Strike like lightning and slash those power bills Opinion Article

Aug 07, 2012 - 9:28am

This article was originally published in The Daily Telegraph on 7 August 2012.

Erwin Jackson and Gavin Dufty offer a working blueprint for cutting power bills

Consumers can act, rather than just accept rising electricity prices.

All of us are aware of increasing power prices, a topic that seems to dominate daily news headlines and is causing considerable concern among communities. Many lay the blame at the doorstep of the carbon price. But in fact there is a range of drivers, of which the largest are upgrades and maintenance of the network ‘poles and wires’.

What is being lost in the news is that consumers don’t have to just sit and accept the price rises. There is quite a lot you can do to lower your bills.

Firstly, look for a better deal from your energy company or find another provider.  The regulated price reported in the media is a ’starting point’ or line in the sand for many of the discounts available out there. If you remain on these rates, we would hazard a guess that in most cases you are a very profitable customer for the electricity companies! A consumer can often keep prices to a minimum by finding a better deal on a market contract.
 
The key word here is “better”. Look at your current situation. How much energy do you use, how do you prefer to pay your bills (monthly, fortnightly or every three months?) and what is on offer? Look at what suits you, because various options can lower your bill. It is important you look at the conditions on offer, not just the price. Check for late payment fees, contract length and termination costs and do your sums. With a small amount of research it is possible to make the retailers work more for your hard-earned cash.  

If you have a concession card, make sure you are getting any rebates or concessions you are entitled to. Combined with discounts available they can shave a few hundred dollars from your annual bill.
 
 St Vincent De Paul has just released a series of reports looking at energy offers and the potential savings and pitfalls. You might find extra pointers in that reading.

Second, take control of your power use. If your electricity tariff has a time variant, shift some of your use to cheaper times. This could be as simple as putting on the washing machine (cold cycle) and dishwasher before you go to bed rather than straight after dinner. Later hours mean lower costs for energy use.  

Third, invest in energy efficiency where you can. It’s an upfront cost but it will lead to significant savings right away. Plenty of solar power companies are advertising at the moment, but you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars to save on energy bills.

One option is to install a water-saving shower head. You can pay back the cost in lower energy bills within a month and then start saving up to $5 a week ($260/year).

Or get rid of the second fridge and you’ll save up to $90 a year. Wash clothes in cold water and don’t use the drier and you could save up to $195 a year.

If you want to invest a bit more money, say from your carbon price compensation package, invest in energy-saving power boards to reduce standby power. This can save up to $125/year. Replace downlights with high efficiency systems and you save up to $150 per year. The numbers will vary by state and circumstance but the list goes on.

The bottom line is that a little bit of shift and shave adds up. So you don’t just have to sit there and see your energy bill rise. You can take control, manage your bills, and enjoy the pleasure of having made wise investments.

Erwin Jackson is Deputy CEO at The Climate Institute and Gavin Dufty is Manager of Policy and Research at St Vincent de Paul Society in Victoria.

Erwin Jackson

Erwin is Deputy CEO of The Climate Institute. With nearly 20 years practical experience in climate change policy and research, Erwin has developed and led many national and international programs aimed at reducing greenhouse pollution. This work has been undertaken in Australia, Europe, North and South America, the Pacific and Antarctica. He has represented non-governmental groups and advised government and business in national, regional and international fora, including being a non-governmental expert reviewer of the reports of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Erwin has written, researched and produced many publications on climate change and energy policy including a number of review papers in scientific journals such as the Medical Journal of Australia.
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