Australia Energy - Electricity & Gas

Saturday, July 01, 2006

I want off-peak!

Have you been asking your electricity retailer for off peak but never seem to get any straight response from them? Or even wonder if you could actually get any off peak?

For residential users, off peak can refer to 2 different types of off peak. The first type of residential off peak refers to your electric hot water and/or slab (space) heating. That means your general lighting electricity usage is still charged at peak rate but your electric hot water (which normally comes on at 11pm or 2 am) is charged at off peak rate. The second type of residential off peak measures all your electricity usage (general lighting and electric hot water)from a certain time of the day, for example 11pm to 7am Mon-Fri and all day Saturday and Sunday as off peak (if you are in Victoria).

The first type of off peak and peak rates are normally termed GD (General Domestic) with Off Peak. The second off peak and peak rates are termed GH/GL (formerly Winner tariff). The GH/GL peak rate tends to be higher than the peak rate for GD.

Whether you have off peak component does depends on the type of meter you have. Say if you have electric hot water at home but it does not have a meter to measure the electricity used separately from the general use then you will probably be on the GD tariff (anytime rate). If your meter is capable of measuring peak and off peak usage (has a time switch) then you could go on to GH/GL tariff.

If you have a basic meter which measures only all peak but you would like to have off-peak, then you may need to change your meter or have your time switch adjusted (subject to your meter capability). You may incur a cost for installation of a new meter but do talk to your current retailer about the options. For a residential, it may be better to leave it as it is depending on the savings you will get from switching to two-rates and the costs incur to extract the savings.

In Victoria, businesses who are on energy-only charges generally are on one of the 3 tariffs:
1. All time rate (Tariff E)
2. 5-day peak (Tariff D)
3. 7-day peak (Tariff E1)

For more information on the definition of the peak and off peak, please refer back to my blog: Definition of Peak and Off Peak - Part 1 and Part 2

Whether or not you can have off peak rate really depends on the type of meter you have and if it is capable of measuring peak and off peak time.

Scenario 1: I have a basic meter and currently on single-rate but I want two-rate tariff

In this case you may need to change your meter so that your meter is capable of recording the peak and off peak usage. The meter can be either Manually Read Interval Meter (MRIM) or Remotely Read Interval Meter (4 different types depending on your annual usage - known as COMMS1, COMMS2, COMMS3 and COMMS4 being the smallest). MRIM is usually the cheaper option as the installation cost is a once-off cost of a couple of hundred dollars depending on the types of meter and distribution region and your retail service charge normally remains the same as when you were on a basic meter. The disadvantage of MRIM however is that as the name suggests, the meter is still manually read by the meter reader based on your reading cycle which could be monthly or quarterly.

Remotely read interval meters are more expensive with higher retail annual service/metering charges which could be as high as $900 to $1000 per annum. However, as the meter is remotely read via the phone line every day, you will get billed on actual data every month.

Once you decide to change the meter, remember to advise your retailer or distributor that you want a two-rate tariff. Remember though, even if the off peak rate is cheaper, unless you plan to operate between 11pm to 7am Mon-Fri and anytime on Saturday and Sunday (Tariff E1 are closed to new customers in most or all distribution regions in Victoria), you may be better off in a single-rate tariff (for example, a small office).

Scenario 2: I have an interval meter and on a single-rate but I want two-rate tariff
In this case it is probably simpler. You do not need to change your meter as the interval meter is capable of measuring peak and off peak. All you need to do is request your retailer to have your network tariff changed by the distributor (note that at the moment if you are in Alinta/United Energy area - around the South/South East, you cannot move to two-rate as all two-rate tariffs are closed to customers). Change of network tariff is still at the discretion of the distributor hence there is no guarantee you will be able to get peak/off-peak rates.

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Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Interesting Item of the Day

Check this out - Google Spreadsheet

Currently you can only register for a sneak preview but what Google attempts to achieve with Google Spreadsheet is the ability to share spreadsheets online and accessing it everywhere you go.

Note: To increase the likelihood of being selected for sneak preview, you should register using Gmail e-mail address. I tried using my Hotmail and till now I have not received anything. Someone I know that signed up much later using Gmail has already been approved to use Google Spreadsheet.

Update: Just received a reply from Google in my Hotmail... had to create an account in Google. So users that did not register using Gmail should do so before registering otherwise you will waste all your time waiting... and my Gmail has already been activated to access Google Spreadsheet.

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Thursday, June 01, 2006

Closed of Network Tariff - LVkWtou by United Energy (Alinta)

Recently, one of the distributors in Victoria, United Energy (Alinta) has just closed one of its newest network tariff (LVkWtou) to new customers (Click here if you are unsure if you are in United Energy area). When a distributor closed a network tariff, it means that only existing customers that are already on that network tariff can remain in that particular tariff and all new connections or customers cannot go on to the closed tariff. So how does the closure of the network tariff LVkWtou affects you?

Description - Low Voltage KiloWatt Time-of-Use (LVkWtou)
Peak period: From 7am to 7pm Monday to Friday
Off peak period: At all other periods
Summer Demand Charge: Charges based on the highest power delivered (maximum kW during the billing period) between 3pm and 6pm in Summer (November to March). The motivation behind this charge is to penalise customers so that they reduce their demand during peak system times in Summer.

Click here for definitions of peak and off-peak

New Connections
If you are a new customer (new or greenfield sites) then you will be automatically assigned to single-rate tariff - LVS1R for Residential and LVM1R for Commercial. With the closure of network tariff LVkWtou, there are no longer options for two-rate tariffs, that is peak and off peak. So if you are a large off peak user (consumes electricity on weekend or 24 hours for cooling or other purposes) then it will actually costs you more to be on single-rate tariff.

Existing Connections
For existing customers that are already in LVkWtou, they can still remain in that tariff. Any existing customers in other tariffs, for example single-rate tariff, LVM1R or the old two-rate tariff, LVM2R5D can no longer switch to LVkWtou tariff. So even if your existing meter is capable of measuring peak and off peak and you are on single-rate tariff, there is really no place for you to move until the distributor comes up with another new two-rate tariff.

Put it simply, if you are currently being charged an all peak rate, you cannot get peak/off peak rates even if your meter is compatible (unless your usage exceeds 400MWh per annum then you can consider moving to a larger tariff called LVkVAtou). And if you are a new customer with new connection, then you will automatically be charged on all peak rates.

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Thursday, May 25, 2006

Do Not Call Register

The newspaper today published an article in regards to the legislation introduced to the parliament on the "Do Not Call" register. This means that any one who do want to receive certain unsolicited telemarketing calls can register their Australian fixed or mobile phones on the Do Not Call register for up to 3 years. Companies that breach the register provisions may be fined.

This legislation will be interesting and a challenge to many businesses(whether in the utilities industry or telecommunications) out there who depend on telemarketing for a large portion of their sales.

The utilities industry specifically the retailers depend on telemarketing sales quite heavily especially for the residential market. If a large portion of residentials sign up to the Do Not Call register, retailers may have to come up with different and innovative sales and marketing strategies that excludes cold calling. That would also mean less businesses for outsourced call centers and channels.

Of course, the other way to get around the Do Not Call register is if an individual call up the retailer instead. In order to do that, the retailer would have to creating awareness of its products through advertising, word-of-mouth (a very strong and important method of advertising that is often over-looked), door knocking, direct marketing and even cross selling with other products. This may actually create a whole new stream of utilities retail marketing strategies which can be difficult for a product (gas and electricity) that is essential but has no differentiation between competitors.

For more information, click here
For media press, click here

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