At Fraztec, our key focus is on energy efficiency, so it follows that we should also have expertise in understanding the options when it comes to energy providers. After all, we work very hard to help our clients save energy, it makes sense to spend some time making sure they’re also getting the best deal on the energy they use.
I know the basics of what I should look for in a good energy provider/plan, but not enough to be 100% confident that I have made the right choice. As anyone who has undertaken this task knows, there is a smorgasbord of options out there and almost no-one has the time or the energy to investigate every provider and every plan. I'm sure energy providers deliberately make it hard to understand what you are actually getting as well!!
Still, every time before renewing my plan, I promise myself I will do a proper comparison and I try to fight through the blinding array of choices and the incomprehensible terminology. Then, in the end, I become overwhelmed and somewhat despondent and I either stick with the provider/plan that I already have, or have a quick look at a few options and go with whatever appears to be a good deal on the surface.
It’s been a few years since my last foray into the abyss and our current home plan is up for renewal so this year I have made it my personal mission to dive deep into the world of energy providers so that once and for all, I understand what information I need to ensure that I get the best deal.
Join me on my journey to demystify energy plans and reveal their secrets.
To put this into context, a few weeks ago I received a nice email from my energy provider with the heading – “Your new electricity plan is about to start, here’s everything you need to know”
My plan is ending on 1st October 2021 and the new plan my provider has selected for us will start the next day. The email has two links:
Compare your rates
What if I want to switch to a different plan – compare plans or call us
Out of curiosity, I decide to check out both:
Compare your rates
Clicking this link takes me to a page which confirms that our provider will be moving us to a new plan that they have chosen. Presumably this is comparable to our existing plan, but who knows?! It also states that the rate on the new plan is 10% less than the current reference price (whatever that is?!) and tells me about the price increase that will come into effect when the new plan starts.
My take-away is that they are going to charge me more!
What if I want to switch to a different plan – compare plans or call us
Clicking the second link takes me to a page showing a choice of 3 plans, all which have names thought up by a skilled marketing team. I only have a quick look but it appears that one of the plans is the best deal for us and surprise, surprise, it's not the one the provider chose for us.
I've barely done more than read their email and it’s already time for a glass of red and a Panadol!
I want to give up, but I push on...
WHAT NOW ?
I’ve done a quick review of the new plan my immediate thought is that my provider is really NOT looking after me. In fact, this entire exercise has me thinking that the whole point of the plan change is so they can increase their price without saying so outright, which is really motivating me to check out the competition!
Problem is, I’m still time-and-information poor so I have a look around for a quick way to compare rates, plans and providers.
Of course, I don’t have to look far. There are a bunch of comparison websites and these are very useful if you know what to watch out for. The big gotcha for most of these sites is that they do not show plans from all the energy providers, which means that you won’t always see the entire picture. It may also mean that the site has a financial interest in promoting certain providers, rather than giving you all the data you need to make an informed decision.
I’m reluctant to use these sites for these reasons but also because I’ve been burned before. I gave these companies my details once and I was hounded for weeks with phone calls trying to get my business. Talk about a double whammy – they failed to help me find the best plan AND they annoyed me with unwanted sales calls. Talk about frustrating!
Anyway, I'm determined that this time will be different and it turns out, it is.
After a bit more digging I discover that the Australian Government also runs a comparison website for energy plans: Energy Made Easy so I decide to check it out.
While it's not fancy, the site is clear and easy to use. You simply enter a few details and based on that it gives you a list of providers, plans and costs for you to look at. A recent bill will be helpful (if you have one) but you can see the providers and plans without one.
The big benefit, other than speed and simplicity, is that energy providers are required by law to give the government the details on their available plans and this site shows them all. Which means the list they give you should always be comprehensive, and the estimate of your costs should be accurate, giving you all the information you need to make an educated comparison.
So, I’ve got a list of plans and providers.
WHICH ONE SHOULD I CHOOSE?
The Energy Made Easy website gives you an annual price for each plan, so in order to do a proper comparison, you’ll need to know what you’re already paying. You can certainly get into price per KWh and we'll do this in a future post, but for now, you can either grab your last years’ worth of bills and add them up or even go do a search in your online banking to find out what you paid for energy in the last year.
Once you get to the list and you have your costs from last year you can start comparing.
To easily see the plans that have the features you want, you should click "Refine by Discounts, Payments and More". If you expand this section, there are loads of options to choose from - different payment types, plan types and lots more. If you require solar feed-in, you should make sure you select it here so you only see plans with that option. Also make sure you change the “Show:” option to see either “All Plans” or “Plans with promotional offers” so you see all the plans from all providers.
A glance at the first few plans should show you whether any of them are cheaper. Once you have these as a reference (and before you get too far down the rabbit-hole), it’s worth contacting your current provider and asking them whether they can give you a better deal.
If your provider can't (or won't) price match, you can check out the other plans in more detail by clicking on the plan name. The details page shows clear and easy to decipher information on the costs and other facets of the plan plus a quick list of pros and cons under Plan Features. You can also select a few different plans if you want to compare them to each other.
Obviously, price will be a major factor but there are some other financial considerations that are also worth some thought:
How long is the plan and are you OK being locked in for that length of time?
Is there a cooling off period and what are the terms?
Are there flexible payment options?
Are there any discounts such as pay on time?
Are there any extra fees (such as paper bills)?
Are you eligible for a Concession/Rebate? You can check this for yourself here: https://www.energy.gov.au/rebates And will they honour it?
Is there a fee for leaving your existing plan? And it’s worth checking whether your new plan will charge you a fee to leave too
Can prices change on this plan? Prices on Market Retail Plans can be changed by your provider at any time
OTHER THINGS TO THINK ABOUT
For most of us this will be a money-saving exercise but choosing the right provider it isn’t always just about saving money. So, as a last word, here are a few non-financial considerations:
We all dislike bad Customer Service – especially complaints handling, so it’s worth checking out the energy provider’s record in that area. There's not much point saving a few dollars only to end up in a world of hurt if things (minor or major) go wrong
A large part of our company ethos here at Fraztec is working for the benefit of the environment. As such, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the option of Greenpower on your energy bill. Many providers have a plan that includes at least some of your energy from green sources. It will cost a few extra dollars on your bill but we think it’s definitely an option worth paying for!
A hot button topic for lots of people is Australian Ownership and during the pandemic over the last couple of years, we’ve seen the value of Australian produced and Australian owned companies and products. If you’re keen to Buy Australian, Canstar Blue have compiled a list of energy companies and whether they have Australian or foreign ownership
There’s certainly more to uncover with a deep dive and in the future we will explore your bill, what the heck all those plan types mean and plenty of other things. For now, we hope this has helped you work out how to do a comparison on energy plans and providers!