Carers Victoria has been one of the successful funding recipients of the Energy Information Fund, a Victorian State funded program, to support the education and empowerment of Victorians to make informed decisions about their electricity use and providers.
If you want to know more – or you would like to register your Carer Support Group to receive a presentation about how to compare electricity costs – call Carers Victoria on 1800 242 636.
“One carer who attended the launch called Carers Victoria the next day to tell us that, after using the My Power Planner tool, he managed to save nearly 20 per cent on this electricity plan!”
With so many different names and brands mentioned in the electricity market it can be hard to know who is who, here is a run-down of key players and what role they play.
Electricity Retailers vs Distributers
The electricity retailer is the company that sends you your bill. Their role is to purchase electricity from the electricity generators, then sell it directly to customers like you. Different retailers will come up with different pricing plans and incentives to attract customers. Electricity retailers include Origin, Energy Australia, AGL and many others. The My Power Planner Website can help you to find a retail plan which suits your needs.
The electricity distributor is the company responsible for maintaining the electricity poles and wires that deliver electricity to your home. They are the company you call if there is a power outage. You cannot change your distributor, but they do influence the price you pay. Electricity distributors include Jemena, CitiPower and United Energy.
Energy and Water Ombudsman
If you find yourself in a dispute with an energy retailer that cannot be resolved the Energy and Water Ombudsman can take complaints about all electricity, gas and water companies. The EWOV can help you with most issues to do with your electricity, gas or water companies.
The introduction of smart meters into most homes in Victoria has enabled electricity retailers to change the way they price electricity. Charging less for times that experience low demand, such as between midnight and 6am, and charging more during peak demand, such as between 3pm and 9pm.
Flexible pricing enables consumers to shift their electricity usage to the off peak times to save money. For example you might decide to set your dishwasher, washing machine and dryer to run on a timer during the off peak period. If you can shift a large portion of your usage to the off peak times you could make a saving on your bill.
However make sure if you sign up to a flexible price you understand what the peak and off peak prices are and understand how much of your electricity usage you can realistically expect to shift.
As peak prices in flexible pricing plans tend to be more expensive than typical ‘flat tarrifs' (where you are charged the same price regardless of the time of day), if you can't shift your usage to the off peak period you may end up paying more and be better off avoiding flexible pricing.
To determine if flexible pricing is for you, first make sure you understand your electricity usage, then log on to My Power Planner to see how your plan compares with other available offers.
Sometimes the first step in reducing your electricity usage is ensuring you understand which home appliances are consuming the most electricity. There are many tools available to do this, but two of the simplest are Web Portals and In-home displays.
Web portals are a website provided by some electricity retailers and distributors which enable you to track your electricity consumption data. This can typically viewed, by day, week, month, season or year. The benefit of these services is that they are free and do not require any additional equipment. Details of which retailers / distributors provide access to a web portal can be found at: http://www.smartmeters.vic.gov.au/interactive-devices/web-portals
An in-home display (IHD) is a small device with an LCD screen, which connects wirelessly to your smart meter to provide real-time electricity consumption data. IHDs can help you to easily identify when your electricity use is at a peak and make choices to reduce consumption. It can also help you to identify which appliances are consuming the most electricity.
The benefit of these devices is the detailed real time information they provide, however while they do attract a subsidy under the Victorian Energy Saver incentive, they typically retail for around $100 - $150. You can find out more information about IHD's here:
Under Victorian law there are several programs designed to help consumers keep control of their electricity bills, including consumer protections such as cooling off periods, concessions and financial hardship programs. Understanding what is available can help you to navigate any unexpected situations that may arise.
Consumer laws have been designed to ensure that you stay in control of your electricity bills.
If you have had enough of intrusive sales people knocking on your door, you can display a Do not knock sticker at your door which makes it unlawful for a door-to-door sales person to knock on your door.
If you do get caught out by a pushy or aggressive sales person, it is not too late to change your mind. Consumers have 10 days to change their mind; there should be a cancelation form in the pack provided to you by the door to door sales person.
There are a number of concessions available to pensioners, health care card holders and veterans affairs gold card holders. Concessions are divided into two categories, Common concessions and Special Concessions. Common Concessions such as the Annual Electricity Concession and the Winter Gas Concession are provided to most holders of the above cards.
There are several special concessions which may be relevant to carers depending upon the circumstances of the person they care for. Some concessions which may be relevant include:
Annual Electricity Concession
The Annual Electricity Concession is available to help ease cost of living pressures by providing concession cardholders with a discount of 17.5 per cent off household electricity bills. The concession applies to electricity costs all year round and is calculated based on the remaining account balance once any retailer discounts and/or solar credits have been applied.
Life support concession
The Life Support Concession provides a quarterly discount on electricity and/or water bills where a household member uses an eligible life support machine. This concession is available to both renters and homeowners all year round.
Medical cooling concession
The Medical Cooling Concession provides a 17.5 per cent discount on summer electricity costs for cardholders where a member of the family has a medical condition that affects the body's ability to regulate temperature. This concession is available from 1 November to 30 April each year.
More information about which concessions you are eligible for and how to apply can be found at: http://www.dhs.vic.gov.au/concessions
In addition to concessions related to electricity, there are several payments and services available to parents or carers who provide daily care to someone with a severe disability or medical condition or someone who is frail or aged. The most common payments are the Carer Payment and the Carer Allowance.
The Carer Payment provides financial support to people who are unable to work in substantial paid employment because they provide full time daily care to someone with a severe disability or medical condition, or to someone who is frail aged.
The Carer Allowance is a supplementary payment for parents or carers providing additional daily care to an adult or dependent child with a disability or medical condition, or to someone who is frail aged. The Carer Allowance is free of the income and assets test, is not taxable and can be paid in addition to wages, Carer Payment or any other Centrelink payment.
More information on payments and eligibility requirements can be found here: http://www.humanservices.gov.au/customer/subjects/payments-for-carers
Switch On is an independent source of information and is packed with easy-to-follow tips and tools. It will help you take charge of your power bills and keep you informed about changes and improvements to Victoria's energy system.
Switch On is an initiative from the Victorian Government and the Department of State Development, Business and Innovation.
My Power Planner
My Power Planner lets you:
Energy and Water Ombudsman, Victoria
EWOV is an industry-based external dispute resolution scheme. It provides customers with an accessible, informal, speedy and free alternative to formal legal processes.
EWOV can take complaints about all electricity, gas and water companies operating in Victoria. These companies are called ‘scheme participants'. EWOV services are free to customers.