Those Dreaded Energy Bills!

I just received my latest energy bills, one for electricity and one for natural gas.  However before I reveal all, I have a little story.

A friend recently posted on her Facebook page her latest power bill with a bit of a whinge about the price of electricity.  Her’s was modest, so she asked others what their last bill was.  There were some that were below $200 and some as high as $1200 for a quarter.  I was shocked when Kim showed me, as they were blaming everything from the carbon tax (which is yet to start in July, so has no effect yet), to greedy energy companies, and I even saw one person blame those who have installed solar PV on their roofs and the GreenPower scheme!  Not one single person took accountability for their own actions and had tried to conserve electricity through energy efficiency.

I was not surprised about the blame mentality, seeing that the media has been on a bit of a rampage of misinformation lately regarding high electricity prices.  The main reason behind the rising cost of our electricity is that the power distributors are having to replace aging grid infrastructure and expand it for the rapidly rising demand from the residential sector.

In April 2012, the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) in NSW released their draft report on changes to regulated electricity prices.  The report forecasts an average 16.4% increase in NSW electricity prices as of July 1 2012.  Most other states are predicting similar annual increases.
The report names the predominant drivers for the cost increases as Network costs, Retailer costs & Carbon pricing.  Their report takes into account the Clean Future legislation that comes into effect on July 1st.  The graphic from the report makes it a lot clearer.  

Interestingly you can see that ‘Green Scheme’s’ which encompass various wind and solar programs were shown to have little or no impact on electricity increases. In fact electricity generation costs had dropped by 2% which some people attribute to the “merit order effect” from the growing volume of solar installations which are starting to influence lower wholesale electricity costs.  See, solar is not the culprit for higher prices, but a contributor to lowering the price.

As for the network costs, did you know that for every $1000 split system air-conditioner a home owner installs, our power distributors have to spend another $7000 in infrastructure, a cost that they pass right back on to the retailers and therefore the consumer.

Currently the carbon price does not have an effect until 1st July, so cannot be blamed for the current high prices.  After July, the carbon price is expected to give a 9% increase, however the majority of Australians will be compensated via the scheme, which will more than likely over compensate for the cost increase effect on electricity prices.  You can check what effect the carbon price will have on your household budget at the Clean Energy Future website.

Now I have a simple solution for all of this, and that is to use less.  Not that hard really, and I have been doing and writing about it for years.  So on to my bill for the quarter.

As we are fairly energy efficient, we are currently hovering around 12 kWh per day.  The swimming pool and air conditioning for Kim for this quarter has pushed up the average a bit, but it will go down now we are nearly in winter.  Since we applied for the Premium feed-in tariff, we have been in credit ever since.

This bill is nothing to whinge about and will be the highest for the entire year due to summer.

Yes, that is $223.38 in credit.  We used 1152 kWh from the grid in 93 days, and generated 476.4 kWh.  Like I mentioned, we could have used less, but for air-con and the pool pump.

Now for the natural gas bill.  The price of natural gas has risen as well, and our bills had been quite high.
This bill is for two months usage.  Our retailer has dropped the network fee, and added it into the per MJ cost.

Thankfully is has gone down dramatically.  Have a look at the graph below, and I will explain why.

Our solar hot water service had broke around June last year (we think).  As I wasn’t monitoring the bills I didn’t notice the baseline rise in energy usage.  Yes, I should have been watching the bills, but Kim is the one that pays them, so I just thought they were as low as they usually were.  However, due to the broken solar hot water service, all of our hot water was using natural gas to heat it.  The solar hot water systems was fixed back in January after two months of service calls, where they didn’t really know what was wrong, even though the initial fault was a burnt out pump, they had to replace every electrical component.  The control board was stuffed, as were the two sensors on the tank and the panel.

So you can see on the graph that since it was fixed our gas bills have fallen dramatically, and our daily average is back where it should be!  Our usage is now mainly for cooking.

In summary, if you switch solar for electricity and hot water and do away with fossil fuels, you should never have issues with energy bills again and you will reduce your green house gas emissions.  The only thing you then need to keep an eye on is your own usage, which makes all the difference.

Got to love the Sun!  


  1. says

    Not sure if I have commented here before, but would just like to say that both my husband and I regularly refer to the information you have here – we find it very useful and informative – so big thanks!

    I have been working steadily to try and get our power bill down. Our family of 6 use a lot less than our neighbours (theirs are in the vacinity of $800 – $1000 per qtr and our last one was $112 with pool pump and CR from 1.5kW solar system), but our bills are due to go up 19% here in July and any costs we can save the better! Our last bill said we are avg 14kW hrs per day (that is with summer pool pump hours)and that is down from the last bill, but I enjoy finding new and interesting ways to turn things off! I think I maybe going a bit looney! This qtr we have purchased these nifty little devices that plug into your power socket which you then plug your appliances into, and can then set them for 30min, 3hrs, 6hrs when it will cut off all power (no standby) after that time. Ideal for phone chargers used over night and electric toothbrushes. I am also now turning off washing machines, oven, modem as well as any other powerpoint I can find. We (well OK me!) are also about to shut down the garage beer fridge over winter. I even attempted to hold a first ‘family meeting’ about turning lights off – my kids range from 2 – 7yo so you can imagine how well that went down! I hope it makes a difference :) Its amazing what sucks the power when you really look.

    • says

      Well done, sounds like you are well on your way to being as energy efficient as you possibly can. You will notice a big difference when you turn off the beer fridge!


  2. says

    Hi Gavin
    I noticed you had quite a lot of repairs to do to your solar hot water. How do the repair costs factor in to your calculations? At our last house we had solar hot water with instant gas back up but had several big repair bills which I felt cancelled out any gain we had. So at this house we have just gone with solar power and happy to use the gas for instant hot water. Most of the bill is supply charge anyway. Sue

    • says

      Hi Sue, the cost of the repairs were around $600, which I did not initially take into account. However as we have owned it now for over 6 years, and adding on the repair cost, it still paid itself off in gas savings in just under 4 years. Hopefully it will keep working this time!


  3. says

    That illustration is excellent.

    Our use is between 10/12 kwh per day for a Family of 6. I am really wanting to get that into single digit figures but just falling short. Unfortunately due to direction, space and neighbouring trees, we can only get up a 1.5kw system atm, and it’s functioning at just under it’s maximum capacity. So we get a credit but aren’t IN credit, if that makes sense. Effectively we get a ‘discount’ on each bill – which is still better than a kick in the rear :)

    I am really keen to find out when (one day) we get our solar oven, how much difference that makes as we bake a LOT.

    Cheers for the post, Gavin.

    • says

      Solar Oven are great. I don’t use mine anyway near as much as I should but I have made a few different types, taught a few classes on how to make them and even cooked a boneless lamb roast in mine. It didn’t have the high temperature glaze but it was so tender, and even the sceptics had a (surprised) smile on their faces at the end of the meal.


  4. says

    We are fortunate enough to have had no electricity bill to pay for several months. We are only about $7 in credit but our credit paid the gas bill before last as well as the electricity. Not bad for the smallest solar power system. I think it’s a 1.5kw.
    It’s paying for itself so I’m happy.

    • says

      Yes Sebastian, it is refreshing that my energy retailer actually rolls over the credit. It never gets cancelled out, and keeps building up. Just love it!


    • says

      I just realised Gav, that when you are in the market for a new water heater or gas appliance, you could purchase it through the energy company and use the solar credits to pay it off.

    • says

      that’s a very cool idea. :) Otherwise, I know several people here (WA) who just ring and request payment of the in-credit amount. Of course, in this technological age the credit payment comes by CHEQUE lol but hey, it gets there and it’s really worth it.

  5. says

    The average price increase due to the carbon price is projected to be 8.5% or about 2.3 cents per kilowatt hour. Note, it is a bit different in different states.

    So with my average usage of around 12kWh/day that works out to about $0.27/day ($1.90/week) or $25/quarter. Not such a big deal after all.

    With the compensation I’ll probably end up in front. So much for the doom and gloom brigade.


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