Which Australian States Have The Cheapest Electricity?

It's Power Week here at Gizmodo Australia, where we'll look at the basics of the juice that runs all our highly prized gadgets, how you can maximise it and what the future holds. First up: You can't have power week without the basics of power, but pricing remains a highly contentious issue. There's a lot of posturing regarding how much we pay for power, but how much is it on a state by state basis?

This used to be a rather fixed price monopoly situation, with most users simply using their region-based provider's power because that's all there was; with deregulation of the market it's a rather more complex situation, especially depending on your usage scenario. Still, there's no doubt that power is costly stuff, and it's not something that's likely to get cheaper any time soon.

Some providers offer a combination of power and gas. Most offer green alternatives, but most of them charge more for the privilege. Switch providers and you may get a month or two of reduced rates. Virtually nobody lists a flat "price" for power anywhere, making it an absolute minefield for consumers to wade through.

So for the purposes of comparison, I've used a number of different comparison websites to draw up a rough table; this isn't intended to be a complete definitive list, but more of a guide to expectations; nor is it an endorsement of any particular site or electricity provider. For each state, I've chosen the most basic postcode and a home environment of three bedrooms and five occupants, and taken the "average" yearly estimate from each site, both high and low.

Queensland SwitchWise: $2585-$3975 iSelect: $1658-$2162 Shoparound: $2634.44-$3637.44

New South Wales SwitchWise: $2597-$4731 iSelect: $1693-$2305 ShopAround: $2748.97-$4364.49

Victoria SwitchWise: $1889-$2816 iSelect: $1753-$2217 Shoparound: $2424.23-$3037.43

South Australia SwitchWise: $2803-$4374 iSelect: $2224-$2438 Shoparound: $2996.71-$3956.58

Tasmania SwitchWise: $3989-$4872 iSelect: Not listed Shoparound: Not listed

Western Australia SwitchWise: $2828-$3576 iSelect: Not listed Shoparound: Not listed

Northern Territory SwitchWise: No products available with those specifications (site lists estimate of $2826 - $2950) iSelect: Not listed Shoparound: Not listed

ACT SwitchWise: $2022-$3935 iSelect: Not listed Shoparound: Not listed

One obvious observation here is that iSelect either knows of much cheaper plans, or presumes on a much lower usage rate than SwitchWise or Shoparound; for what it's worth, iSelect's energy carrier list appears to be much smaller than that used by SwitchWise, even in those states where they compete head to head.

However, there does seem to be broad agreement in the figures; if you want cheap power, move to Victoria. I'm not based there, though — how do those figures match up with Victorian reality?



    Having lived in Sydney during 2011 and moved back to Melbourne start of 2012 - and without having exact figures in front of me - I immediately remember thinking how much cheaper my Q1 2012 electricity bill was than any other bill I'd received in Sydney. Similar sized houses, similar number of gadgets etc and same number of people in both households for a very rough anecdotal comparison.

    I don't find it all that surprising that electricity is cheaper in Victoria. Comparatively, it is a smaller state in Aus with a high population density and they have access to cheap-cheap-cheap brown coal. It will be interesting how their prices react to the carbon tax...

    Ok.. for the northern territory the power supplier is powerwater.com.au their is no other supplier.i


      All these LOADED stories and the like on here need to do more checking-in on the NT's rates. Angus should buy a copy of the local paper once in a while.

    How much will electricity cost when they turn on the Desal plant though?

      What are you talking about? We've already got two running. (WA)


    Considering that the only real difference between suppliers is their management of accounts, as there really is only one power supplier (at least in NSW).. I find it odd that there is such wide variability in the numbers. Since I switched from Integral to Origin (and yes, Integral are of course now Origin anyway) I've seen my bill halved. Now I don't know the reason for this because when I was with Integral I was living alone (single) and only used about 1/4 of my apartment. I had a small bar fridge, no washing machine and hardly ever used the oven. For the last 9 months I have been living with my fiancee, who is now my wife, and we now have a proper size fridge, washing machine, use the oven every day multiple times, obviously two people taking showers instead of one, usage of small appliances and laptops/computers has gone up and we actually use most of the unit now... yet the bill has been halved?? Obviously Integral were bad managers of accounts because if they effectively went out of business, where was all that money going?

      Integral didn't go out of business. The NSW government sold off the retail arms to the private sector (Origin in the case of country energy and integral) and changed the distributers names. It will be most interesting to see what happens in NSW when the retail prices are next negotiated.

    Victoria has privatised electricity generators as well. So the government got billions for the assets and we get cheaper power - sweet.

      And everyone got up in arms about doing the same in NSW; any logical reason why?

      Unfortunately you don't get a choice of distributor (the one who owns the power lines and reads the meters) so there's really no point.

      The distributor buys from the generator and then sells to the retailer. You're distributor is determined by where you live. So the retailers are still just account managers, though maybe there's some competition between generators? The distributors have no real motivation to lower prices anyway since it's not like you can switch.

      It was really sweet for those Black Saturday victims wasn't it...that was good for the state budget too right?

      The government can provide cheaper power too, instead they have incredibly high safety standards and operate in a risk averse manner (especially when it can be life threatening) which private companies don't tend to do over the long term.

      Oh and the real reason your state has cheaper power anyway is simply because your population density is over 2x that of NSW....sooo you would actually pay more if they were similar :P

        I think you will find that price is regulated nationally by the AER. They allow prices based on fair and prudent business decisions (Their words, not mine). No one can set their prices arbitrarily, it's all mandated every 5 years in an electricity distribution price reset. Victoria is cheaper because privatized companies run a more streamlined operation than their interstate government owned equivalents. As a private company you don't want too much capital tied up in redundant people.

        As far as safety is concerned, all states have very similar regulations and severe penalties for infringement.

        Population density may have some merit to the argument but you will find Victoria also has many large far removed population centers also.

        The dirt cheap coal would be a good argument if that power was exclusively sold in Victoria but it is regularly exported to nsw and Victoria also imports from nsw at times.

        All in all the privatized system is generally recognized as the most cost efficient but politics are getting in the way of rolling it out nationwide.

        I've worked in the Victorian and Western Aust electricity industry i.e. private and government, no comparison the Victorian is much safer, higher construction and safer for both employees and public. Also from what I've seen of the NSW network it appear poorly maintained and of lower construction standards. The fact that Victoria appears cheaper is amazing.
        Don't kid your self about population density being an issue as two the Victorian distribution companies operate in very sparsely populated parts of the state.
        NSW is being ripped of by a lazy over staffed fat government electricity industry.
        PS Victorian electricity workers are generally paid more, go figure................

    Yeah yeah, that's fine for all those who have a choice! There are quite a lot of us however who don't..!

    To make an actual comparison for yourself it would be best to use the governments comparison site (which I assume would actually have all the providers) rather than these commercial comparison sites. In NSW the comparison site is: www.myenergyoffers.nsw.gov.au I used this website last year when I stumbled across it and was surprised to see how much I could save to switching who billed me. I've since switched and have been super happy. TIP: don't forget to sort the results based on price, the results don't come back in any order, which seems silly, but beware to sort the results.

    I believe the Victorian website for comparison is www.yourchoice.vic.gov.au I haven't used it as I don't live in Vic. But it was listed along with the NSW comparison site on http://10percentchallenge.com.au/households-tips/10-no-cost-ways-to-save which is where I found the NSW link.

    WA also has only one provider and broker for consumers. Our baseload and peak power is provided by gas turbine generation. That, and the ineptitude of the state-owned consortium means that even though we pay more (and increases to price-per-unit per year will be much higher than the eastern seaboard) the provider is running at a loss.

    Still, Tasmania....

      Tasmania is at the mercy of Aurora the only power provider available down here. They have a regulator that sets the maximum prices they are able to charge and that is pretty much exactly where they set their prices. We get excuses like the power is from green (hydro) sources and costs more to produce and that the carbon tax means prices will have to go up by up to 19%. My problem is that Aurora Energy's power is all sourced from either wind farms or hydro electric dams. WHY WOULD THEY BE GETTING CHARGED FOR CARBON PRODUCTION? Just another day, another reaming for Tasmanians..

        Because it isn't all green power. It used to be all hydro but then demand outstripped the hydro supply so they built a coal power station. Now coal takes about 24 hours to power up and down from what I've head, while hydro you can flick a switch.So tassie went from 100% green, to a coal base load and a green peak or spike load =( quite depressing really.

          There is no coal power station in Tasmania. There is more than enough hydro power to supply the state. But it is sold so cheaply to big consumers (aluminium and zinc smelters) that the consumer has to subsidise them.

          Aurora buys cheap coal power via the basslink and sells green power to the mainland for a profit. Hydro has the capacity to supply current demand but would need to invest in alternatives for the future. You can choose to get 100% green power from them but it's really complicated.

    Funny the mention of the old "monopoly" system where people "didn't have a choice", when in actual FACT that was cheaper. ;)
    Competition doesn't equal better prices if it's a private system as opposed to a monopoly public system because the private operators are purely profit focussed, so in every way it's a worse system- providers cut corners to produce as cheaply as possible delay upgrades, don't supply as efficiently to less profitable areas, take longer to fix faults, charge in excess using all sorts of sneaky and confusing price structures. Basically any dodge you can think of and a million you can't.

      Exactly ozoneocean. When they sold off retail in NSW I couldn't believe it (and this was labor too..not the libs). Either it's running at a profit so why not keep the money ourselves for hospitals etc or lower the prices. Or it's running at a loss so why would private want it? Even worse when they sold off NSW lotteries, that was just plain madness.....let's sell the licence to print money. ALL government parties are idiots, if every member was an independent representing his electorate and country properly this place would run a lot better (and the pollies would be far more answerable to their constituents)

    Alex - as you have said, each of the three sites listed use different assumptions about what 5 occupants in a 3 bedroom house would use so it's impossible to compare them.

    At Switchwise we use different assumptions of usage across states due to differences in things like climate and natural gas penetration. For example, only approx. 9% of homes in Qld have natural gas vs 65% in Victoria so in Qld the same person would likely use more electricity than if they lived in Vic. Also, with the hotter climate in Qld you would expect much higher electricity usage for air-conditioning vs in Vic has much higher gas usage for heating in autumn/winter.

    So if you want to compare costs in each state then you should just pick one electricity usage figure and use it to calculate costs in each state. The often cited national average figure is 6470 kWh per year. On this basis the cheapest electricity plans we have in each state/territory would be as follows:
    VIC - $1360
    NSW - $1290
    QLD - $1386
    SA - $1882
    WA - $1562
    ACT - $1238
    TAS - $1931
    NT - $1406

    Note that all States will be getting price rises coming through from July whereas Vic had their rises in Jan/Feb.

    so Dodo seems cheap.
    whats their problem?

      Dodo is new to the electricity industry in Vic & NSW so extra keen to win new customers though aggressive pricing.

    As somebody who works in the electricity industry, I can testify that there is more to retailing and managing accounts than just sending a bill, but dodo haven't worked that out yet.

    Victoria is cheaper because it is the state with the lowest average electircity use. The Economic regualtor provides figures that Vic uses 6500 Kwh per person... NSW.. 6975... Qld 7820 and Tas 9055... A true comparison must look at the cost per Kwh not jsut the total cost of the bill

    Why is Tasmania's power price so high, using hydro power ?

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