According to Finder research, about a quarter (24%) of Australians count energy in their top three most stressful bills, second only to rent and mortgage (35%). Although combing through their energy bill isn’t how most people like to spend their time, avoiding the topic altogether can be an easy way to end up paying too much.
Like any financial product, there is usually a better deal out there if you take the time to look for it. Luckily, we’re here to break down the steps to take when switching your energy providers and how to snag yourself the best deal.
Review your current energy usage
The first thing you want to do is figure out how much energy you’re using and how much you’re paying for it. All this information can be found on your bill if you know where to look and can be utilised to put a stop to paying too much for your energy.
What to look for when switching energy suppliers?
Understanding your energy bill is not as daunting as it may seem. The main challenge for consumers is wading through the jargon to get to the root of the information. Here are a few key areas to look at to better understand your current usage.
- The amount due: Found on page one of your bill, this will show you how much you need to pay for the current billing period – this is usually either monthly or quarterly.
- Total and average daily usage: Your total usage allows you to compare prices between plans. This section will give you an idea of how your usage compares to other households in your area.
- Usage breakdown: This will break down your charge into supply costs and usage costs. Any discounts you’re receiving will also be listed here.
It’s also worth checking to see whether you will be required to pay any exit fees if you are leaving your contract early. Your current provider will be able to tell you whether this is the case.
Once you understand your current usage and charges, you can use this information to start comparing energy prices in your area.
How to compare gas and electricity providers
Comparing can be difficult when you’re not exactly sure what you’re looking for in a retailer. Although a lower price is the main goal, there are a number of factors to consider when looking for a new plan or energy supplier.
The cost of your energy bill depends on a few things.
- Supply charges: This is the flat fee that you are charged for being connected to the network.
- Usage rates: This is the charge that makes up the bulk of your energy bill and is how much you will be charged for each unit of energy you consume.
- Discounts: This is usually a percentage discount off some or all of your bill. It’s important to note that these can be conditional or can have an expiry period, so be sure to take that into account when choosing a new plan.
The importance of these charges will vary depending on your lifestyle. For instance, if you are a student, live in a sharehouse or are renting and likely to be moving more regularly, you’ll want to look for plans with low or no exit fees. If you are living on your own or have low energy usage, a low supply cost would be beneficial, so you aren’t paying a lot just to be connected.
Comparison sites are a great place to start looking for a new plan as you can look at providers side by side to get a better idea of the differences between what they offer.
How does switching energy providers work?
Once you’ve settled on a new plan or provider, you’ll need to start the actual switching process, and it’s simpler than you might think.
You will need to call your new provider to apply for your new plan and provide your metering info (NMI), which can be found on your bill or through your current provider. From here, your new retailer will begin the handover process.
During this time, you have a cooling-off period which is typically around ten days. This gives you the opportunity to change your mind without penalty if you feel like the plan might not be right for you. Be sure to take note of how long this period is if you have any doubts.
How long does it take to switch energy providers?
Once you’ve made the switch, your new provider should be able to supply your electricity the next day without any service interruptions. For gas, you will be switched over after your final meter reading.
Although not necessary, it can be worth contacting your current retailer before beginning this process to let it know of your intentions. Energy providers will often compete for your business so you may be able to get a better deal with your current provider if they want to keep your custom and dissuade you from leaving.
Who are the best energy providers?
Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. The best energy provider for you will depend on a range of factors including your usage, how many people live in your house, where you live, and your tariff type, among other things.
The good news is that Finder has done some of the research for you and has a few top picks to get your research started.
Top pick for popularity: Origin Energy
According to the Australian Energy Regulator’s (AER) annual retail markets report for 2018–19, Origin Energy boasted a whopping 27% market share. It operates in every state and territory except Tasmania and the Northern Territory and services over 4 million customers.
Top pick for customer service: AGL
A Finder analysis of 50 energy providers awarded AGL with a 5-star rating for customer service. The analysis scored brands based on criteria including complaints percentages, website usability, online help and support and call centre responsiveness.
Top pick for green: Powershop
Powershop was the winner of the Greenest Energy Retailer category in the inaugural Finder Green Awards earlier this year. This award looked at general environmental criteria such as corporate emissions intensity, energy used from renewable sources and waste avoiding landfill, as well as sector-specific criteria such as GreenPower price and coverage, support for solar customers and renewable power generation.
Switching energy providers is well worth the effort if it means you will save on your bill down the track. As long as you understand your usage and do your research, finding a plan and provider that suits your needs will be easier than you think.