How to find the best electricity deal for solar
There’s a wealth of information online about how to go about getting the right solar set up. But not much written about what to look for when shopping for the electricity plan that will maximise your solar savings. In this article, I’ll unpack the essential considerations for solar owners that are serious about finding the best electricity deal for solar.Then I’ll share two important questions that ensure the style of plan selected will work for you.
Of course, generating your own electricity means you’ll have much smaller bills while enjoying greater independence. Some may even be receiving a regular cheque. But that doesn’t mean that solar owners are immune from the many dud deals out there. Choosing the right retailer and plan for your situation could save you hundreds of dollars.
The formula to get it right
Electricity retailers have made comparing offers a complicated science. Add solar into the mix and there are even more variables. Many retailers focus on big discounts or pumped up feed-in tariffs to distract solar owners from investigating inflated pricing on the rest of the deal. Or a bunch of tricky conditions. So how can you be confident you’ve got it right? Conduct an independent and thorough comparison. This way you can compare side-by-side the total cost for your unique usage and solar export when applied to each deals pricing, discounts, feed-in tariffs, restrictions and conditions. WATTever’s comprehensive electricity comparison does just this to support solar owners find the cheapest deal for their situation. Here’s what to look for;
Compare the whole market
It goes without saying that shopping around and actively checking a broad range of offers is essential to find the best electricity deal for solar. Why wouldn’t you want to know what every retailer had to offer? It’s a philosophy that WATTever lives by. We compare every retailer and every publicly listed residential and small business plan. Making it simple to review all the retailers in one place.
Compare based on your energy use and solar export
Accurate inputs give you an accurate costing. We recommend inputting your specific usage and solar export to provide you with the best view. We ask more questions than other comparison services, so we can provide solar owners with a more complete estimate, reflecting their tariff type, solar PV size, if they have premium feed-in tariffs, if they are eligible for concessions and more. After all, there’s no point wasting time on plans with eligibility criteria that don’t match your situation.
If you’ve recently installed solar or are thinking of installing solar then WATTever’s Add Solar Calculator will rank solar plans for your situation. It’s a great tool if you don’t yet know how energy much you’ll export or self-consume. The calculator uses average PV WATTs generated by households in your state and allows you to dial up system size and choose the level of self-consumption. As a result, you’ll see solar plans that work best for you.
Value your solar properly
To get it right you’ll want to select the plan that will provide you with the lowest bill. It’s important to state that this is not necessarily the plan with the biggest feed-in tariff. Sure, plans with comparatively high feed-in rates attract a lot of attention. However, you’ll soon discover that big feed-in tariffs often come with some rather special pricing for solar owners; like much higher daily supply charges, inflated energy usage costs and a bunch of limits on what they’ll pay for your solar. It’s all part of the retailers pricing games.
WATTever calculates the total cost for your situation, factoring usage and daily supply charges for your usage plus feed-in tariffs for the level of solar export. Making it easy to check whether that big feed-in tariff plan will really leave you better off. To see the value of your exports on any plan, rollover the dollar amount on the results page!
Get more from a Premium FIT
If you currently receive a state government premium feed-in tariff, you’ll want to see this included the calculation. (Sorry, these schemes are now closed to new customers). Be aware that while some retailers add their own feed-in tariff on top – others don’t.
Make your concessions count
If you are eligible for a concession, you’ll find that not all retailers deduct your concession the same way. There is a difference to what you’ll pay if they apply the discounts before or after concession or solar feed-in tariffs are deducted. On higher discount plans, applying your concessions AFTER the discount will give you a lower bill. So, it’s worthwhile inputting your concessions into our comparison to see how this could affect the plan ranking.
Check the fine print on solar plans!
You’ll discover some unique fine print on electricity plans around solar. When you use our comparison, we ask a question about the size of your solar set up to ensure we only display solar plans that are available for your situation. Some plans have limits on solar exports. We factor this into the cost calculation for these plans. You can quickly check the conditions on the plans details page. Here are three conditions that come up a lot, that savvy shoppers should be aware of.
1. PV system size limits.
Some plans restrict the size of systems which are eligible. If you have a system over 5kW or 10kW then this can be an issue. We do get asked what might happen if a customer understates their system size when applying to the retailer, so they can qualify for a plan. The thing to remember is, retailers have access to data held by the network that registers the size and details of the PV system at your address. The retailer can reject your application at the outset. Or, you may find your bill adjusted down the track – bumping you to an eligible plan with an adjustment in the retailer’s favour. Big export levels that are unfeasible for an eligible PV size may just trigger the retailer to verify things.
2. Export limits and declining feed-in tariffs.
The plans offered by some retailers have a cap on the amount of solar export they’ll pay you for. This can be a daily limit or an annual limit. After this, you will receive a lower feed-in tariff or nothing at all. Some big feed-in tariff plans feature this condition. This is a real problem if you are exporting a lot of power and are banking on getting paid for all of it. Other plans offer a high feed-in rate for the benefit period. All in all, these are conditions that should be checked out.
3. Exclusive rates for Retailer installed systems.
In the conditions of some plans, you’ll find the requirement to have a Retailer installed system in order to receive their gigantic feed-in tariff. So, unless you had Origin Energy install your solar set up, you won’t be eligible to sign up to their Solar Boost Plus plan. If only we had a dollar for every time someone asked about this one.
Mind the exit and miscellaneous charges
One practice we have seen is retailers holding on to solar credits from departing customers. If you’ve built up a big credit balance with a retailer – you’ll want to actively manage this, before you switch.
Thankfully, general exit fees are on the way out. Many retailers don’t charge them. Or typically, they are small. However, plan fees and charges for credit cards and paper bills can add up over time.
Values and Value
As a solar owner, you might consider the values of a retailer. Are they a progressive company actively supporting renewables? How do they treat solar customers? The Green Electricity Guide developed by Greenpeace and The Total Environment Centre is a simple rating system that cuts through the greenwash. It ranks retailers support of renewables and renewable customers. You’ll find Green Electricity Guide star ratings on our comparison.
With a battery in your solar set up, you can generate further savings (or even income). There is an added opportunity selecting plans where electricity can be bought from the grid and then sold back at a higher price by managing your import and export. Our Solar Arbitrage article includes a list of current plans that can support this strategy. Plus, an outline of how the strategy works.
Two question to ask when choosing your plan
There are two questions you’ll want to answer to ensure the style of plan you select is going to be best for you. There’s genuinely no right or wrong answer. There’s lots of choice and good deals whatever your response. However, if you choose a plan thinking you’ll do one thing and then end up doing the opposite, it won’t work out so well. Here are two essential questions that you’ll want to consider.
1. Am I committed to switching every year?
Many of the cheapest plans going around have a benefit period of one to two years. After this time, the plan’s benefits expire and you’ll find yourself paying a whole lot more. For this reason, it’s important that you switch or re-negotiate. For disciplined deal chasers this approach works. If you’d like a hand to monitor your plan and the market our free Deal Tracker service is a great tool to keep on top of things.
However, if you’d rather find a fair deal and stick with a retailer, then it’s important to select a plan that offers ongoing discounts – or low rates with no discount. You’ll find yourself in a better position in two or three years, than someone who grabbed the hottest honeymoon deal but didn’t move on before the benefit period expired and their bills increased. To make it easy to see all your options – you can select ‘ongoing’ discounts on plan results page to filter for these plans. You can also select a ‘three-year’ view on the same page – to see how plans work out over the longer term. You’ll discover there are competitive plans that offer low ongoing rates.
2. Can I meet the payment conditions on the plan?
If plan has a pay on time discount, then you’ll need to pay your bill by the due date or you’ll be paying a whole lot more. If you know you miss bills for whatever reason, don’t panic. There are plenty of very competitive offers that don’t come with conditional pay-on-time discounts. To see these, you can filter by discount type on WATTever’s comparison.
The negotiation table
You can ask your retailer to put you on their best deal. Just make sure it’s worth going there. Retailers have some discretion to respond to customers that ask to have their current plan match competitive offers. They can offer improved discount rates and, in some cases, we’re seeing retailers offering special solar feed-in tariffs.
Sunny days ahead
When you know the things to watch for, then you can be confident of finding the electricity plan that’s right for your solar set up. The good news is there are a number of established and newer retailers that are making serious efforts to better serve solar customers. If their plans stack up for you, then switching to a new retailer is straightforward and stress-free.