Victorian energy consumers have new energy rights, protections and programs that can reduce their spending on Energy.
Victorian Default Offer
The Victorian Default Offer (VDP) is an independent, ‘fair’, priced electricity offer that you can switch to, or use to check if you’re getting value for money on your electricity.
Under new legislation passed in the Parliament of Victoria, every Victorian household and small business (with the exception of embedded network customers) can now ask for a default offer from their electricity retailer.
The default offer stays the same for at least six months at a time, meaning you won’t be surprised by any sudden changes in what you’re paying.
Here’s how Victorian Default Offer changes affect you:
If you’re on an electricity retailer’s flat ‘standing offer’, you are automatically put on the Victorian Default Offer. A standing offer means you havn’t negotiated a discount or changed retailers recently.
If you’re on a ‘standing offer’ that isn’t flat, like a flexible or time of use tariff, or if you’re on a ‘market offer’ (a contract with an electricity retailer that lasts a set amount of time), then you can ask your retailer to put you on the default offer or use the default offer to see if you’re getting a good deal.
Not sure which offer you’re on? Check with your energy retailer, or have a look on your bill.
You have a right to be on the VDO if you want to be, unless you are an embedded network customer. If your retailer refuses, call the Energy and Water Ombudsman 1800 500 509.
How much you save depends on your annual consumption of electricity, and your electricity distribution zone. For example, a residential customer currently on a standing offer using 4,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per year could see their annual electricity bill cut by $310 to $450 from 1 July 2019.
Find out more about the Victorian Default Offer on the ESC link below:
If you are in a retirement village, residential park or apartment you could be on an embedded network. Unfortunately, customers on an embedded network will not be able access the Victorian Default Offer but are expected to have access to a fair and efficient price set by July 2020.
From 1 July 2019 energy companies must tell Victorian customers whether they’re on their best energy plan and how much the customer could save by switching to that plan (electricity and gas).
The best energy offer is a retailer’s best energy plan suitable for a particular customer. This is based on how much energy the customer has used over the past year. This best offer might be better/cheaper than the VDO and all consumers are able to ask for the Best Offer. The VDO is meant to protect consumers who choose not spend time ‘energy shopping’.
Energy retailers are now obligated to:
- tell customers (at least every 3 months for electricity bills and at least every 4 months for gas bills) whether they’re on the retailer’s best energy plan and if not, how much the customer could save by switching to the deemed best plan (best offer message),
- give customers at least five days warning before making changes that will affect the customer’s bill (and include the ‘best offer’ message)
- provide clear and helpful advice about the retailer’s best energy plan before signing a customer on to a new energy deal (taking into account all relevant terms and conditions).
- present all prices with GST included to make it easier to compare offers between retailers.
Victorian Energy Compare
You can still receive $50 from the Victorian Government for using their Energy Compare Website to find the cheapest electricity and gas plan based on your consumption. This website provides free and independent advice by comparing what is the best available offer for you – no tricks, no gimmicks, and no commissions.
Energy Fact Sheets
From 1 July 2019, energy companies have to provide customers with a fact sheet showing key information about available energy offers (electricity and gas).
Energy fact sheets will make it easier for consumers to compare different energy plans on the market. All energy plans now have energy fact sheets that estimate how much the plan costs for a small, medium and large household. The fact sheets present information in exactly the same way, so you have access to reliable information, no matter what plan you’re on.
You can get hold of a fact sheet on your energy retailer’s website, or by asking your energy retailer to email or mail you one.
Read more about energy fact sheets here.
Payment difficulties programs
Having difficulty paying your bills? If you’re having trouble paying your energy bills, there are new rules to protect you. The government introduced new protections for customers who are experiencing payment difficulties through a payment difficulty framework. This came into effect on 1 January this year.
Your energy retailer can help you before things get tough by giving you access to flexible payments and support services. Energy Businesses must help Victorian households with their electricity and gas bills.
The Victorian Government has also introduced legislation that requires energy retailers to have policies and programs in place to assist residential customers suffering energy hardship. Hardship policies and programs are in addition to Victoria’s core consumer protections.
You can find a copy of your retailer’s hardship policy on their website or request a copy to be sent to you. If they can’t help, call the Energy and Water Ombudsman (Victoria) on 1800 500 509 (free call).
As a result of these developments, since 1 January, energy retailers must provide access to payment plans. If you have an unpaid energy bill of $55 or more
Your energy retailer must offer you tailored assistance which includes:
- a plan to pay off your bills (up to two years)
- information on your energy use and how to lower it
- advice on other assistance (including utility relief grants and energy concessions)
Customers that can’t afford their ongoing energy use must also be offered additional help which includes:
- A pause on your debt payments for six months
- To pay less than the full cost of your energy use (this may be added to the amount you owe later)
- Information on your energy use and how to lower it
- Advice on other assistance (including utility relief grants and energy concessions)
- The best price that works for you
- Practical help to reduce your energy bills (for example, use of energy efficiency products).
Your energy retailer is expected to contact you to offer help if you miss a bill and owe more than $55 (incl. GST). You should also talk to your energy retailer as soon as you know you may have trouble paying your energy bills.
If you are getting help from your energy retailer, you must work with them to manage your energy bills.
If you are finding it difficult to pay your energy bill, you can access three of the following payment options under standard assistance:
- pay smaller amounts more often
- change how often you pay
- delay payment of a bill (you can do this once per year)
- pay in advance when you have the money.
Energy concessions and relief grants
The Government provides a range of energy concessions and relief grants to low income people for electricity, gas and LPG to assist with energy affordability. If people are going without other essentials such as food and appropriate heating and cooling, this is a sign of experiencing energy stress or what is referred to ‘hardship’.
Utility Relief Grant Scheme
The Utility Relief Grant Scheme (URGS) is available to assist low-income Victorian households who are unable to pay their mains electricity, gas or water bill without assistance, and are at risk of disconnection due to a temporary financial crisis. An eligible person or household can apply multiple times in a two-year period up to a maximum of $650 on each utility account and up to a maximum of $1300 for single source households (e.g. Electricity only).
To receive this assistance, you must be the named account holder in your household and:
- hold a current Centrelink issued concession card (Pensioner Card / Health Care Card / DVA Gold Card) or
- be on a low income in line with Centrelink benefits.
You must also have experienced:
- a substantial decrease in your household income (e.g. loss / reduction of employment, family separation) or
- unexpected expenses for essential items (e.g. car repairs, replaced / repaired a fridge) or
- cost of housing is 30% or more of your fortnightly combined household income (private rental or mortgage)
The Victorian Government offers a variety of concessions and benefits to eligible cardholders to assist low-income Victorians with energy bills. If you have a relevant concession card, you may be eligible for one of these concessions:
- Annual electricity concession – you must provide your concession card details to your electricity retailer in order to receive the annual electricity concession
- Excess electricity concession – find out what you can do when your annual electricity costs are more than you expected
- Excess gas concession – if your winter gas bill more than you expected, you may be able to claim a concession if you have a relevant concession card
- Life support concession – if you are a concession card holder using a life support machine at home you could be eligible for concessions on your electricity and water bills
- Medical cooling concession – to receive a concession on electricity bills related to medically-required cooling, your medical condition must be confirmed by your doctor
- Non-mains energy concession – concession card holders who source non-mains energy for their heating, cooking and hot water can apply for a concession to help cover their yearly energy costs
- Winter gas concession – discounts on gas bills are available for eligible concession cardholders to help ease the cost of living during the winter months.
Solar Homes package
Solar Victoria is continuing with its Solar Homes package which is meant to help Victorians reduce their energy bills in a sustainable manner with the aid of solar panels, solar hot water heaters and solar batteries. The program is targeting 770,000 homes over the next 10 years.
There is a substantial solar panel rebate available, interest-free loans for solar PV, solar battery rebate and solar for rental properties, visit Solar Victoria for more information.
A word of warning: if you are considering getting solar – get professional advice – not just a salesperson
Victoria’s solar rebate scheme has been capped to about 3000 homes a month from 1st of July, in a revamped, first-in best-dressed system that will also be available to renters for the first time. Each month, a total of 3333 rebates for rooftop solar panels will be available through an online portal for homeowners, while 166 will be available for landlords and renters. Once those subsidies are exhausted, homeowners and renters will have to wait until the next month to apply for a rebate.
The rebate amount and conditions will remain the same until December 31 this year – up to $2225 is available to households with a combined income of below $180,000. The maximum rebate amount will drop to $1888 from January 1, and again to $1850 for the 2020-21 financial year. The rollout from July 1 will cover close to 40,000 rooftop solar systems over the next year. In addition, 2000 rebates will be available for solar panels on rental properties over the year, 6000 for solar hot water systems and 1000 for solar battery systems.
Energy Conservation and efficiency
The following energy management practices can go a long way in reducing energy costs:
- Switching off electrical and gas appliances when you are not using them.
- Switching to Energy-efficient technologies (light globes, dishwashers, washing machine, dryer, heating & cooling units etc.).
- Reducing the costs of heating and cooling by keeping doors and curtains closed
- Selecting the shortest appropriate washing cycle and utilize natural drying
- Make sure the fridge door seal is tight and that no gaps or cracks let cold air escape.
- Efficient cooking habits
- Efficient home designs
For websites on how to save money:
Knowing your rights – stronger protections for consumers
There is now a new Energy Commissioner who will be monitoring retailers – if you have a complaint contact the Energy Water Ombudsman of Victoria in the first instance and call 1800 500 509 or email
Or write to:
Reply Paid 469
Melbourne VIC 8060
(letters in Braille are accepted)
Do you live in a retirement village or residential part or apartments? You may be on an Embedded Network. If you are on an Embedded Network, you can find out if your provider is registered with EWOV. Organize a resident’s meeting to call for your provider to join EWOV – that way they can investigate issues or complaints you may have about billing or services.
Best Offer – The ‘best offer’ must be the lowest cost of a generally available plan or VDO that best meets your individual circumstances
Market offer – a contract with an electricity retailer that lasts a set amount of time. These offers from the energy retailer may include discounts, fixed price periods or other arrangements price/offer that are meant to be cheaper and more competitive.
Standing Offer – price one used to end up on upon (for example) moving house or for whatever reason don’t or can’t ‘choose’ a market offer.
Victorian Default Offer (VDO) It’s an independent, ‘fair’, priced electricity offer that you can switch to, or use to check if you’re getting value for money on your electricity. This has replaced flat standing offers.
Embedded network – An embedded network is a private electricity network that supplies homes or businesses within a specific area – such as an apartment building, shopping Centre, caravan park or retirement village. Embedded networks are connected to the wider electricity network. Usually, the embedded network operator buys electricity in bulk from this connection, and then on-sells it to customers inside the embedded network, though there may be other arrangements too.