Time-of-Use tariffs and smarts meters in SA homes

Just when we thought the energy sector couldn’t be more confusing – let us introduce you to smart meters and Time-of-Use (ToU) tariffs. 

Smart meters 

From 1 December 2017, all new, replacement or upgraded meters in South Australia have been digital smart meters. They:

  • are owned by your energy retailer, not SA Power Networks (SAPN).
  • record and send energy use data to your retailer every 30 minutes.
  • provide accurate bills and meter readings.

Time-of-Use tariffs

Currently, most households are on what’s called a flat tariff for general electricity use (lights and appliances plugged into the house). They are charged one price to buy energy from the grid (cents per kWh). Homes with electric storage hot water systems over 125l may also be on a controlled load tariff, a cheaper rate to heat water overnight.

This will likely change, and over coming months and years as smart meters are installed, most South Australian homes will be put on a Time-of-Use (ToU) tariff.

  • Electricity retailers (such as AGL, Origin, Simply Energy etc) must now pay a Time of Use tariff for electricity distribution services (ie SA Power Networks poles and wires) for their customers with digital smart meters.
  • Energy retailers can collect tariffs from their customers in various ways, but are likely to put their smart meter customers on a ToU tariff.
  • A fixed daily supply charge will continue, around 70 to 120 cents per day.
  • Energy use charges will be different through the 24-hour period.
  • Peak pricing applies for the majority of the day i.e. typically 6-10am and 3pm-1am. Peak pricing might be higher than the retailer’s flat rate price.
  • Off-peak pricing applies typically 1am-6am. This tends to be lower than peak price, but more expensive than the shoulder price.
  • Shoulder or solar sponge pricing applies during maximum solar output, typically 10am-3pm. Prices at this time might be the cheapest of all ToU prices.

The cheapest electricity will be while the sun is shining. This is because there is so much rooftop solar in SA, and this ‘free’ electricity is being fed into the power grid. 

*Some retailers may have different pricing times. For example, their peak times may be shorter – but they may make up for this by having slightly higher off-peak and shoulder rates. 

Community and financial workers

This visual explainer can help communicate pricing difference over 24 hours. It is especially helpful for people with low-literacy and low-English.

Click here to download a detailed version of the visual explainer to help communicate this change to your clients and customers.

How can you benefit from ToU tariffs

Time-of-Use tariffs may save you money if you are at home during the day. Maybe you work from home, or spend most of your time at home during the day. You will be able to use less electricity during the expensive morning and evening periods and more electricity during the cheaper bright sunlight hours of the day.

You may also benefit if you have a home battery or electric car that can store energy from your rooftop solar system, for use in higher cost tariff periods.

Sometimes referred to as ‘load shifting‘, this is a behaviour many households with rooftop solar installed after 2011 (with a lower feed in tariff or FiT) will be used too. It refers to moving your major energy-using activities to the cheaper periods.

  • If you’re not at home, use delay start on dishwasher, washing machine and other appliances.
  • Use a slow cooker for dinner during the day, instead of the oven at night.
  • You may also be able to heat or cool your house during the cheaper periods, if your house is well sealed and insulated and retains its ‘warmth’ or ‘cool’ into the evening.

Measuring and monitoring your energy use.

  • You will be able to monitor your energy use through an app. This should be in 30-minute intervals, and you can view graphs and other useful tools, seeing your energy use throughout a 24-hour period, over weeks and months.
  • Seeing where your energy use peaks can be helpful to change habits and save money. Do you turn your air-con or heater on when you get home from work? Does your oven use a lot of energy when you cook in the evening?

What to look out for

ConnectEd staff are seeing many customers switched over to a digital smart meter with very poor communication from their retailer. A letter or email may come from your retailer mentioning a digital meter and that you may be switched to a new tariff in the future. This language means smart meter and Time-of-Use tariff.

In many cases the wording is vague and it is not clear what impact this change will have on the customers plan and bill in the future.

Changes to your bill

On your bill, you will see a changes to the ‘charges’. Instead of a peak meter and controlled load (if applicable) you will see peak, off-peak and shoulder rates, and controlled load as a flat tariff (we expect).

As an example, this is the pricing breakdown for AGL’s Residential Standing Offer rates, for Time of Use and controlled load, for South Australian customers. Sourced from the Energy Made Easy website July 2022.

Note the colour difference here between our visual explainer and this graph for off-peak and shoulder rates.

Smart meter roll out

At June 2022, 30% of SA households had been fitted with a smart meter.

The SA Government have indicated they want to accelerate the roll out of smart meters but have not yet decided on the process to achieve this or the exact timing.

Get the best deal

  • Visit Energy Made Easy to compare plans and find the best one for you.
    Over time, retailers will offer more ToU retail offers as they become the common tariff structure in the market.
  • Use electricity during the day (10am to 3pm) where possible.
  • Make sure your retailer is applying an energy concession, if you are eligible. Follow this link for eligibility criteria and how to apply.
  • If you are eligible for an energy concessions payment, the Origin Concession Discount Offer may be the best deal for you, especially if you do not have solar panels. It offers 21% discount of both supply (daily) and usage components of the bill.

Resources and further reading

Time of use tariffs, Department of Energy and Mining website.

Smart meters, SA Government website.

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