If you lease an industrial or commercial property, you might be getting your electricity through an 'embedded network'.
In an embedded network, the building or site has a single connection point to the electricity grid. Electricity is then distributed to occupants using the site's internal network.
The site owner (or the building manager) owns and runs this network. They also generally bulk-buy electricity from an energy retailer and 'on-sell' this to the occupants.
Each occupant usually has a sub-meter installed to measure their energy use. The site owner will charge you for:
- the amount of electricity you use (also called the 'peak usage' or 'kilowatt-hour' charge)
- a share of the distribution charges the site owner pays to their retailer for connection to the grid (the 'supply charge')
- a share of the electricity used in the building's common areas.
Customer choice of electricity supplier
You have the right to get your electricity (the kilowatt-hour component) from the site owner or from an authorised electricity retailer of your choice. Just remember that if you get your electricity from a retailer, you may still have to pay the supply charge to the site owner.
Regional Queensland customers can choose their own electricity retailer, but only if that retailer is willing to make an offer.
Rules about accessing electricity retailers were changed on 1 December 2017 to introduce more competition in the embedded network market. Site owners have been given until 31 March 2018 to comply with the new rules.
Switching electricity suppliers
If you're thinking of switching to a retailer, here's what you should do:
- Talk with your site owner. Ask them whether your meter is suitable and about any possible technical issues. Meters installed after 1 January 2012 are likely to be suitable - if not you'll need a new meter.
- Compare electricity deals, including the offer from your current provider. Make sure you shop around for the best electricity deal.
- Talk to the electricity retailers and make sure you tell them you're in an embedded network. Ask them:
- about the cost to install a new meter, if needed
- for their best 'energy only' offer (i.e. excluding the network supply charge).
Your energy rights
Whether you buy your electricity from an authorised energy retailer or the site owner, you have access to a range of consumer protections.
Remember, you are not locked into any agreement for electricity supply with the site owner and have the right to move to an electricity retailer if you want to.
If you do sign a contact with a retailer you have 10 days to change your mind (the 'cooling off' period). If you're not happy with your new retailer, you can go back to purchasing from your site owner. Just contact your retailer and site owner to make arrangements. Exit fees and early termination fees in Queensland are capped at $20.
If you want to install a solar or battery system, you'll need the permission of the site owner.
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