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NewsENERGY SAVINGS GUIDE: 5yr Price Low - My 10/15 Rule of Thumb - 3-Step Winter Bill Checklist - Full list of Energy Concessions - The Golden Rule if you can't pay

ENERGY SAVINGS GUIDE: 5yr Price Low - My 10/15 Rule of Thumb - 3-Step Winter Bill Checklist - Full list of Energy Concessions - The Golden Rule if you can't pay

IN THIS GUIDE:

  • Wholesale energy prices hit a 5-year low. Cash in!
  • My 10/15 Rule of Thumb for spotting cheap electricity
  • 3-step Winter Checklist to minimise your power bills
  • Got a big bill? Do the A-B-C
  • Warning re COVID-19 Winter Bills 
  • The Golden Rule if you can't pay a bill: Retailer Hardship programs
  • State-by-state list of relief payments available to concession card holders

 

 

NEWS: WHOLESALE PRICES HIT 5YR LOW

Wholesale energy prices have dropped to their lowest level in 5 years. But many of us are receiving recrd-high winter bills right now. Why?

Two reasons: firstly our usage has skyrocketed thanks to COVID-19, and secondly not all retailers have passed on the savings. The Federal Energy Minister has called on retailers to do so, but he’s not yet forcing them to. Translation: you might need to switch to see the savings.

Normally, I recommend you check your plan once a year, but these falling wholesale prices have made energy bills a ‘moving target’, meaning that EVEN IF YOU SWITCHED IN JUNE, there are now cheaper deals to be had. (Sorry! I know it's infuriating...)

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🥶 WINTER ENERGY CHECKLIST: EASY AS 1, 2, 3 😅

The weather keeps getting colder and the warnings are becoming more dire: the CEO of Tango Energy now says households are ALREADY using 40% more power than usual.

But avoiding a record-high Winter Energy Bill doesn’t have to be difficult or take hours of your time.

Here are the 3 simple things most households can try RIGHT NOW to avoid big winter power bills:

1. Get on a cheap-as-chips plan ASAP.

The key is to make sure you’re paying bottom dollar EVERY time you switch on the lights or the heater.

Once you find a good deal, you can switch over in minutes if you’re in NSW, VIC, SA, SEQLD or ACT and it could save you hundreds of dollars.

👍 My ‘10/15 Rule of Thumb’ for cheap electricity 

Based on my analysis of the retail electricity market, the cheapest electricity offers in NSW, VIC, SEQLD & SA are generally MORE THAN 10% BELOW the Government’s ‘Reference Price’.

In fact, in NSW, SEQLD & SA, there are even a few plans that are MORE THAN 15% BELOW the Reference Price.

So that's your simple shortcut to answer the question: 'Is this a cheap electricity deal?'

  • In VIC it has to be at least 10% less than the Reference Price.
  • In NSW, SA, SEQLD it has to be at least 15% less than the Reference Price.

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2. Get the basics right.

The big energy-guzzlers are heating & cooling, pool pumps, hot water services and clothes dryers. Heating alone can make up one-third of your bill, for example, so target those things to save up to $800 a year on your power bills.

✅  Set your thermostat at 18-20 degrees celsius when heating your home and ONLY turn it up higher if necessary. Every extra degree can add 10% to your bill!

✅  Use the clothesline whenever possible now that you’re always home, instead of the dryer.

✅  If you have off peak rates on your plan, do as much of your washing at those times as possible.

✅  Turn off the beer fridge! If you have an old, half-full, inefficient fridge in the garage, it could be costing you as much as $250 a year to run - and parties are still banned!

✅  Turn off some powerpoints when not in use (this so-called  ‘vampire power’ has been making up a huge 16% of my own electricity bill according to the report below, so it can add up!)

3. Claim as much as possible on tax if you’re working from home:

It’s always been possible to claim some of your Energy Bill if working from home, according to the ‘52c method’ or the 'apportioned costs' method, which both divvy out some of your bills to work deductions.

Now, there’s a much simpler ‘Shortcut Method’ for the COVID-19 period, UNTIL JUNE 30, where you just claim 80c for every hour you work from home and that covers ALL relevant bills: energy, telco, furniture, hardware etc

It’s up to you to work out which method to use to maximise your deductions. It will depend on your circumstances and whether you have a tax agent, but make sure you at least claim the 'shortcut' expenses.

 More info here

 

🔤  Got a big power bill? Do the A-B-C 🔤

Here are the 3 things you need to CHECK when you get a big power bill - or better still, start now:

A) Is for ‘ACTUAL meter read’.

Check if they’ve actually read your meter or if just ESTIMATED it. This has become far more common since COVID-19 and can result in inaccurate bills. Try taking a picture of your meter with a newspaper’s front page (to confirm the date) and send it to your supplier. Then ask them to adjust the bill.

B) Is for ‘BUMPED OFF’.

Make sure your discount hasn’t expired and you haven’t been bumped to a lower one (like what happened to my dad recently).

C) Is for CHANGE OR UPGRADE:

Discounts are now as big as they’ve been since July last year, and the Government Reference Prices did NOT go up on July 1.

 

🆓 UPDATED: STATE-BY-STATE RUNDOWN OF CURRENT ENERGY BILL RELIEF  🆓

If you’ve got a relevant concession card (or in some cases a relevant Centrelink payment or income level) OR you're experiencing a financial emergency due to COVID-19, there are potentially thousands of dollars in energy bill relief payments available to you in some states.

Here’s a full list UPDATED to make sure you’re not missing out on any entitlements.

NSW:

Low Income Household rebate: $285p.a.

Must have a:

  • Pensioner Concession Card issued by the Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA) or Services Australia
  • Health Care Card issued by Services Australia (NB: these are available to JobSeeker recipients), or
  • DVA Gold Card marked with either 'War Widow' or 'War Widower Pension', or 'Totally and Permanently Incapacitated' (TPI) or 'Disability Pension' (EDA).

Gas Rebate: $110p.a.

  • Same eligibility as above

Family Energy Rebate ($180)

You must:

  • have been the recipient of the Family Tax Benefit (FTB) for the previous financial year and have had your entitlement to the FTB payments finalised by Centrelink.
  • ensure the person in your household who's registered as the FTB recipient, lodges the application. The recipient is the person who receives correspondence on FTB from the Department of Human Services (DHS).

Seniors Rebate ($200p.a.)

  • For self-funded retirees
  • To be eligible you need to hold a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card (CSHC).

Energy Accounts Payment Assistance Scheme ($50 vouchers up to $1600p.a. for electricity & gas)

You must be experiencing a short-term financial crisis or emergency that has impacted your ability to pay your current residential energy bill (in full or in part) due to financial hardship.

VIC:

Most of these are automatically applied by your retailer as long as you’ve given them your concession details

Annual electricity concession (17.5% of electricity usage and service costs, up to $2890, which equals up to about $470)

Must have:

  • Pensioner Concession Card
  • Health Care Card (NB: these are available to JobSeeker recipients)
  • Veterans’ Affairs Gold Card.

The concession is calculated after retailer discounts and solar credits have been deducted.

The concession does not apply to the first $171.60 of the annual bill. This is calculated as a daily rate on each bill.

Households with very high electricity bills (over $2,890.45 in the year, starting 1 December 2018) need to apply for the Excess electricity concession to continue to receive a concession on their bill

Controlled load electricity concession (13% of controlled load electricity costs)

  • Same eligibility as above

Electricity transfer fee waiver (fee depends on provider)

  • Same eligibility as above

Excess electricity concession (17.5% of electricity usage and service costs over $2890)

  • Same eligibility as above

Winter gas concession (17.5% of gas usage and service costs for 6mths).

  • Same eligibility as above

The concession is calculated after retailer discounts are deducted.

The concession does not apply to the first $62.40 of the six-month winter period bills. This is calculated as a daily rate on each bill.

Households with very high bills (over $1,587.82 in the period from 1 May to 31 October 2018) will need to apply for the Excess gas concession to continue to receive a concession on their bill.

Excess Gas Concession (17.5% of gas usage and supply for 6mths)

  • Same eligibility as above

For domestic mains gas usage and service costs above $1,587.82 for the six-month winter period 1 May to 31 October 2019.

Service to property charge concession (if usage lower than supply charge, supply charge can be reduced to match usage charge)

$50 power saving bonus

The VIC Government is paying people to use its energy comparison website - $50 a pop!

QLD:

$50 per year electricity rebate ($50 per household)

  • Automatically applied to ALL energy bills this year

COVID-19 Utility Payment ($150 per household)

  • Automatically applied to ALL energy bills this year

The Electricity Rebate ($340.85p.a.) 

The Reticulated Natural Gas Rebate ($73.60p.a.)

Must have:

  • Pensioner Concession Card
  • Department of Veterans’ Affairs Gold Card (and receive the War Widow/er Pension or special rate TPI Pension)
  • Queensland Seniors Card
  • Commonwealth Health Care Card (Electricity Rebate only, NB: these are available to JobSeeker recipients)
  • Asylum seeker status—residents will need to provide their ImmiCard details (Electricity Rebate only).

But there are some other restrictions: you can’t be the only concession card holder in a share-house full of full-time workers, for example. 

Home Energy Emergency Assistance Scheme (up to $720)

For an unforeseen emergency or a short-term financial crisis. You must:

  • hold a current concession card, or
  • have an income equal to or less than the Australian Government’s maximum income rate for part-age pensioners. Contact Centrelink for details of the maximum income rate.
  • be part of your energy retailer’s hardship program or payment plan.

SA:

Energy Bill concession (Up to $226.67 p.a. For Electricity & Gas, NB: includes JobSeeker)

Must have eligible concession card or Centrelink payment.

Eligible cards:

  • Pensioner Concession Card
  • DVA Gold Card
  • Totally and Permanently Incapacitated (TPI)
  • Extreme Disablement Adjustment (EDA)
  • War Widow
  • issued to a person with 80 or more overall impairment points under the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004
  • Low Income Health Care Card
  • Commonwealth Seniors Health Card

Eligible Centrelink payments:

  • JobSeeker Payment
  • Widow Allowance
  • Youth Allowance
  • Partner Allowance
  • Parenting Payment
  • Special Benefit
  • Community Development Project (CDP)
  • New Enterprise Incentive Scheme (NEIS)
  • ABSTUDY
  • Austudy
  • Farm Household Allowance (FHA)
  • War widow pension under legislation of the United Kingdom or New Zealand.

Cost of Living Concession (Up to $715.10, including a JobSeeker boost of $500 this year)

Households that receive the Centrelink JobSeeker Payment will get a once-off boost of $500 as part of the 2020/21 Cost of Living Concession. In addition, payments will be brought forward for those households.

On 1 July you must either:

  • hold an eligible card
  • receive an eligible Centrelink payment, or
  • meet low income provisions.

Eligible cards:

  • Pensioner Concession Card
  • Gold Card from the Department of Veterans' Affairs
  • Totally and Permanently Incapacitated (TPI)
  • Extreme Disablement Adjustment (EDA)
  • War Widow
  • issued to a person with 80 or more overall impairment points under the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 (Cth)
  • Low Income Health Care Card
  • Commonwealth Seniors Health Card.

Eligible Centrelink payments:

  • JobSeeker Payment
  • Widow Allowance
  • Youth Allowance
  • Partner Allowance
  • Parenting Payment
  • Special Benefit
  • Community Development Project (CDP)
  • New Enterprise Incentive Scheme (NEIS)
  • ABSTUDY
  • Austudy
  • Farm Household Allowance (FHA)
  • War widow pension under legislation of the United Kingdom or New Zealand

Low income provisions:

For the 2020/21 financial year, an applicant's income from all sources must not be more than the income limits shown below.

Status

Fortnightly income

Annual income

Single

$669.70

$17,412.20

Single with children

$716.00

$18,616.00

Partnered

$1,229.60

$31,969.60

WA:

Energy Assistance Payment ($600 this year)

Must hold one of:

  • Pensioner Concession Card
  • Health Care Card (NB: these are available to JobSeeker recipients)
  • Commonwealth Seniors Health Card 
  • Department of Veterans’ Affairs Gold Card (TPI, War Widow and Dependent Child).

WA has doubled the Energy Assistance Payment to $600 a year for concession cardholders up until September.

ACT:

Utilities Concession ($700 this year)

Must hold one of:

  • Centrelink Pensioner Concession Card (PCC)
  • Centrelink Low Income Health Care Card (HCC)
  • Veteran’s Affairs Pensioner Concession Card or Gold Card Holders (Prisoner of War, War Widow or Totally Permanently Incapacitated (TPI) Embossed).

Tasmania:

Annual electricity concession ($513.70p.a.)

Must hold one of:

  • DHS or DVA Pensioner Concession Card
  • DHS Health Care Card
  • ImmiCard (Bridging Visa E).

Heating allowance ($56p.a.)

Must hold:

  • DHS or DVA Pensioner Concession Card.

A single pensioner must not have more than $1,750* in cash assets and married/de facto pensioners must not have more than $2 750.*

*Other conditions also apply.

NT:

Electricity concession ($465p.a.)

Must hold one of:

Department of Human Services (Centrelink):

  • Age Pension
  • Disability Support Pension
  • Carer Payment
  • Parenting Payment (single)

Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA):

  • Repatriation Health Card TPI/War/Widower (Gold Card)
  • Repatriation Pharmaceuticals Benefits Card (Orange Card)
  • Pensioner Card (Blue Card)
  • Commonwealth Seniors Health Card

 

 

🚨 WARNING: THIS COULD BE THE WORST WINTER IN RECENT MEMORY FOR ENERGY BILLS 🚨

We’re banging on about this year’s Winter Energy Bills quite a bit at the moment. But it’s for good reason: Australians cannot afford record-high energy bills this year of all years.

To illustrate why we’re so concerned, I’ve put together this little presentation, complete with graphs and all.

 

GRAPH #1: Aussie Power Prices, Past 40 Years

Source: ABS

This graph shows what has happened to our electricity prices over the past four decades, and why we now have some of the highest prices in the world.

Notice how electricity is now SEVEN TIMES as expensive as it was in 1980? It’s also DOUBLED in price over the past decade - much more than our wages have increased.

GRAPH #2: Typical Daily Household Usage 

Source: CSIRO, 2013

This is a graph of how a household’s usage goes up and down during a typical day in each of the four seasons, collected by the CSIRO.

Notice how much bigger the usage is in winter? Now imagine that family is home ALL DAY, working and schooling at home, so the graph doesn’t dip down in the middle. And replicate that same effect for Gas bills.

Combine that with our sky-high Australian power prices (GRAPH #1) and you’ll see why there’s a time bomb that is set to go off in Australian household budgets this Winter.

That’s why we keep banging on about it. And here’s what you can do about it:

 Get cheap Origin Elec + Gas because you’re a FiftyUp Club member

 

🆘 RELIEF & HARDSHIP PROGRAMS 🆘

Energy retailers have mostly agreed to a list of 10 key principles created by the industry regulator, including:

  • Restrictions on disconnections of residential and small business customers until AT LEAST the end of July, but preferably the end of October.
  • No debt collection referrals until at least the end of July, but preferably October, and
  • Payment plans to be made available to all struggling residential and small business customers, including those who don’t meet the usual criteria.

Queenslanders!

You’re lucky - Energex and Ergon are still government-owned, they have promised no disconnections during the crisis, and the state government will also send households an extra $200 payment towards power bills.

For households experiencing a short-term financial crisis, there's also the Home Energy Emergency Assistance Scheme (up to $720). See details under 'concessions and rebates' above.

NSW: 

Households in financial distress or emergency can now access up to $1600 a year in $50 vouchers to go towards paying energy bills, from the state government.

To apply for the EAPA scheme, you must:

  • Already be on your energy retailer’s hardship scheme
  • Be experiencing a short-term financial crisis or emergency

Independent retirees with a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card are being reminded they can also apply for a $200 Seniors Energy Rebate in NSW.

ALL STATES:

A new scheme called 'Household Relief Loans Without Interest' has been developed by Good Shepherd, NAB and the Federal Government. It offers zero-interest loans up to $3000 to help with rent and utilities during COVID-19, which can be repaid over two years.

 

🏆 The Golden Rule When You Can't Pay a Bill 🏆

The golden rule when you're in trouble remains the same as before the crisis: do not ignore the letters from your retailer seeking payment. Do the opposite and CONTACT THEM because you need to get onto your retailer’s hardship program ASAP.

Why? Every retailer is required by law to have a hardship program and once you’re on it:

  • They won’t disconnect you if you stick to it
  • They won’t send debt collectors after you if you stick to it, and
  • Many will help you access government concessions and rebates

 

What have the Big 3 Retailers said?

Origin has said no disconnections due to financial stress until at least 31 July 2020;  No default listing for any customer who is having trouble paying; and a pause to all late payment fees effective immediately.

Call 13 24 61 for help or apply online or through the app.

 

AGL is offering fast-tracked access to a program allowing deferred payments until 31 July 2020, or access to a payment plan that allows you to pay in instalments; plus no disconnections during the deferred payment period.

Call 131 245 for help or apply online here or through the app.

 

EnergyAustralia has not yet said they will stop disconnections and debt collection until 31 July. They're pushing an expansion of their standard Hardship program.

Call 133 466 for help or apply online for the Hardship program called ‘EnergyAssist’, which means no debt collection and no disconnection, plus help with government rebates and concessions and energy saving tips.

 

Check in regularly for the latest updates. As the money-saving experts, we’re working hard to give our million-plus members all the info you need to come through these tough times in good financial shape.

Any information is general advice, it does not take into account your individual circumstances, objectives, financial situation or needs. One Big Switch earns a fee for each customer that takes up the Origin offer.

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