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Power tariffs – ask the right questions

Electricity meter showing kilowatt hours

Surely, we couldn’t be stuck with a flat rate peak tariff for electricity used while we lived in the old house on the property?  I decided that an investigation into tariffs was warranted.

My first port of call had been a call to our electricity retailer, Powershop, to ask about the flat rate tariff that showed up on our account with them.  They confirmed that this was the tariff given to them by the energy supplier.  The implication was that we were limited by what the supplier offered to customers in the area.

Fortunately, since we had just “moved into” the property, the energy retailer Ausnet Services sent us a brochure that explained what they did (and didn’t do) for residents in their zone.  On the back was a contact list.  Ah ha!  Time to send an email asking about the possibility of getting access to a different tariff arrangement, specifically the one we are used to with the peak, off-peak and shoulder tariffs.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained I thought.

To their credit, Ausnet Services replied within a couple of days.  Their reply stated, “Your tariff is currently time of use and provides peak and off-peak.  There is no ‘shoulder’.”  Further, they advised, “Any changes to your tariff, you will need to direct your query to your electricity retailer.”

Talk about a little ray of sunshine!  It seemed from their reply that different tariffs did exist, perhaps not as flexible as our current arrangement but better than what we had so far.

Armed with this information, I called Powershop and asked about how to get my account changed to a different tariff.  This question prompted a different response to the last conversation.  Now I was asking how to change a tariff, not asking what tariff was associated with my account.  Basically, the response was, “What tariff would you like to change to?”  That sounded much more hopeful.

After a bit of a chat, Powershop and I agreed to ask Ausnet Service for the three tariff, flexi-time model but, as we weren’t sure if they actually offered it, to have a backup request for the time of use tariff.  I’m not going to find out exactly what they will do for us as Ausnet Services have up to 20 working days to make the necessary changes.  Seems a little excessive in the digital age, but I’m not going to quibble.  Since we turned off the hot water system, the house meter is only recording a trickle of electricity whenever Jack drops by to do some minor improvements.

If all goes according to plan, we should have a multi-tariff arrangement in place before we move in.  That should relieve the anxiety about having to pay peak rates for pumping 15 kW into the Nissan LEAF, irrespective of the time of the day or night.  Off-peak charges in the dead of night are definitely the way to go.

For me, the message here was that it’s all about asking the electricity retailer the right questions.  I’m going to keep that in mind as we progress along the path towards an off-grid system.  Who knows, maybe there is something that can be done in order to have them serve as an occasional supplier if we ever run out of power stored in the batteries.

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