Affordable Electricity – A Fading Dream?

As we slowly risk becoming de-industrialised as effective, efficient and cheap energy sources are supplanted with the complete opposite, we now have to deal with an energy market that treats every customer with utter disdain. Energy providers are like banks, where they assume that existing customers will simply remain as customers because it’s too difficult to go looking for change. In many cases that may well be true, especially with the way banks provide information and when you’re often committed to credit card accounts, loans etc where to change means having to amend numerous payment accounts and experience other difficulties. Even the regular credit card replacement involves some angst as you sort through the necessary changes. When it comes to utilities, it’s a ‘little’ easier as you’re only transferring from one supplier to another and not changing your bank account, but that doesn’t mean it’s painless.

Electricity Provider Satisfaction - 11 Largest - (source: Roy Morgan)

Electricity Provider Satisfaction – 11 Largest – (source: Roy Morgan)

With no thought or care whatsoever to the consequences of their policy decisions, governments have also created more problems than they have solved (nothing unusual here). A simple example is the implementation of ‘Smart Meters‘ in Victoria. These were supposed to be the panacea to all ailments associated with the supply of electricity to households. Smart meters would enable householders to ‘easily’ monitor their power usage to ‘better’ manage their bills and even change suppliers, or so went the mantra. To have this wonderful new technology, we had to pay for these meters before they were even installed, which was another protracted affair. However, as it turned out, few could actually monitor their electricity usage because the technology wasn’t available to do so and took a long time when it did come to the few. We are still unable to view our electricity usage in real time because the supporting technology isn’t available.

Smart Meters - (source: Victorian Energy Saver)

Smart Meters – (source: Victorian Energy Saver)

And to add insult to injury, these ‘Smart Meters’ turn out not to be so smart after all. With a recent example arising when we changed electricity suppliers and wanted a specific plan, but could not get it. Our ‘Smart Meter’ is apparently locked in to just one plan, that being peak and off-peak and it cannot provide any other power plan option without physical intervention by the energy distributor, at a cost of around $260 or more. Doing so once again locks the meter into one plan. So, basically, these meters are little better than the old mechanical meters in all respects other than that they can report electricity usage to the distributor, but not the consumer. But for some reason, ours still has to be physically read before each bill is produced.

Dumb Meter vs Smart Meter - No Difference

Dumb Meter vs Smart Meter – No Difference

The thing with our energy supply is how the government has created an environment that ostensibly allows electricity providers to treat the consumer with utter disdain and, more recently, it’s been revealed that energy suppliers are basically unethical in the way that they operate. Who would have guessed?

The former head of EnergyAustralia’s retail arm says the energy industry has reached a tipping point and company behaviour is at an all-time low as the industry tries to rebuild the perception of electricity retailers.

“Major retailers have spent 15 years defending their indefensible behaviour and now they’re trying to have ethical energy retailing in Australia,” said Adrian Merrick, who is now the chief executive of electricity retailer Energy Locals.

“It’s pretty bad at the moment.”

Mr Merrick dismissed retailer discounts on…prices as smoke and mirrors, saying it was designed to confuse customers and had little basis in reality.

“Customers who engage in the market are presented with a bewildering array of offers, the discounting game has little relationship to what the market is actually willing to pay. Discounts based off a number that retailers can invent are making them highly conditional,” Mr Merrick said.

Power bill discounts don’t always save consumers as much as they think they do.

And as I first posted a number of years ago and then more recently, something that I’ve been updating fairly regularly, I was skeptical about renewable energy back then and have become quite opposed to it as things have progressed. There are two things that have caused me to vehemently oppose renewable energy; the first is the ever increasing costs and the second is the fact that an essential service has now become a plaything of the corporate environment. We are ostensibly held hostage to bankers, financiers, globalists and every organisation that can put their fingers into the energy pie and screw every working person that they can; with generous and eager government assistance. Little wonder our electricity prices have skyrocketed in the last 20 years with no end in sight to the ever increasing prices.

Australia's Household Electricity Prices (a true Hockey Stick) 1997-2017 - (source: The Wentworth Report)

Australia’s Household Electricity Prices (a true Hockey Stick) 1997-2017 – (source: The Wentworth Report)

Australia's Household Electricity Prices (a true Hockey Stick) 1997-2017 - (source: The Grattan Institute)

Australia’s Household Electricity Prices (a true Hockey Stick) 1997-2017 – (source: The Grattan Institute)

The Global Warming Gravy Train - (source: JoNova)

The Global Warming Gravy Train – (source: JoNova)

I really think it’s about time that we perhaps had a Royal Commission into electricity supply and pricing, like we now have for banks and which is revealing much of what people always thought and a lot more about the business practices of banks. The electricity industry has everyone by the short and curlies, so at what point is this whole boondoggle going to be critically analysed for what it truly represents? As a matter of interest, I contacted the Victorian government about this issue with meters and received a reply that my email had been received and I’d be contacted on the matter. I’ve heard nothing but crickets since then.

Footnote: As an illustration of how poorly these energy companies perform, my current account with our supplier AGL was up for renewal and thus began a frustrating journey. Their renewal notice had reduced the existing discount considerably and no matter how many times I tried to contact them, I was always disconnected as soon as I managed to get through and explained the situation. I sent an email to them letting them know I was moving and still they made only a token effort to contact me, hanging up every time I answered their call. So three weeks after I had already changed suppliers, late at night, I received a text message making a special offer to entice me to stay (I didn’t bother as I’d moved on). Then I received a phone call the next day trying to get me to go back and offering a deal that sounded too good to be true, so good that I declined. And they wonder why people are dissatisfied.

Update 1. After posting this story this morning, late this afternoon I received an email from DELWP Victoria, explaining the situation. It certainly is somewhat different to what Lumo stated. The full response is as follows:

Thank you for your enquiry to the Customer Service Centre. I apologise for the delay in responding.

Many charges made by an electricity distributor such as AusNet Services are regulated by the Australian Energy Regulator.
One of these is the charge to remotely reconfigure a smart meter, as would be required to move from a time of use tariff to a flat tariff.
The charge for this service by AusNet Services in 2018 is $28.90 (excluding GST), significantly different from Lumo’s quoted charge. [ed: Lumo is our new provider]
Retailer charges are not regulated and so customers are encouraged to shop around to get the best price.

The meter reconfiguration charge is shown in the attached link to the AusNet Services pricing schedule:
https://www.ausnetservices.com.au/-/media/Files/AusNet/About-Us/Network-Tariffs/Electricity/Alternative-Control-Services-Schedule.ashx?la=en

If you have not already done so, I suggest looking at the independent government website Victorian Energy Compare. By using your actual consumption data you can see many offers for a range of tariff types. Once you have registered, your household’s actual consumption data can be easily downloaded from the updated AusNet Services’ smart meter data portal: www.myhomeenergy.com.au, which I find is useful in helping manage my electricity consumption and bills.

On 22 April 2018, the Victorian Government announced that the 2018/19 Victorian Budget will invest $48 million in the Power Saving Bonus. The Power Saving Bonus will provide all Victorian households a $50 bonus if they seek out a better energy deal on the Victorian Government’s Victorian Energy Compare website between 1 July and 31 December 2018.

The initiative is aimed not only at increasing awareness of the Victorian Energy Compare website, but also at increasing consumer awareness and engagement with Victoria’s competitive energy market, which can lead to significant savings for Victorian energy consumers.

Victorian Energy Compare lets Victorians enter data online from their smart meter or power bill to find the best electricity, gas or solar offer. It is the only independent price comparison tool that has all generally available electricity, gas and solar offers on the market.

Seven out of ten people can save money by using the Victorian Energy Compare website, with typical annual household savings of $330 on energy bills in the first year alone. Victorian Energy Compare can be found at www.victorianenergycompare.vic.gov.au.

To be eligible for the $50 bonus, households will have to use Victorian Energy Compare between 1 July and 31 December 2018. There will be only one bonus per household, and households are not required to take up an offer or switch plans.

The Victorian Government will release information on how to register and receive the bonus on the Victorian Energy Compare and Victorian Energy Saver websites closer to 1 July 2018.

If you are dissatisfied with the standard of service that Lumo has provided, you may lodge a complaint with the Energy and Water Ombudsman Victoria (EWOV). EWOV has the power to independently investigate and facilitate the resolution of customer complaints. EWOV can be contacted on 1800 500 509 and further information is available at www.ewov.com.au.

I trust this information is of assistance.

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