Don’t Let Retailers Force You On To Time-Of-Use Tariffs When You Go Solar

Are time of use tariffs compulsory when installing solar panels?

There are 16 different electricity distribution networks in Australia. Don’t let them (or retailers) try and force you on a time-of-use tariff when you go solar.

When you get solar panels installed, your old electricity meter is replaced with a smart meter.  Unless you already have one.    

This isn’t a bad thing in itself, as smart meters provide some advantages.  But there is a problem if installing a smart meter is used as an excuse to foist a time-of-use (TOU) tariff on people who would rather not have one.

In Tasmania, you are put onto a time of use tariff by default when a solar power system is installed.  The good news is you are not required to stay on it and are free to change to any tariff an electricity retailer is willing to offer you, whether it is a time-of-use or a standard tariff that charges a flat rate per kilowatt-hour.  Aurora Energy — Tasmania’s largest electricity retailer — appears happy to tell people they’re able to change.  The drawback is the process can take months. 

In the past, I’ve heard complaints about people in Victoria being put on time-of-use tariffs against their will and not being able to change back when they had solar installed.  I looked into this but was unable to get a straight answer from any of the electricity retailers I contacted. 

Victoria’s Energy Ombudsman1 office says Victorians are free to choose any electricity plan offered to them by retailers.  There are at least a dozen retailers in Victoria that offer plans with standard tariffs, so finding one should not be a problem.  They also told me if Victorians are on any plan they don’t want, they are free to change.  

I was also told the Ombudsman’s office could help you complain if you are prevented from changing plans.  And by “you”, I mean “Victorians”.  I can’t complain for you because I’m sitting here in Radelaide and not willing to move to Victoria for all the tea in Tasmania.2 

The bad news is, if you are on a time-of-use plan that you don’t want, it can take months to change.  This delay seems ridiculous because one of the advantages of smart meters is that they allow electricity plans to be changed almost immediately.

Time-Of-Use Vs. Standard Tariff

Electricity retailers offer two main tariffs3:

  • Standard tariffs:  These traditional tariffs charge a flat rate per kilowatt-hour.
  • Time-of-use:  The amount charged depends on when the grid electricity is used.  These require a smart meter.

Almost all electricity retailers offer plans with either type.  A quick look shows 12 electricity retailers are offering at least one plan with a standard tariff in Melbourne.   

A Drawn-Out Investigation

I first looked into whether solar homes could be forced onto a time-of-use tariff a long time ago.  This was because of complaints from people in the Ausnet network area in Victoria4 of being forced onto a time-of-use tariff when they had solar installed.

Unfortunately, when I talked to Ausgrid, they weren’t able to tell me what the retailers would allow and when I called electricity retailers, I only got call centre operators who, through no fault of their own, were unable to answer my questions.

Because I didn’t want to spend hours on hold trying to get through to someone who could explain to my poor little brain what was going on, I came up with what I thought was a cunning plan.  Instead of calling, I instead mailed physical letters to electricity retailers.  I figured they would eventually end up on the desk of someone who had the information I wanted, and they would call me or, if I were really lucky, I’d get a written response.  

I thought I was so clever. 

I sent the letters to the Victorian headquarters of Australia’s three largest electricity retailers.  In order from biggest to least biggest…

  • Origin Energy
  • AGL
  • Energy Australia 

My plan failed miserably.  I didn’t get a single reply.  Well, one of them did have a call centre operator contact me and try to sell an electricity plan, but that wasn’t what I was after. 

This caused me to become discouraged, and I became distracted by other things.  I’m not saying I gave up, but I did regard it as a Treaty of Versailles kind of moment and thought maybe I’d take a short 20-year break before leaping into the thick of things again. 

But then, a week ago, some Dutch people5 in Victoria asked me if they would be required to go on a time-of-use tariff if they installed solar panels, so I decided I had better take another look. 

That’s the thing with the Dutch.  As soon as you think you’re out, they drag you back in again.  But the thought of refusing to help didn’t cross my mind.  This is because, when it comes to the Dutch, I’m willing to do anything to make them leave me alone.6

NSW Government Gets It Right

One of the Dutch people — or maybe it was a Finn7 — pointed out the NSW Government has the back of people in their state.  On the NSW Government page on smart meters, it clearly states it’s not necessary to go on a time-of-use tariff. 

Here’s a screenshot of the relevant section:

Smart meters and time of use tariffs in NSW

In other words, if you can find an electricity retailer that offers a standard tariff with a flat rate — and most do — then you can use it.   

Victoria’s Energy Ombudsman Says You Are Free To Choose

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a similarly clear statement on the Victorian Government’s smart meter page or any other page of theirs I looked at.  So I called the Energy and Water Ombudsman of Victoria and they told me that Victorians are free to change to any electricity plan any retailer is willing to offer.  They also told me Victorians who have a problem resolving problems with electricity plans themselves could contact them for help. 

Solar Victoria Wasn’t Helpful

I called Solar Victoria, which is part of the Victorian Government’s Department of Environment, Water, Land and Planning. I wanted to see if they would back up what the independent ombudsman said.  They said they didn’t have any information on tariffs or electricity plans but told me I could ring the Essential Services Commission and ask them. 

I called them, and a recording told me to leave a recording.  While I’m sure they’ll get back to me, I couldn’t help but suspect recordings were merely using me to reproduce themselves.  I decided that, in the meantime, I should call some people who would definitely know what’s going on.

I Call Solar Installers

Because I couldn’t get a clear answer from the Distributed Network Service Provider, electricity retailers, Solar Victoria or the state government, and because the Ombudsman could only tell me what should happen and not what actually was happening,  I decided to call some solar installers because they would actually know what is going on. 

First, I sent Tarak Shah of Sunrun Solar a message.  He didn’t take long to get in touch with me and said people are free to use whatever electricity plan with whatever tariff electricity retailers offer.  Since he’s been installing in Victoria for seven years, that suggests people being forced onto time-of-use tariffs would have to be rare. 

Next, I contacted Cameron of HDC Solar Solutions who installs in the Ausnet area.  He’d told me he’d never had a customer forced onto a time-of-use tariff, and he had only heard of it happening one time.  This is very encouraging news.  If people are being forced onto time-of-use tariffs they’d rather not have when they get solar these days, it would have to be an extremely rare occurrence.   

Changing To The Plan You Want Can Take Months

No matter where you are, if you are on a time-of-use tariff you’d rather not have, you should be able to change to a standard tariff.  Unfortunately, this can take months.  The delay makes no sense because you can only have a time-of-use tariff if you have a smart meter installed and they make changing tariffs very easy.  When you move home in Victoria, only a couple of business days notice is required and the disconnection and reconnection fees are only about $5-8.  Changing plans should be even simpler because there’s no real chance of getting the address wrong. 

I can understand if electricity retailers don’t want people chopping and changing plans too frequently because that creates work for them, but retailers should be bending over backwards to help anyone who isn’t a serial plan changer.  They also shouldn’t do much to get in the way of people who are serial plan-changers8, because — for better or worse — people are supposed to be free to choose.

Use Encouragement, Not Force

Time-of-use tariffs can reduce grid costs by discouraging electricity consumption during peak periods, so I can understand wanting to encourage their use.  But forcing something onto people who don’t want it is not a good way to get them to like it.  That’s not how human nature works—especially not Australian nature. 

Sending people letters pointing out how much they would have saved if they were time-of-use tariff instead of a standard one is fine.  So is offering to give them free timers for their appliances.  But anyone who tries to convince people to use a time-of-use tariff when it almost certainly costs them money is doing a bad thing.  Even if you spend your weekends doing volunteer work at puppy orphanages, you are in danger of people regarding you as a bad person.

In Conclusion…

To sum things up:

  • If you are in Tasmania and get solar, you will be put onto a time-of-use tariff by default but can change.
  • In Victoria, you should not be put on a time-of-use tariff against your will when you get solar panels.
  • If you are on any tariff you don’t want, anywhere in Australia; you are free to change if you are in an area with retailer choice.
  • If you are Victorian and have trouble changing plans, the Energy and Water Ombudsman of Victoria says they can help.
  • Changing electricity plans can take months, and electricity retailers can and should improve this for anyone with a smart meter. 
  • Don’t believe what electricity retailer call centres tell you. 

Thanks to the Victorian solar companies Sunrun Solar and HDC Solar Solutions for their help with this post.

Footnotes

  1. Ombudsperson?
  2. It’s not that Victoria isn’t a great place.  It’s just that Tasmania doesn’t have that much tea.
  3. There are also “demand tariffs“, but businesses mainly use them and, at the moment, are rarely by households.
  4. everything east of Melbourne
  5. Because I’m half Dutch, I’m an unofficial translator for the full Dutch and the Double Dutch.
  6. Urgh!  They have so much tolerance of others combined with a lack of tolerance for bullshit.  I’ve spent my whole life trying to be the exact opposite.  But despite my best efforts, I can still hear my Dutch blood whispering to me in the dead of night that wood is a good material for making shoes.
  7. They’re a bit like the Dutch, but only about one quarter as bad.  But when you do the maths, that’s still pretty bad.
  8. Obviously, people shouldn’t be allowed to game the system by changing to a time-of-use tariff over the weekend to take advantage of low rates then and change to a standard tariff for Monday through Friday. Still, I’m not referring to nutty stuff like that.
About Ronald Brakels

Joining SolarQuotes in 2015, Ronald has a knack for reading those tediously long documents put out by solar manufacturers and translating their contents into something consumers might find interesting. Master of heavily researched deep-dive blog posts, his relentless consumer advocacy has ruffled more than a few manufacturer's feathers over the years. Read Ronald's full bio.

Comments

  1. Apart from Ausnet customers who are on zero export limit and as such aren’t forced onto ToU, I’d love to hear from any Ausnet customer who are on flat rates?

    Even Ausnet own website states you are moved to ToU

    https://ausnetservices.com.au/Electricity/Renewable-Energy/Maintaining-Solar

    The only way for you to get flat rates is if the retailer chooses to charge you flat rate.

    • Hey Scott,

      Your electricity bill consists of retailer charge, network charge, and some ancillary market charges.

      Retailer charge is what you’ve signed up with your retailer (i.e. the AGLs, Origins, EnergyAustralias, Tango, Momentum Energy, Red Energy, etc). Network charge is the cost for connecting to the local distribution network, regardless of who your retailer is. This is your Ausnet, Powercor, Citipower, United Energy, Aurora (TAS), SAPN (SA), Ausgrid (NSW), etc.

      What you described as ToU is Ausnet’s network charge. What the article described is the retailer charge.

      Two different things, yet similar.

      Hope this clears it!

      • “What you described as ToU is Ausnet’s network charge. What the article described is the retailer charge.

        Two different things, yet similar.”

        Than why does every single retailer only want to charge me peak/off peak in line with Ausnet charges?

        I’m yet to see one single retailer offer me flat rate?

        • Changes are coming in from the 1st of July and you will be able to opt out of your Ausnet TOU tariff and onto a flat tariff.

          The time of use periods will also be changing from 1 July as well, with shorter peak periods (3pm-9pm Mon-Sun), and more off peak hours during the week. Currently, you’ll be charged a peak rate between 7am-11pm mon-fri (off peak all others).

          These changes are occurring across all distribution zones, and not just for solar reconfigs.

          Your retailers should have already notified you of the upcoming changes, if they haven’t i’d suggest checking their website for more info or or giving them a buzz. You won’t be able to change to the new flat tariff in Ausnet just yet (it’s not available til 1 July) but you will be able to with the new rules from that date.

          Good luck.

          • Yes I am aware of the upcoming changes since this post.

            Whilst they are changing the ToU times, our seasonal ToU with Ausnet is being grandfathered and will remain on this for the foreseeable future as it works out best for us.

      • FrankTheCank says

        Retailers don’t have to charge you based on the network tariff but they are entitled to bill you based on the network tariff and change your retail tariff when your network tariff is changed (or if they figure out they’re billing you incorrectly).

        Hope this clears it!

    • Tim Rogers says

      In NSW I was on a flat rate plan. I was forced onto a TOU. For the month of December calculated with SolarAnalytics software it was a 58% increase in cost to me.
      Every level of the retailer insisted AusGrid forced TOU billing. I disagreed and was eventually vindicated.
      The retailer can choose their profit model on top of whatever wholesaler price structure is in place.
      Luckily I found a much cheaper single rate retailed with poor feed in tariff.

  2. Donald Firth says

    personally I think tou is logical- you get what you pay for and it seems reasonable to pay more when it costs more.

    Whenever I have done calculations on my costs the bill has been within 40c each way.

    So, really why get your knickers in a knot?

    • For our household TOU is cheaper by about 10% (depending on discounts), than single rate..
      But we use about 55-60% of our power in the off-peak period (mainly dishwasher and washing machine and the booster for solar hot water).
      We don’t have solar panels.

      • Forgot to mention that our retailer also gave us a *free* smart meter with free installation.

      • Does anyone know of a spreadsheet that I can enter data to model against flat rate versus TOU.

        I’m almost certain that TOU would be more expensive for out family of 6 but I’d be happy to be proven otherwise.

  3. David warren says

    Perhaps the quickest way to get off the time of use tariff, in my experience, is to threaten to go to another provider.

    • Yes, and often that threat to move to other retailers will get you a better deal even if you’re not on a time of use tariff.
      It shouldn’t be so difficult!

  4. Max Fenton says

    In NSW and select TOU. Being retired and only a couple little use of electricity in peak times. Do washing cooking etc on weekends or op times. Works for us.

  5. I got solar installed and signed up with On-by-energy-australia for the 18c feed in tariff.
    Then a month after i was all signed up for 1 year of locked in pricing i recive an email Saying because I have a smart metre they must change me to a time of use tariff.

    From what i signed up to on a flat rate of just 24.926 they changed it to the following:

    Peak Usage (Weekdays 4pm-8pm): 36.245c per kWh
    Shoulder Usage (All other times): 22.33c per kWh
    Off Peak Usage (10pm-7am): 20.13c per kWh

    The thing is this then cost me alot more as the only time i use much power is when i’m cooking in the evening at peak usage for 36.245c

    I have signed paperwork stating they cant change my pricing of 24.926c for 1 year of signup, where do i stand?
    Should i take this to the ombudsman because I think this time of use tariff extra costs at peak hour is costing be about $60 more per month more than what i signed to for.

    • My experience with Origin (retailer) in Essential energy region southern NSW. Hold on, there is no room for the retelling of a 5 month saga.
      Main points:
      Tried to force us to stay on to tou when Meter changed.
      Origin blamed Essential and maintained this line for a long time. Mandatory was a word continually used.
      Many months to change. Many phone calls.
      Modified our use of electricity to tou.
      Eventually did a back dated change to tou and billed us extra couple of dollars for a paid bill as they recalculated the paid bill at flat rate.
      Eventually offered $50 compensation, asked for and got $100. So easy I suggest you ask for at least 4 times as much as offered.
      If you want a electricity company to negotiated with you sign up with another company and they will then chase you to get you to stay. You are then dealing with a retention team that will negotiate.

    • Hi,

      I certainly would complain. You have it in writing.

      dRdoS7

    • Hi Evan
      Was wondering how you got on with this.
      I am in the same situation.
      Signed with AGL on a fixed tariff with 17c solar feed in.
      Have everything in writing from when i signed up, 12 mth contract etc
      All of a sudden receive an email that said they have reviewed my rates and because I am on a smart meter they have to move me to TOU at market rates.

      They contract I signed up to seems to mean nothing to them.

      • I’m in the same position but no one is talking about the demand tariffs on top of many TOU tariffs. I also get 17c feed in on AGL and thought i had a 12month contract. nope! the 12month is only for feed in. The rest is variable due to a loop hole.
        If the distributor changes their charges then AGL can change your tariff without any notice period. ( AGL don’t have to change but AGL have decided to) . The NSW energy ombudsman confirmed it. They aren’t happy either.
        What’s really annoying is they put me on a demand tariff and not just a simple time of use tariff. This means they look at your whole month of usage.
        They detect the highest peak ( e.g that ONE time you switched on the aircon, the oven and kettle at the same time on one day after 2pm ( say 7kw peak ) , then they multiply 7 by the demand tariff such as 23c (7 x 23 = $1.61) Then they charge you a $1.61 penalty EVEY day for 30 days = $48 ! If your peak was only 3.5kw the demand fine would be $24.

  6. Kevin Cronin says

    I was forced onto a Time of Use plan when I installed Solar panels back in 2012. When I inquired with my provider as to why, I was told it was my distributor Jemena that set the restriction. I inquired with the distributor & they confirmed that was the way it had to be. Thanks for alerting me to the fact that this can be changed as it would definitely be cheaper to be on a flat rate plan as we don’t use much electricity off peak from 11pm – 7am. I will follow this up now that I know that I am entitled to have this changed. It’s very annoying that I haven’t been able to be on a cheaper plan for years. This needs to be reported in the newspapers & on TV. Thanks for your blog.

    • Hey Kevin,

      The “power of choice” reforms came into place in december 2017 i belieive, so its still sort of new.

  7. Brilliant Post Ronald, Very informative, I always tell my customers, as soon as the new meter is installed, call your retailer and haggle for the best plan you can get. (based on when you use your energy)

    and I sympathies ” but was unable to get a straight answer from any of the electricity retailers” – I certainly know this feeling.

    Someone send Ronald a box of Queensland grown, Nerada Tea.

  8. David warren says

    I was with origin and they dropped me from 21 cents to 11.Signed with another provider and the next day origin called me and offered 21cents again. So haggle.

  9. Wayne Clarke says

    I am on Ausnet. Lumo put me on tou when my solar was installed. Extremely high peak rate of 58c/kwh though receive a 33% pay on time discount. Did not suggest I had any other option. Despite the smart meter, now they can not produce a bill in a timely fashion. I have received one monthly bill in 3 months since solar installation and I had to chase that! In my view they are using this mechanism to steal my solar power. Yes I’m getting 10c for my excess during the day but they are ripping it back during the evening.

  10. Vicki Carlisle says

    I’m in Sydney, and had the same experience with Origin and Ausgrid when I was on a so-called fixed rate contract. They actually decided I should have been on a TOU plan for a number of years, and ‘implied’ I should have paid another $3000 for those years.
    It seems this was all triggered by an upgrade to a net meter with the change from Gross to Net FIT.
    I went through the complaints process at Origin but got nowhere.
    When I went to EWON they originally stood by what was on their site ie I should have the choice of fixed rate or TOU; then EWON went back on that and said that from 1 July 2018 (from memory?) I could be forced onto TOU by the distributor. EWON complaint number #320277.

  11. This shows what a rort the whole solar thing is. Even with the small benefit you might get by 1) feeding excess energy into the grid at low rates, and 2) self consuming as much as you can, often at times that don’t suit you, they then hit you hard with increased c/kWh rates effectively negating any benefit you might have gained from going solar. In the end the energy companies win, just as had been planned for right from the start.

    Furthermore, rather than teaching and encouraging people to use LESS energy, it is having the opposite effect to try to consume as much energy as they possibly can with what is being generated rather than feed it into the grid for peanuts. This is completely wrong.

    I can get energy plans charging 18-22c/kWh on flat rates with 70-90c daily supply… why on earth would I pay $thousands for small scale solar generation infrastructure to be then hit with outrageously increased rates? Like I said, the whole dirty scheme was concocted to benefit the industry, not consumers, with near free generation for them at our and taxpayers’ cost, with local generation taking the strain off grid distribution problems. No thanks.

  12. Danny Costa says

    When I got solar panels I did my due diligence and calculated that I’m better off on a TOU tariff.
    I get 21c FIT, and the cheapest TOU tariff, i.e. late evening and wee hours of the morning is around 14c.
    I had been on TOU anyway for many years so we had already built up a household practice of maximising the cheapest tariff.
    So despite your article, for us the TOU tariff makes sense. I’d rather get paid for my energy exports than use it in the daytime. Then pay cheaper to use it at night.
    I’m with AGL.

  13. Well, well, well. Amazing timing as I just received an email from Tango after installing solar that:

    “It is your area’s network requirement that any properties with a solar compatible meter cannot remain on a Single Rate usage tariff – and will change to either a 2 rate (NEE26) or 3 rate seasonal (NSP23) usage tariff. ”

    Some of those tariffs go as high as 57.20c !!!

    No thanks.

  14. But the interesting thing is it would have cost us $1714 on NEE26 but only $1372 on NSP23.

    So it pays to do your sums.

    But this again shows people in Ausnet are forced on ToU and can’t be on single rate.

  15. Chris Thaler says

    Regional NSW, Origin customer (2 old farts) with 5Kw solar, import usage has reduced by nearly 50%, modest rebate each billing cycle.
    Seamless contact when requesting credit be sent to bank, timely (90) day billing cycle, Minimal interest in making any large sum of money from FIT.
    What’s wrong with that?

  16. Yes, you are not ‘forced’ on ausnet. There just aren’t any retailers who will sell you fixed rate when the network tariff is ToU. So you can’t get onto single rate. It’s fine to say you can, the pain level to consider it is huge. And you will be told that retailers are free to offer any price structure to customers they like. So no retailer does.

    NSP23 is rare to be offered by retailers as a 1-1 match. This tariff is much better for me too! It number looks scary, but in summer I use maybe 1kWh per day peak due to solar.

    I’ve noticed only Tango matches NSP23 times, other retailers now use that tariff and charge peak 3-9pm all year round. Which can be expensive.

    I keep seeing solar quote articles that those of us on Ausnet just aren’t working hard enough or know what we are talking about as it’s implied we can get single rate. But I’m yet to hear of a single example where someone on Ausnet has managed to get onto single rate.

    That along with, unless you have huge peak user, it’s hard to beat NSP23 on solar. If we are electrifying like we should be, heating in the morning is then off peak which makes a difference. Which for those in Victoria is more than summer cooling.

    The idealised facts are nice, the reality is a bit harder to deal with.

    • This seems to be the nub of the issue. The networks are pretty adamant that they want people on TOU tariffs and as soon as you go near the meter thats what you will end up with. Thats what will be imposed on the retailer and ultimately we all will end up with a meter that is TOU. (And it totally makes sense economically to have some sort of price signal to encourage people to use in time periods of less demand which has all sorts of benefits to the grid.)

      The retailers obviously dont want to expose themselves to the risk of being charged differently wholesale than they can pass on retail, unless they are either forced to or are certain that they wont be worse off. The NSW government as per the linked page in the article (and it might be the same in other areas) can easily say that no-one is forced onto a TOU tariff. But thats just plausible deniability on their part because the retailers either dont offer a flat tariff at all, or create their very own hunger games for the poor householder to actually get a flat tariff knowing that most customers will give up first. And if you ever have the temerity to change retailer you go through the whole process again. The governments claims that no one is forced to go on a TOU is simultaneously totally true and practically BS for all but the most committed and pigheaded customer. Unless they actually mandate that retailers and networks provide both options its just not going to happen, but at least they can say with a straight face that no one is being forced to a TOU bill

  17. In NSW Ausgrid area: Energy Australia ‘No Frills’ plan allows for a flat rate tariff, even if you have a TOU configured meter. No issues with sign up, comes as flat rate bill, without the hassle of having to wait/fight with (other) retailer to get the same. (No, I do not work for or represent Energy AUS). At the time of sign up with solar system, no other retailers were prepared to offer flat rate. At least that’s what the call centres were telling me, even though I discussed that I should be able to choose either TOU or FR.

  18. I’m Dutch and assertive. Many times what I hear or read is all Greek to me and I will tell you that. 🙂

  19. I’m not Dutch, but I’d just ring and ask for how to cancel my account. Wgen they ask why I tell them I’d like to move to a different retailer since they can offer me a fixed or time-of-day rate (depending on what you want) and you cannot. That usually gets quick action. And, also, do yourself a favour, switch retailers every year. That’s they only way to get the best price.

    • Donald Firth says

      Good comment, but threatening to switch is likely to get you a better fit, and probably fixed as well.
      As always…do the maths. Everyone’s circumstances are different.

  20. I can relate directly with this article, but us poor Queenslanders have been left out in the dark. We have just had solar installed and the meter was changed a few days ago. These new meters are no longer owned by the distributor, they report usage directly in half hour intervals to a new unknown or undisclosed metering service provider. We were told that we would now have to be on a time of use tariff but to date have not been told what the cost of these time of use tariffs are. Are we really expected to pay what ever the retailer feels fit to charge?

    Our distributor is Energex and retailer Red Energy, no idea who the metering service provider is.

    I am waiting to hear back from the Queensland energy Ombudsman.

    Will these new time of use charges offset the cost benefit of installing solar? Perhaps we need to go off the grid with batteries? Are the days of grid connected solar over?

    • You should call Red Energy, because in my experience if you haven’t picked a plan, you will be on the most expensive one.

  21. Brett Mashado says

    I have just signed up to get the free smart meter with Diamond Energy in SA.
    I have the option to go to TOU.

    I think it will suit us as we have recently purchased a second had EV Nissan Leaf as our run around town car.

    During summer we can can charge the EV during the day and still have some feeding in to the grid. We have a 6kw system.

    Winter we will set up a timer on the Leaf to charge during the off peak or shoulder only.

    We also have a heat pump that runs the in slab heating and runs for 3 hours a day during winter, we’ll set a timer for this also.

    I understand TOU wont suit everyone but I think it will be the best option for us.

  22. David Jamieson says

    Ronald,
    Thank you for persisting with these ripoff merchants, I was on a TOU for 9 years after installing solar and lied to when asked about a single rate with Simply ( dishonest) Energy. What chance have I got for compensation for 9 years of being overcharged? My rates started at approx 35c per kWh and ended up all the way to 66c per kWh. Only a year ago did they offer a single rate after I told them I was moving.
    Keep up the great work team SQ.

  23. Hi. I’m really surprised you didn’t mention that the Victorian government provides a fantastic service at –

    compare.energy.vic.gov.au

    This service makes it very easy to find the best deal in your area and helps breakdown the confusion.

    Thanks.

  24. I live in Tasmania and had solar installed last year. Smart meters were installed as by Aurora as a requirement but I was not changed to ToU tarrif.

    Idont know where this idea comes from but it is false. I have just been offered a choice to change to ToU by Aurora for a “special” price, but the cost/benefit analysis is way to complex for me.

  25. I have found that there is usually some confusion between a TOU meter and a TOU tariff. This is partly becuase retailers dont explain it all very well.

    Ausgrid NSW, Smart meter, 8kW Solar, Currently Origin Energy but in August im likely to change to AGL (22c/kWh FiT is ending for me).

    My Bills come in and are metered/measured as peak/shoulder/off-peak.
    However, the plan im on has the tariffs at a flat rate, so peak times is 29c, shoulder is 29c & off-peak is 29c.

    i’ve found flat tariffs work better for those on a 9-5 basis as you get home from work and start using power. TOU tariffs definately work better if even one person is home during the day as peak shaving can be better accomplished.

  26. Upon reading Ausnet proposed 2021-2026 proposal I note that they are doing a shake-up of their tariffs.

    From 1st July they are changing their standard ToU to new times and the biggest one is they are introducing a flat rate for solar customers!

    But I’m the Solar Quotes HQ would be all over the new pricing structures due to change in July for Vic.

    Here is the Ausnet document.

    https://www.aer.gov.au/system/files/AusNet%20Services%20-%20Revised%20Regulatory%20Proposal%20-%202021-26%20-%20Tariff%20Structure%20Statement%20Compliance%20Document%20%E2%80%93%20December%202020.pdf

  27. I live in adelaide and had gotten a quote for solar installation from a big energy provider for 4.6kw unit. Felt happy and ready to sign. Then today i called and asked about supply charges. I was told that it is now mandatory for new solar set ups in south australia installing a smart meter to go on Time of use pricing. Single use pricing is not an option for new smart meters from 1july 2021. This was confirmed by calls to SA power networks (who are the only energy distributor in sa – have a monopoly-and have made this decision), the energy ombudsman, and the australian energy regulator. Peak – from 3pm to 1am – with Origin would be 41c where it is 34c flat rate on single use pricing. Off peak 1-6am is still 24 cents. As a person considering solar that is so discouraging. That the time where I will be drawing energy from the grid is markedly more than it was before. And i have no choice about it. A bit paralysed about going ahead with solar now 🙁 as i currently have an old meter that gives me 30c flat rate and controlled load 15c. People of SA please help.

    • Ronald Brakels says

      Hi Mel

      I’ve contacted AGL, Energy Australia, and Origin. Origin haven’t got back to me yet, but both AGL and Energy Australia say they allow people in South Australian to stay on a flat tariff if they want to. Retailers may be pushing time-of-use tariffs, but it looks they at least aren’t forcing people onto them. If your retailer tries to push you onto a flat tariff I suggest pointing out that other retailers don’t require it. Threatening to change retailers may get them to change their tune.

      The tariff SA Power Networks charges is to retailers and not directly paid by households. It is up to retailers how they recover the cost of that tariff in their electricity plans. Electricity retailers can ask SAPN to change the tariff a residential property is on. So, if you get solar, you should be able to stay on a flat tariff.

    • I talked to Origin too, they told me it is a mandatory change by SA Power Network to put their customers on the time of use tariffs for new solar installations from July 2020 and they point out me the article below:

      https://www.sapowernetworks.com.au/data/307915/new-network-tariffs-give-customers-more-choice-and-support-more-solar-uptake/

      Origin told me there is no way to go around it but they are unsure if other providers can go around it.

      Questions:

      (1). If I change provider to AGL, will it still be on time of use tariff on default?

      (2). The SAPN article only mentions words ‘offer customers from 1 July 2020’/’offer’ but no where in the article says ‘compulsory’ or ‘mandatory’.

      I contacted SAPN in writing couple of days ago and is still waiting for their response.

  28. Hi Ron, I was told by Sa power networks that the mandatory time of use Tarif is a decision from their end. Advice was new solar systems being installed after July 1 where a smart meter is installed the consumer won’t have a choice to change it to a single use rate. It doesn’t seem to apply to systems already installed. Going with ToU I would be paying 13 more cents per kw hour than I am currently on a single use Tarif, which offsets savings of solar. The retailers didn’t seem clear about it when I was talking to them. Perhaps you can double check with Sa power networks? I would be willing to sign off on solar if I could be assured a new installed meter may by default be set to TOU but I could request it to change to single use Tarrif. As you say people don’t like to be forced to do anything! Mel

    • Ronald Brakels says

      Hello again

      SA Power Networks will put a home that gets solar onto a time-of-use tariff for their distributor tariff. Households don’t pay this directly, instead it’s charged to the electricity retailer. But it is up to retailers what electricity plans they offer to households. Also, the electricity retailer can request SAPN change their distributor tariff to a flat tariff rather than time-of-use. Even though SAPN will automatically put a home onto their distributor time-of-use tariff when solar is installed, as long as a retailer offers a flat tariff, the household can have it.

      At this moment, SAPN’s distributor flat tariff is 13.78 cents per kilowatt-hour while their time-of-use tariff is — Peak 17.23 cents, Shoulder 6.9 cents, Off-peak 3.45 cents. As you can see, the peak rate of the distributor tariff is only 3.45 cents more than their flat tariff. This is much less than the 13 or so cents per kilowatt-hour difference with a retailer time-of-use tariff. Because the distributor tariff doesn’t make much difference to what it costs the retailer to provide electricity, the retailer can provide a flat tariff or a time-of-use tariff and still make money. So as long as a retailer offers a flat tariff, households can take it. The problem from a household’s point of view is if their retailer doesn’t want to offer a flat tariff, which means they may have to change retailers.

      • Hi ron, did you confirm this with sa power networks today? I was told something else on monday, which was confirmed by the ombudsman..

      • Hi Ronald,

        I talked to Origin too, they told me it is a mandatory change by SA Power Network to put their customers on the time of use tariffs for new solar installations from July 2020 and they point out me the article below:

        https://www.sapowernetworks.com.au/data/307915/new-network-tariffs-give-customers-more-choice-and-support-more-solar-uptake/

        Origin told me there is no way to go around it but they are unsure if other providers can go around it.

        Questions:

        (1). If I change provider to AGL, will it still be on time of use tariff on default?

        (2). The SAPN article only mentions words ‘offer customers from 1 July 2020’/’offer’ but no where in the article says ‘compulsory’ or ‘mandatory’.

        I contacted SAPN in writing couple of days ago and is still waiting for their response.

      • Hi Ronald,

        Now I have an official answer from SA Power Network and want to share with everyone.

        I spoke to SAPN and have been told all properties with a smart meter will be moved to time of use tariff by the end of 2021 and it is not able to transfer back to single rate tariff anymore.

        The rollout should have been done last year but was delayed due to covid-19.

        • Ronald Brakels says

          Thanks for that.

          Electricity retailers can offer flat tariffs if they choose to do so. The change in SAPN tariffs does not require retailers to eliminate them. But it is currently looking like they will choose to not offer flat tariffs. This is bad because it’s the sort of thing that gives little old grannies heart attacks. I’ll email the SA Government and see if they can give me an update. But, if they respond, I’m not feeling optimistic about what they will tell me.

    • Hi Mel,

      i am on the same boat, my smart meter and solar installed end of June, what’s your situation now? Can we still change to single rate with Origin?

      Thanks.

      • Hi Kevin, I’ve looked into it more – origin told me that too – but what they are not telling you is that you are able to request the energy retailer turn you back to single use tariff after you have the electricity meter installed (set up default time of use by Sa power). So SA power networks will keep charging origin time of use, but you can request origin shift you back to single use on their end. Make your request through the origin “case management team” rgds, Mel

        • Thanks, Mel.

          Now I have an official answer and want to share with everyone.

          I spoke to SAPN and have been told all properties with a smart meter will be moved to time of use tariff by the end of 2021 and it is not able to transfer back to single rate tariff anymore.

          The rollout should have been done last year but was delayed due to covid-19.

          • Hi All,

            I can confirm that AGL are changing their customers with type 4 smart meters over to TOU without any notice or any option of going back. I have just been changed over, 3 months into a contract and was told by AGL to read there terms and conditions.

            I actually had to go the the ombudsman to find out the correct information about what was going on. AGL complaints were completely useless. Sounds like, if you have a type 4 smart meter (regardless of when it was installed) you will be changed to TOU, like it or not.

  29. Hi ron i have checked and you are correct – retailer can request retailer to change from time of use tarrif to single rate tarrif. Phew. Thanks for the information.

  30. i live in SW sydney . Put in a large solar array 99kw. use a lot of power and sell a lot to the grid too.
    I changed from Origin to Red for the 11c/KW tariff. about 6 months later they changed my meter and tried to force me onto TOU. I told them to jam it and went to Energy australia. Very happy with them. i get 9.5c(changed last year from 10.5) fit and charged about 25c for usage outside of solar hours. dont have off peak 🙁
    I shopped around for ages to get a good deal. Most of the providers are thieves. if you have a large system they will only allow 10kw system size then pay you 6c or nothing. origins last rort was 18c for first 6kw produced each day then 6c for balance…
    Pays to do your homework and calculate returns. im now using 120kw per day and am feeling a little sad. They pay you for fit whilst sun shines minus usage, BUT charge per 30s at 25c/kw all other times. So now i may have a bill for the first time in 2 years. I havent found a better deal… I check annually but i think im on the best plan…

  31. Irina Tseitina says

    Hello, I am in Sydney Bondi Beach, with AGL. Recently smart meter was installed ( do not know what type, but I will find out). After the they forced me to TOI tariff as they ( and we) are with AUSGRID.
    1. I am confused: Ausgrid closed flat rate tariff. Who is offering flat rate tariff with smart meter in NSW?
    2. If I change retailers and they will not be able to read information from AGL smart meter, and smart meter turns to “dull” meter: does it mean I can use flat rate with another retailer?
    3. Could we read manually smart meter ( that turns to dull meter) at home? Or I need to pay for the visit?

    • I think Mojo is an example of a retailer that offers a flat rate on a smart metre.

      Ausgrid not agl is the “owner” of the smart meter so you can move to another retailer and it will stay smart.

      You can manually read the smart meter if you want. If you’re talking about a reading when you change retailers, they should be able to do that remotely now.

  32. I think an update on this issue is necessary. I contacted AGL from Qld today. Spoke to a supervisor. She was very pleasant and helpful. She confirmed that AGL’s Solar saver plan could only be accessed through a time of use tariff.

    I know AGLs Solar saver restrictions have been discussed before. But here’s the thing. She claimed it was a decision forced on AGL by the distributor, Energex. She also claims there have been changes in the “last few months”. Which will see ALL distributors moving to TOU plans.
    Support the grid, encourage batteries and so on. Didn’t have specifics.
    She claimed that retailers (in Qld at least) are aware of this but that those now offering standard tariff with higher Fit are doing so knowing those arrangements will soon end.
    I know AGL have had these conditions for a couple of years.
    So, is this a self serving excuse from AGL? Or will standard tariffs for Solar users soon be a thing of the past?

  33. I’m currently on AGL solar savers TOU plan with essential energy in NSW. I called AGL last week to ask to switch to flat rate and they said I couldnt because essential energy wouldnt let them, blaming the meter installed (brand new smart meter). I called essential energy and they said this was not true and AGL can switch it over remotely and if the AGL representative doesnt know how then they need to call the essential energy business to business team.

    I called AGL again and was put through to the resolutions team, they said they are working on it now. Hopefully they will resolve this otherwiase I’m switching.

  34. Hi, I am in a bit of a reversed situation to the comments above. My retailer is Alinta. I have done abit of research myself and have concluded that Alinta’s TOU tariff plan is the best for me when I switch to solar.

    So, having now installed solar and having my meters upgraded to the latest digital meters to handle solar I proceeded to change my tariff from the old “high priced plan” with “huge discounts” to a new single rate “HomeDeal” TOU Plan.

    To my surprise the customer service in the Philippines told me that they will only put me onto the HomeDeal Demand Tariff plan as that “is the best and only plan available to me”. For me, being on the Demand Tariff would be the worst case for me and I simply refused to go onto it. Apparently, I can only be on the ToU plan if I have a specific meter (having switched to a new upgraded meter I consider this to be complete BS anyway)

    It was only after some insistence on my part that they “reluctantly” put me onto a “specialist” to handle my request.

    Apparently, Alinta has to write to Energex to request permission to switch me to a ToU plan. It will take about 15 business days (ie 3 calender weeks in normal people’s time) to get a reply from Energex.

    Frankly, being a Friday evening, I was in not mood to do battle with these people. I find all this absolutely ludicrous…the plans are advertised on both Alinta’s website and Energex website so why does Energex have to approve this request again? Nowhere did it state on the promotional material that going onto a ToU plan is subject to Energex’s approval.

    I intend to call Alinta again on Monday morning and just confirm this ludicrous state of affairs. Maybe I’d get better answers on a Monday morning. Otherwise it is a wait for 15 business days (ie 3 weeks) which from the stories above is alot faster than having to wait months.

    Fortunately, I have the luxury of time to do my research and decide which plan is most suited to me. How many people is able to do that? Alinta has 24 different plans and each of the majors have just as many. Who has the time and energy to really evaluate all these plans and choose the one that is best suited to them?

    So bottom line is, you have to do your research and know your consumer rights otherwise you will get shunted into a plan that is “best” for you but in reality is “best” for the retailer.

  35. My experience in Brisbane.
    Just had solar and smart meter installed. All retailers offer standard tariffs. But not all offer it to you if you are a new installation. After phone calls, Momentum, Covua, Discover energy all eventually disclosed that I would be required to go on a demand or tou tariff. Dodo and AGL said they are not insisting at this time.
    Energex, the distributor is charging retailers a transitional demand tariff for new solar installations in QLD. Some are passing this cost on. Some are not.
    I got reassurance from AGL that I could continue on a standard tariff with CL. So, I signed up to their Residential Solar Saver plan. Received the contract. All good. Rates are variable, so touch wood. But FIT is fixed for a year (12c/kwh). So we’ll see what happens next year.
    Shop around. There is nothing about this on any retailer’s website that I could see. So you would need to contact them directly.

    • Bottom line is…do your homework. When I installed solar, retailers tried to push demand tariffs on me. That would have been the worst case for my consumption pattern ie best case for the retailer. ToU would have been best for me. I had to insist on being switched toToU.

      Also, AGL’s 12c FiT is limited to 10kw systems…mine is bigger than that…and AGL had alot of other hidden costs like credit card fees, etc…

  36. I was with red energy and out of the blue they called me up saying they are rolling out smart metres in my area of SA and I HAVE to change to a time of use. Having no choice I agreed. Got it installed and changed company

  37. I’ve been with Alinta for a few years on their Domestic Single Rate with off-peak CL1, Home SaverPlus plan which gives a 28% discount if you pay on time; so pay them 22c / kWh for peak and 13.2c for CL1.
    I’m having a 15kw solar system installed soon and have not given the retail plan any thought whatsoever as I just assumed my existing plan would carry on just with their FIT added.

    Will I now have to sign up to one of their 24 HomeDeal plans?
    https://www.alintaenergy.com.au/qld/residential/electricity-and-gas/products/basic-plan-information-documents/

    How are you supposed to know which will end up being the cheapest?

  38. I got my solar connected late Dec 2021, was switched to Time of Use and shocked by a 50% hike in my power costs from 19c to 29c after 3pm. This switch also prevented me from taking up tango’s 8.5c FIT. Grrr. No solar seller mentioned this.

    After five months of nagging I finally got confirmation that powercor has switched me back to flat rate. I’m yet to see a correct bill though.

    Tango Energy were great except they originally directed me to make my request of powercor’s online form and made no record of this in there CRM. Thankful I had notes so they credited us. But then It took another 3 months after tango made the request on my behalf.

  39. SA – Install solar – single phase battery inverter on a 3 phase system. in 12/22
    First bill more then last year after smart meter (interval time) is install (one day they said grid import 83kw and another day 81kw export? ), After contacting ombudsman AGL took till 06/22 to fix the metering issue and is not able tell me or supply me with how to read physical meter so not way to validate bill data. looking at the data the AGL is paying me solar credit on battery discharge and AGL is charging me for generating power ( peak 0.36 – 012 = 24c) not 0c when battery is triggered on different phase. So I thought it would be net metering? no seems AGL is charging for separate phases. It all about fleecing the customer like charging 4 decimal places instead of whole integers.

  40. Roger Brealey says

    I asked AGL Adelaide? if I can change from TOU to single rate. It would seem that I cannot have a smart meter running as a single rate meter.
    Below is the transcript of the chat session of yesterday 19/7/22, with AGL.

    I had also contacted the Distributor SA POWER NETWORKS, and had a phone call today advising that the smart meter cannot be single rate. Apparently the meters are set up for TOU, and a retailer would not be able to reprogram.
    AGL chat
    “Hi Roger, thanks for getting in touch. Unfortunately as you have a smart meter, you can’t be on Single Rate tariff going forward.
    Why?
    Across the country, Distributors have moved towards a more cost reflective network tariff structure which in SA is Time of Use. This is designed to take the pressure off the grid at peak times when everyone is using power. The rules that have been introduced are that if you have a smart meter that records your usage in half hour intervals, you can’t be on Single Rate tariff. This is not something that we can override, sorry.
    OK. My daughter is with AG and has solar on a single rate tariff . In her letter re rate increases she retains her 12c FIT. From September my Solar apparently will go from 12c kWh to 10c for the 1st 14kwh and 5c for the balance above 14 kWh. I cannot see myself accepting this FIT reduction.

    Hi Roger!

    All interval meters are moving over to the time of use rates, but it’s being staggered so some older ones might still be on single rate for now.

    The current Solar savers plan is the 10c one and the fixed benefit period for the plan that you’re currently on will run out in September, hence the switch. We currently don’t offer any higher export rate than that, i’m afraid.

    Was there anything else you needed today?
    No thanks, fairly sure I will be going elsewhere in September when my FIT drops. Coupled with the rate increases and the cut in FIT, any previous advantage of being with AGL will be gone in September.”

  41. Martin Nesporek says

    I live in the Hunter and have Ausgrid as the distributor.
    Currently I’m with Energy Locals on a flat rate tariff with a basic meter.

    Have had a solar system installed via SolarQuotes recently and am waiting for a meter upgrade.

    As soon as I lodged a request for a meter change I was given a new tariff (effective from the changeover date). It was a TOU Demand tariff. A quick glance over the figures revealed it was an absolute shocker. Requested alternative tariff – flat rate or at least just TOU from Energy Locals. Their response was that they are unable to do anything about it as that is the ONLY option you have with Ausgrid when getting a smart meter upgrade. A customer may request a tariff change after one month (or billing cycle) to a simple TOU tariff which MAY be granted at the distributors sole discretion BUT can’t go back to a flat rate tariff as Ausgrid no longer offers these to new customers (note: meter upgrade = new customer).

    Ausgrid has confirmed all of the above today.

    https://www.ausgrid.com.au/-/media/Documents/energy-use/tariffs/Demand-tariff-Q–A-for-residential-customers

    I questioned Ausgrid re: NSW Government website statement that you may stay on a flat rate tariff with a smart meter if you so prefer. I also asked if she knew of any retailers offering flat rate tariffs to new customers despite Ausgrid not offering them. No response provided.

    https://www.energy.nsw.gov.au/households/guides-and-helpful-advice/being-more-energy-efficient/measuring-your-usage/using-smart

    So much for the “Power of Choice”.

    https://www.energymadeeasy.gov.au/article/electricity-tariffs/

    Each area only has ONE distributor offering the SAME tariffs and wholesale pricing to a few retailers which makes hardly any difference in the end. There is no real choice in any of this. Seemingly there is less choice than ever and apparently it’s all approved by the energy regulator as the best way forward.

    If you wish to save on energy – Don’t use it!

    • I’ve discovered the same with Ausgrid as Martin described. We were on a flat rate tariff with Mojo Power before they went under. We were put onto a retailer of last resort who switched us to TOU. After contacting them, other retailers, and Ausgrid, all have confirmed that Ausgrid won’t allow us to switch back.

      Ausgrid told me that they are progressively moving *every* customer who has a smart meter onto TOU tariffs. Unfortunately, only we moved into the property after the smart meter was installed.

      All of the TOU pricing that I can see involves extremely high prices for peak, while shoulder and off peak are only slightly under the equivalent flat rate tariff. I’d highly recommend that anyone being offered a smart meter push back as hard as possible before allowing Ausgrid to do this to you too.

      I’d love to get solar, but unfortunately we’re very shaded by trees on the council strip and the council won’t remove trees for the purposes of solar.

  42. Hi Ronald – the really frustrating thing is that the Energy Australia website says it’s possible to switch plans, but then doesn’t allow Flat Rate for smart meters. I’ve now had 5 calls with EA, and have now escalated the case.
    Firstly, there’s the principle, but there’s also the practice. EA is making it very hard for customers by promising one thing in black and white, and then denying it when it comes to action. I would grudgingly accept the TOU diktat laid down by SAPN, but I object to being led down the garden path. And this could all have been easily fixed by ensuring that the website CLEARLY says “ if you have a smart meter, and it was installed after xxxx, then you have to be on TOU. Don’t blame us, it’s SAPN’s fault.” A perfect get-out.

  43. Has anybody in Qld been able to move from ToU to single rate with a smart meter?

    I recently had a controlled load meter removed which triggered a switch to a smart meter. I was informed ‘this may change your tariff’, which turned out to ‘definitely will move you to ToU’. This is now costing me more per day on average than what having a controlled load present but not doing anything ever did, and Alinta are telling me I can’t change.

    Pretty peeved about it!

  44. Hi,
    We just installed solar and were not informed about being forced to go to time of use by the solar company or origin energy. Our peak time of day charge is set to double which will potentially increase our bill by $1000 a year at our current consumption. Does anyone have an energy provider that is providing flat rate for solar with smart meters. I have been on the phone all day and getting very angry at the situation that we have paid money for Solar but now our electricity will be costing more than ever. Does anyone know of any class action lawsuits as I don’t think we are the only people who have been fed disinformation:(

  45. Looks like our Victorian distributor (Powercor) changed us over to TOU when they reconfigured for solar without explicit instructions from the retailer to do so. In fact our retailer (Powershop) were still billing us at a single rate. They say for the request to have been theirs we’d have to sign off on some new terms and conditions, so it seems it wasn’t them.

    Powercor had been very helpful in figuring out the series of events until my last call to them where I presented my findings, where they claimed they had no visibility over these requests (they did, a previous representative helped me ascertain dates and more) and tried to quickly end the call, suggesting I launch an investigation through our new retailer.

    The distributor has the opportunity to change customers’ tariff when solar is installed, but I wondered what their motive was. It’s not just the increased peak time rates they and the retailer benefit from charging, but it’s the fees they charge to have the meter reconfigured back to what it was supposed to be in the first place.

    Looks like they’re benefiting from a grey area that needs to be made black and white, fast. Tariff changes are to be made with explicit permission only.

    • I just had my solar installed. My retailer told me I was now being taken from my flat rate to time of use. When I queried why I was informed that it was the DNSP CitiPower who wanted it and all five Victorian DNSPs are the same. He mentioned 2017 when it all changed. They suggested that once I receive my letter confirming the new rates I should call my retailer back and see if the flat rate is available to me from CitiPower. I think I will be writing to the energy minister about this. Not impressed.

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