We’re urging households and small businesses to contact their energy company and ask if a cheaper electricity plan is available, in light of recent price increases above the regulated safety net for some customers.
Understanding your energy plan
The information on this page is mainly for people in New South Wales, South East Queensland, and South Australia. We provide information that explains how to find a better plan for you and how to compare electricity prices and plans.
Energy prices have increased for many Australians.
You may have received a letter from your energy company advising of a large price increase. Energy companies are required to provide certain information in bills and letters to help you compare your current energy plan to other available plans. It’s important to look at your bill and any letters or emails they send you. Check any recent communications for price increases.
Your current energy plan will most likely be what’s called a ‘market offer’. This is what 90% of households are on. Market offers are the tailored plans that energy companies advertise to attract customers. They can include discounts and different tariffs depending on people’s circumstances. They are also available to existing customers.
But there is also a government safety net price available through a type of energy plan called the ‘Default Market Offer’ (New South Wales, South East Queensland, South Australia) or ‘Victorian Default Offer’ (Victoria).
The safety net is also referred to as the ‘reference price’ as it’s used as a yardstick to compare different market offers.
Electricity companies in New South Wales, south-east Queensland and South Australia must follow the Electricity Retail Code. The code provides companies with a standard way of setting out their electricity prices, such as using the ‘reference price’. This makes it easier for you to compare prices and get a better deal.
Finding a better deal
The simplest way to save money on your electricity bill is to call your energy company and ask if a better deal is available. There could be greater savings if you are willing to change energy companies. We have listed a few different ways to work out if there is a better plan for you.
Ask your current energy company whether they can offer you a better plan.
Ask your current energy company whether you are eligible for any concessions or rebates. You can also check the energy.gov.au website.
You can search for a better electricity plan on the Energy Made Easy website. You just need to upload your bill or enter your usage and the site can help you find a better deal.
Energy companies must compare their prices to a reference price set by the Australian Government. You can use the reference price comparison percentage and estimated annual cost to compare deals from different companies.
Contact your energy company
You might not have to move to a different electricity company to get a better deal. Start by talking to your current electricity company to find out what deal they can offer you. If you are a solar customer your energy company will need to take this into account when advising you about a better offer.
You can use the reference price to help you have a conversation with your energy company. For example, if you received a letter that your current energy plan is above the reference price, you could ask: Is there a better plan for me?
You can also ask your energy company:
- Do you have a plan which is below the reference price?
- I need help paying my bill. What assistance can you provide?
- Am I eligible for a government concession or rebate?
You can ask these further questions to find out if there's a better offer for you:
- How does my current plan compare with the reference price?
A higher percentage off the reference price will usually be a better deal for you. If your current plan is above the reference price, ask your energy company if they can put you on a better market offer that is below the reference price.
- Do you have a better deal at the moment?
Don’t forget to ask how long a deal lasts.
- Are there any conditional discounts on your plans? Can I save more by paying on time or setting up a direct debit?
You might save more by paying on time or setting up a direct debit.
Other energy companies may be able to offer you a better deal. The best way to compare offers from different energy companies is by using a government run comparison website like Energy Made Easy or Victorian Energy Compare.
If you are on a hardship and/or payment plan or are carrying debt, you should work with your current energy company to find the best plan for your circumstances. If you move to a new energy company there’s a risk that your protections won’t come with you and your debt will fall due immediately and enter a debt collection cycle.
Check concessions or rebates
Concessions and rebates can significantly reduce your energy bills. Make sure you are getting what you are entitled to by speaking to your energy company or checking the energy.gov.au website.
Use a government comparison website
To work out if there is a better plan for you, upload your bill or enter your usage information on the Energy Made Easy website.
Energy Made Easy is a free Australian Government energy price comparison service for households and small businesses in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory, that can be used to find and compare home and small business electricity plans.
Energy Made Easy includes all generally available offers from energy companies in your area. The website also includes information to help you understand energy offers and tips on how to reduce energy bills.
Customers in Victoria can visit Victorian Energy Compare.
Use the reference price
Using the reference price helps you compare energy plans.
The reference price is set by the Australian Government’s Default Market Offer. The Default Market Offer is the maximum annual bill that a customer on a standing offer should receive if they use the average amount of electricity in your area.
The reference price or Default Market Offer is set on 1 July each year. This price applies to New South Wales, South East Queensland, and South Australia.
You don't need to know what the reference price is to use it. Electricity companies must provide a comparison percentage to the reference price when advertising their offers. You can simply compare the percentages for each offer.
Your electricity company must also tell you the reference price comparison percentage when they notify you that your prices are changing.
If you do want to know what the reference price (or Default Market Offer) is for your offer type and area, you can use this AER factsheet:
The responsible regulator in other states and territories sets their reference price. For example in Victoria, the Essential Services Commission sets the Victorian Default Offer.
Electricity companies must use a percentage to show you how their advertised price compares to the reference price. This makes it easy for you to compare different electricity plans and prices.
A bigger percentage off the reference price usually means a cheaper plan.
If your energy company has put you on a plan that is ‘above the reference price’ you should ask for a better market offer, one that is below the reference price.
If your market offer is equal to the reference price
If you can’t find an offer with a percentage less than the reference price, it is time to look further afield and change energy companies.
Example of how the reference price is used to compare offers
|8% less than reference price
||3% less than the reference price
In this case, Plan A is cheaper than Plan B if you use the average amount of electricity in your area.
Compare this percentage across different plans to find a better deal.
Some plans take money off your bill if you pay on time or pay by direct debit. These are called conditional discounts. If there are any conditional discounts on an electricity plan, companies must compare them to the reference price.
You can also compare conditional discounts across plans.
|10% less than reference price
||10% less than the reference price
|plus an extra 5% off from the reference price if you always pay on time
||plus an extra 1% off from the reference price if you always pay on time
In this case, Plan C is cheaper than Plan D if you use the average amount of electricity in your area and always pay on time.
Compare estimated annual costs
Electricity companies must estimate a cost for the year with all the discounts included. You can use this price to help compare different plans.
You may end up paying more or less for electricity than advertised. These prices are based on the average electricity use for your area. If you use more electricity, your bill will be higher. If you use less electricity, your bill will be lower.
Electricity companies may give you an estimate based on your actual usage if you give them extra information, such as your street address.
The reference price information on this page is for people in New South Wales, South East Queensland, and South Australia who come under the Electricity Retail Code. This table lists the energy regulators who set the reference price in other states and territories.