What can we do to become more empowered consumers, actively engaging with our energy usage and the energy debate?

What’s the Problem?

The energy debate is full of jargons and acronyms, such as the Renewable Energy Target (RET) and the National Energy Market (NEM). What does “clean coal” actually mean and why is the Finkel Review such a big deal? Are our electricity prices increasing because of distribution costs like poles and wires, the transition to greener energy sources, or is it just due to profiteering by energy retailers?

There are also many different goals for Australia’s energy policy, which are often in conflict with one another:

  • Reducing emissions
  • Keeping up with global commitments
  • Increasing reliability of energy
  • Keeping energy affordable for everyone.

With such an information overload, it is no wonder that many of us feel that we have no control over our electricity bills and disengaged with the solutions to the problem. To make matters worse, unlike rent or mortgage payments which are regular fortnightly or monthly costs, electricity bills come to us quarterly and many households experience ‘bill shock’, often wondering why bills are higher than expected. Recent research also shows that despite the plethora of choice, many households are not shopping around for the best offers and are therefore likely to be paying 15-20 per cent more than necessary for their electricity and gas.

Low-income and disadvantaged households have the highest barriers to engagement. Understanding and being engaged with the energy debate often requires time and energy, resources that many disadvantaged households might not have as they are already facing multiple stressors. Moreover, renters are often not in a position to take actions such as energy efficiency upgrades or the installation of solar because they do have the authority nor means to do so.

The good news is that there has never been a better time to take action and get in control of your energy usage and bill. As energy companies face government pressure to point customers to available discounts, they are being forced to step up and offer you a better deal.

What are your ideas on how we can be more empowered to engage with our energy usage?

Key Facts

  • Understanding the building blocks that comprise our electricity bills can help us better understand where costs are coming from and where future cost reductions can be made. A typical bill will come from:
    • Network costs (45 per cent)
    • Wholesale costs/production (23 per cent)
    • Retailer controlled costs (16 per cent)
    • GST (10 per cent)
    • RET, other state-based tariffs (8 per cent)

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