Take the steps to avoid estimated electricity bills

Ain't no sunshine: Phil Crocket was shocked to see that his new solar panels had not affected his electricity bill, until he looked a little closer. Photo: Gareth Gardner 150617
Ain't no sunshine: Phil Crocket was shocked to see that his new solar panels had not affected his electricity bill, until he looked a little closer. Photo: Gareth Gardner 150617

Electricity prices are expected to soar yet again next financial year, putting even more Australian families under pressure.

A week after the country’s third biggest energy provider, AGL, announced a 16.1 per cent annual increase in power, and a 9.3 per cent rise in gas prices starting July 1, Australian households are being reminded to check their bills.

Recently South Tamworth resident Phil Crocket got an unexpected surprise when he received an electricity bill that was above and beyond what he thought it should have been.

“The companies are supposed to read the meter every three months, although, coincidentally, a day after our last reading we had solar panels installed,” Mr Crocket said. “Normally we pay the bills on face value, paying whatever it says on the first page, I didn’t really have any interest in the graphs and usage charts on the other pages, but this time I wanted to check how a full quarter of solar assistance had affected the bill.” 

To Mr Crocket’s shock he discovered that the solar had had no impact, until he called the company and realised that the bill had been an estimate.

“I have had the same Essential Energy lock on my meter for 27 years, but this time they said the meter reader didn’t have the master key because they said my lock was out of date, and then got told that it was worn out,” Mr Crocket said.

“I was persuaded to buy a new lock for $65, before being told by that my original lock was fine, so I sent the new one back. I think that if a bill is an estimation it should be stamped across the front page, not in brackets on the second page.” 

While Mr Crocket will have to wait three months to see how effective his solar installation is, and to get any extra money he paid taken off his next bill, Essential Energy is reminding people to make sure that they have full access to household meters.

“Under legislation, Essential Energy can report an estimated meter read based on historical seasonal electricity consumption if meter readers are unable to physically read the meter due to access issues,” a spokesperson said. “On average only 3.5 per cent of Essential Energy’s 840,000 customers receive estimated meter reads.”

“It is the customer’s responsibility to ensure meter readers have safe and unobstructed access to electricity meters in order to read, test or maintain the equipment.”