what tariffs are available determines how big a system you might consider and what your payback will be.

After – because the chances of your current tariff being optimum for your new solar/battery/EV are slim.

So, I canned the old tool and we started work on a new tool.

What About Energy Made Easy?

The Australian Government’s very expensive comparison site “Energy Made Easy” used to be rubbish. Nowadays it is very good, and we send many people there.

But there is one big problem with it: it can only look backwards, not forwards.

Where Energy Made Easy Is Brilliant

Energy Made Easy is great if you:

  • have a smart meter.
  • have been in the house with the smart meter for at least 12 months.
  • haven’t added any clean energy technology in the previous 12 months.
  • are not planning on adding solar/battery/EV in the next 12 months.
  • don’t expect to change household energy habits significantly.
  • are not interested in VPPs.

Then you can enter your NMI (National Meter Identifier) into EME and it will – based on your actual imports and exports – tell you which electricity plan it thinks will be cheapest going forward. It is not perfectly accurate; it can make mistakes, and it can miss plans. But it’s about as good an estimate as you’ll get anywhere.

Where Energy Made Easy Is Not Helpful

Energy Made Easy is not helpful if you’ve recently installed solar panels, batteries or added an EV and you want to know which plan to go on. Because you have no or little history with your clean energy lifestyle, EME can’t recommend an electricity plan very effectively.

You can tell it about some of your appliances – but it doesn’t even ask how big your solar power system is – never mind about a battery or an EV. So it really isn’t useful for new solar/battery/EV owners.

SolarQuotes’ New, Simpler Electricity Tariff Comparison Tool

What’s needed is a simple electricity plan comparison tool showing what plans are available in your area and their tariffs, FiTs and daily charges so you can make your best call as to which one will suit your setup.

Then 12 months later, you can check with Energy Made Easy to see if any better electricity plans are available based on your actual energy data.

The new tool lets you drill down into the fine print to see, for example, if the feed-in tariff tapers off and if they’ll accept your 20 kW solar system. Or what crazy membership fees are payable. Or if you are only eligible with a second-born named Aaron.

It’s a simple, fast tool that tries to find all the standard and time-of-use plans available in your postcode and then lets you easily browse, sort and click through to the official information sheets so you can check the details.

It Includes Green Ratings

Every year, Greenpeace rate the environmental credentials of electricity retailers. That may be important to you, so we’ve included the ratings in the tool. Click on a rating to see the breakdown of the green rating.

Electricity retailer green ratings

Example Use Cases:

  • You’ve installed a 20kW solar power system. You might sort by feed-in tariff and work down the list until you find the best feed-in rate that allows such a large system. Simply Energy looks pretty good on the surface – but clicking through via the orange arrow shows you need a battery to be eligible.

Compare flate rate electricity plans

  • You’ve installed solar and a battery system that will get you through the evening peak of a Time of Use tariff, but not the morning peak. You might look for a low overnight tariff that can recharge your battery for cheap. Then you can get through the morning peak on battery power. You don’t care about crazy-high peak rates because you’ll almost never draw from the grid at those times. Note: depending on your state and retailer, the off-peak rate may be during the day or during the night. Drill into the plan details to check the time periods.

Compare time-of-use (ToU) electricity plans

  • You’ve bought an electric vehicle but can only recharge overnight. You might look for the lowest overnight rate.
  • You’ve bought an EV you can recharge during the day. Your solar power system is not big enough to cover all of it. You might look for the cheapest daytime ‘solar sponge’ rate if that’s a thing in your state.

So, that’s the idea behind the tool. It demands no personal information, it is free to use and we have no commercial relationship with any electricity retailer – so there’s no benefit to us if you switch or not.

Give it a whirl and let me know in the comments how it can be improved and if it helped you find a better electricity plan for your clean energy lifestyle.

A note about Bill Hero: If all this seems too much, there is a great service called Bill Hero. It is a paid service where they continuously check whether you’d be better off on a different energy plan and then help you switch. If you sign up with them through the link in the tool, we get a referral fee, and they guarantee you’ll save more than they charge you. Which is nice.

Footnotes

  1. Amber offers hedging, so even if the electricity market goes nuts you’ll never pay more than an agreed rate per kWh – on average.
  2. Apart from attracting visitors who may or may not ask for quotes for solar/batteries, and a referral agreement with Bill Hero.
About Finn Peacock

I'm a Chartered Electrical Engineer, Solar and Energy Efficiency nut, dad, and the founder and CEO of SolarQuotes.com.au. I started SolarQuotes in 2009 and the SolarQuotes blog in 2013 with the belief that it’s more important to be truthful and objective than popular. My last "real job" was working for the CSIRO in their renewable energy division. Since 2009, I’ve helped over 700,000 Aussies get quotes for solar from installers I trust. Read my full bio.

Comments

  1. The Energy Made Easy Gov website DOES NOT add demand costs to calculate the cheapest provider even if you ask it to show demand tariffs. This is a major gap !!! And it’s not very obvious.

    I quote from the website

    “Additional recurring charges will increase this cost. This plan has demand charges. A demand charge is an additional charge that does not appear in the Energy Made Easy price estimate. To find out how a demand charge is calculated and how it may affect you, please contact your retailer”

    I’m concerned you are recommending this website without this important disclaimer for smart meter owners. wattever.com.au DOES support demand charge calculations from what I can gather to get a real comparison.

    Love your website though !

  2. For flat tariff = may need work, only showed plans which were between 30 & 70% more costly than our recently increased tariffs with current provider.

    I just tried it out and found that for a flat tarriff the various plans that came up all were worse than the current plan/provider (all figures incude GST if applicable) which has a daily access fee of $0.7579, flat rate of $0.24937 and FIT of $0.11.

    Our provider is not listed in your table.

    The provider, which the table generated for Sydney does not show is AGL which took over our provider in 2021.

    Based on the prior 12 months figures our relatively small PV installation (2kW) and low grid use – we would be:

    Energy Aust around $186.68 worse off (10 cent FIT), 30.02 gird kWh, 99.0 daily fee.
    Globird $86.94 worse off with 20 cent FIT and 40 cent grid kWh costs,
    Red Energy $285.63 worse off with 6 cent FIT, 28.05 grid, $1.111 daily fee.
    Energy Locals $110.09 worse off with 6.2 FIT, 26.50 & 71.0 daily fee
    Origin $262.85 worse off with 5.0 FIT, 30.48 & 88.53 daily fee

  3. Think WA was excluded 😉

  4. Bret Busby in Armadale, Western Australia says

    One of the shortcomings of the new facility, is that it allows only either flat rate or time of use, but, not both concurrently, to provide both being displayed at the same time, for visual comparison.

    Also, as the facility does not include it, but, I believe a previous blog article was published about it (at https://www.solarquotes.com.au/blog/synergy-midday-saver-review/ ), as it is not found for postcode 6112, in the new facility, you might want to include the Synergy Midday Saver plan, to which, I am considering switching, due to a new system, and, the way that I am wanting to get it configured (we are, at present, importing electricity only between 0000 and 0730).

  5. Here in victoria we have vic energy compare, this used to be good, quite a while ago but has turned to rubbish. It would seem to be nothing more than an exercise whereby your paitience is tested, and at the end the government pays you $250 once per year for doing so. Im not against this but not really the objective. Please tell me what relevance How far do you live from the sea, has in comparing prices, beats me.If your in a good mood try yourself and report back, good luck.

  6. Firstly, well done in attempting to tackle the current (no pun intended) nightmare that is Australia’s energy pricing system. The whole thing is confusing even for the relatively-savvy readers of SolarQuotes, so goodness knows what it’s like for the average man or woman in the street when it comes to which company they’d be better off choosing to supply their electricity.

    Just a point of clarification: in your VPP comparison table, the FITs for Discover Energy (DE) seem to be quoted in $/kWh rather than the stated c/kWh. As a DE VPP customer myself I know that the FITs have shrunk remarkably in the last 3 months or so, but not that much! Also, you quote 3 different FITs for different times of day. My latest bill from DE shows 4 different FIT rates — Solar Off Peak (15 c/kWh), Solar Peak (30 c/kWh), Solar Shoulder (7 c/kWh) and Solar Sponge (a measly 1 c/kWh). These exclude any credits derived from energy trading under the VPP scheme.

  7. Bret Busby in Armadale, Western Australia says

    The facility shows
    “Available plans for postcode: 6112. Last updated 25 September
    (x) Flat Rate
    Synergy 28.82 ¢/kWh 103.33 ¢/Day”

    Synergy (SWIS grid) flat rate plan effective from 01 July 2022: 30.06047 cents per kWh. Daily supply charge: 107.76854 per day.
    – From bill dated 24 August 2022

    See also https://www.synergy.net.au/Your-home/Energy-plans/Home-Plan-A1

  8. Bret Busby in Armadale, Western Australia says

    Having posted the information that I posted in my last previous post, I should also have included:

    At https://www.synergy.net.au/Your-home/Energy-plans/Midday-Saver is


    Supply charge 120.0000 cents per day
    Super Off Peak electricity charge 8.0000 cents per unit
    Off Peak electricity charge 22.0000 cents per unit
    Peak electricity charge 50.0000 cents per unit
    (and)
    Super Off Peak (9am to 3pm)
    Peak (3pm to 9pm)
    Off Peak (9pm to 9am)

    with

    Fees & charges Price inc. GST
    Meter reprogramming fee $ 96.50
    Meter reprogramming fee – remote $ 35.00
    Meter testing fee (refunded if meter is faulty) $ 336.15
    Meter testing fee – Concession $ 144.00
    Special meter reading fee $ 27.90
    Special meter reading fee – remote $ 17.60
    Meter upgrade fee $ 96.50

    of which, I believe that a meter upgrade or reprogramming fee, and, a special meter reading fee, would be incurred, in switching from the flat rate plan, to the Midday Saver Plan, with the fees incurred by the switching, to be charged to the customer’s next bill, so, the switchover fee, could be $32.60, or, $124.40, depending on the individual site requirements.

  9. The comparison seems to have missed the globird 20c fit that is available in my area. Which then makes you question how thorough the display of plans are for all providers listed.

    Globird 20c plan has expensive electricity and daily charges but with a larg(ish) system output (ageing 10kVA) and low use the cost is largely irrelevant. Especially if electricity use is shifted to day time wherever possible.

    We get fleeced in the country with daily charges of 1.50 and higher compared to around 1.00 in the city. When you question the providers they claim that the higher charges in the country are to cover transmission costs. When you explain that there are none because you are a net provider they have no answer.

    Based on this claim of distribution costs I have argued for a higher feed in tariff in remote areas because I am a net supplier of electricity to the grid in the country area where I live and am helping to reduce their distribution costs. The retailers can’t find a sensible counter to that argument.

    Electricity retail should be run by the government. Retailers just add another mouth to feed (middleman) in the supply of electricity.

    • George Kaplan says

      Brian, that’s the SolarPlus option for NSW? The Victoria version states “Get a massive 10 Cents per kWh for Solar with no lock in contract and easy monthly billing” while neither Queensland nor South Australia are even offered a SolarPlus option.

      I confess to being somewhat envious, though I do wonder if it’s not too good to be true given most companies are offering closer to the 5c mark for FiTs.

      Daily charges of $1.50 versus city charges of $1? As far as I’m aware that sort of difference is due to plan differences not city v country, but perhaps I’m just in a different area\zone?

      I agree we’re getting fleeced – we now have to export ~5:1 just to break even on bills, this isn’t possible 6-8 months of the year, and thanks to La Nina plus the Negative Indian Ocean Dipole we’re getting far more rain and cloud than usual meaning less solar meaning even less chance of breaking even. Grumble grumble grump!

      • Yes, solarplus.
        The cost of the power you import is expensive tho’,
        Daily Charge 1.70500
        Peak Use 0.62700
        Off peak Use 0.53900
        Shoulder Use 0.53900 $14.73
        Standard Solar Feed -0.20000
        There is no limit to the amount you export at that price.

  10. George Kaplan says

    For solar owners it’s not just maximum system size, you also need to check PV size. Some retailers distinguish between maximum panel capacity, and maximum system (inverter) size. There are also plans that are exclusive to customers who buy their solar system through the retailer.

    Wattever provides FiTs but I’ve found that some of the data there is dated so it’s no longer fully reliable.

    Gave the SQ comparison tool a whirl. It’s another source of info, but not without its flaws.

    Looking at one postcode I see one Chinese looking company basically red flagged, but offering what appears to be one of the few vaguely reasonable Fits. You’ve one company listed that relies on membership fees but this is only shown if you follow through to Energy Made Easy. I also saw at least one instance of a basic spelling mistake.

    Changing postcodes doesn’t seem to make much difference in retailers shown, and I know at least one major is missing. (OR they don’t do ToU rates?). Selecting the ‘Green Rating 8+’ (whatever that is) limits options to a single retailer – one with a hidden membership fee.

    Hm flat rate seems to offer a lot more choices. Selecting GR8+ limits choices to 2.

    You may have a major problem with you peak rate tariff data. I looked at one I’m familiar with and you appear to have linked to a plan exclusive to customers who buy solar systems through the retailer, but I’m not sure if that plan is actually offered. The plan offered on their site has higher rates and charges so I’m a mite confused.

    Hope this helps.

  11. George Kaplan says

    Kinda off topic but …:

    Australia is being warned of rolling blackouts and unaffordable electricity: https://www.news.com.au/finance/work/leaders/dutton-fears-australia-heading-down-wrong-track-on-gas/news-story/1ef15518bb44b8a0a0077b567f53b123

    Labor is clear that gas prices will not drop to pre-invasion levels, new gas development is unlikely, and gas exporters won’t be required to supply more to the local market. That will keep the marginal price for the National Electricity Market high until perhaps such hypothetical time as battery capacity can replace gas power. Then again, given batteries cost so much, that probably won’t result in a reduction in price. 🙁

    • George Kaplan,
      Then again, given batteries cost so much, that probably won’t result in a reduction in price.

      Based on what evidence/data, George? Or is it just your baseless opinion? ?

      …perhaps such hypothetical time as battery capacity can replace gas power.

      It seems to me hypothetical will likely become reality soon. Some gigawatt-hour scale BESS projects I see in progress:

      * Wallerawang 9 (NSW), by Greenspot, 500 MW / up to 1.0 GWh, NSW DPIE approved 4 Aug 2022, construction commencing Q1 2023?, operational by 2023-24?

      * Great Western (NSW), by Neoen, 500 MW / up to 1.0 GWh, Response to Submissions, construction commencing in 2023?, operational by 2024?

      * Liddell (NSW), by AGL, 500 MW / up to 2.0 GWh, NSW DPIE approved 8 Mar 2022, construction commencing 2022?, operational Stage 1 by 2023? Stage 2 by 2025?

      * Eraring (NSW), by Origin, 700 MW / up to 2.8 GWh, NSW DPIE approved 10 May 2022, construction commencing 2022?, operational Stage 1 by 2023? Stage 2 by 2025?

      * Waratah Super (NSW), by EnergyCo, 700 MW / up to 1.4 GWh, Prepare SEARs, construction commencing 2023?, operational Q4 2024?

      * Orana (NSW), by Blackrock/Akaysha Energy, 200-400 MW / up to 1.6 GWh, Prepare EIS, construction commencing 2023?, operational 2025?

      * Wooreen (VIC), by EnergyAustralia, Planning Application lodged VIC DELWP, construction commencing 2024?, operational 2026?

      * Robertstown (SA), by AMP Energy, 250 MW / up to 1.0 GWh, SA Gov approved 4 Jul 2019, construction commenced Q1 2022?, operational 2025?

      * Goyder South (SA), by Neoen, 900 MW / up to 1.8 GWh, SA Gov approved 15 Mar 2021, Stage 1 construction 2022?

      * Bulli Creek (QLD), by Genex Power, 400 MW / up to 1.6 GWh, QLD Gov approved, construction commencing 2022?, operational 2024-25?

      * Collie (WA), by Neoen, 1,000 MW / up to 4.0 GWh, Community consultation, construction commencing 2023-24?

      We’ll probably see more soon.

  12. Hi,

    I put in my postcode, and the first in the list, Circular Energy, is Ausnet, which is for the other side of Melbourne, when we are in Powercor area.

    b0b

  13. Had a look at Bill Hero online and came across a long thread of very unhappy Bill Hero customers. The thread is on Choice which recommends Bill Hero as well. Seems to be a distinct lack of customer service from Bill Hero and in several cases no response at all to subscribers. No means to call them etc. Put me off in any case.

    • Sadly it seems talking to someone at electricity retailers is difficult. Most have limited customer service, sign up and hope for the best. I just changed to Sumo as in vic they were the best deal, feed in tariff 10 cents till at least new year others are only 5 cents. All going well 3 months in, but try to email them, non existent, telephone, long que,

    • Richard Foxworthy says

      I’m Richard Foxworthy, a co-founder of Bill Hero.

      We’re very proud that organisations with great trust credentials, like CHOICE, and SolarQuotes, trust us to help support their members to get the best outcomes from the notoriously difficult and annoying set of purchase decisions that is retail energy.

      We’re aware of the comments you refer to in CHOICE. These mainly flow from the unprecedented upheavals in the Australian energy wholesale and retail markets since mid-May 2022.

      From late May, some of the most competitively priced retailers started contacting their customers to warn about price increases and urge them to switch away. It turns out some of these retailers were actively dumping customers, so they could sell their wholesale market hedge positions at vastly inflated prices. Presumably they’ll use some of that windfall profit to support PR campaigns about being ‘customer centric’ when re-entering the market after prices stabilise.

      The nature of the Bill Hero service is that our subscribers are always on the very best priced plans, so this action from the most competitive retailers triggered a deluge of inbound subscriber enquiries which overwhelmed our team and systems, leading to some delays in responding to some subscribers.

      We take seriously the idea that every problem is an opportunity to improve, and we’ve overhauled our approach to customer service functions in response to this, including:

      * Migrated to a new and more scalable customer service system,
      * Adopted more comprehensive and robust self-service options,
      * Invested in developing deeper and more comprehensive support documentation,
      * Addressed a number of UX issues that were identified as root cause for some issues,
      * Extended our customer service team, and spent time to better clarify and define roles to maximise efficiency

      We’re continuing to refine and improve all the time.

      We’re looking forward to helping SolarQuotes users get the best return on your solar investment.

  14. Graeme Muter says

    Hi Finn.

    Re your Compare Electricity Plans & Solar Feed -In Tariffs Chart. I think it is out of date because:

    I live in Victoria Post Code 3196.

    I have found that OVO energy is my best choice & is much better than those you have listed in the chart as follows:

    Flat Rate is: 23.27 c/ kwh.

    Feed in tariff is: 7.0 c/kwh.

    Daily Charge is: 107.53 c/day.

    As well you get a credit of $10 each month on your bill. This works out to a 9% discount off the VDO.

    As well you get an interest payment of 3% on any credits you have.

    Love your work though

    Graeme Muter

  15. Chando Steiner says

    Does your Energy Comparison tool work in Tas? Nothing happened when I put my postcode 7054 in – pity, the tool sounds really good and timely!

  16. Does not contain all three Synergy WA tariffs/plans for Perth Metro and SWIS. See https://www.synergy.net.au/Your-home/Energy-plans for further details.

  17. Derek McKinnon says

    I started working on this and realised that the sites were analysing 12 months worth of data. However, we mostly use heaters at night in winter and no air-conditioning in summer.

    Which made me think. Shouldn’t we change supplier every 6 months?

    Flat low tarriff with maximised feed in during summer. Then time of use without worrying too much about feed in during winter.

    If your comparison tool did that, that would be cool.

  18. The flat rates selection results for my post code (2281) does not show PowerShop which has a SuperSolar plan with a single rate of 28.87cents and a feed in tariff of 13 cents, daily supply 65.23 cents/day. Makes me wonder what else might be missing.

  19. Not sure a blatant advertisement for business such as that by Richard Foxworthy should be included on a discussion of a tariff comparison tool (or any other thread for that matter) – it transgresses rule 4 and 5 of the four (quote) rules for commentary, is irrelevant to the thread and compromises the integrity of the blog.

  20. Michael Paine says

    This comparison tool was very useful as my current electricity contract is about to expire. I shopped around and (hope I) have found a much better deal. The Green Rating was particularly useful.

    BTW – there is a new article in The Conversation with tips for maximising PV energy and minimising grid consumption:
    https://theconversation.com/how-to-maximise-savings-from-your-home-solar-system-and-slash-your-power-bills-197415
    Nothing ground-breaking (is that a coal mining expression!) but it does make a point about the potential savings from smart homes. Only trouble is that very few of us have applicances that can be fully controlled by a smart (240V) outlet. Most old applicances won’t automatically turn on if the power comes on. But that is another topic…

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