Origin, one of Australia’s biggest electricity and gas retailers, has come up with a sneaky way of disincentivising its customers from undertaking any energy reduction measures for the next 12 months or beyond. The offer that landed in my inbox proposes charging me a fixed rate for 12 months based on historical usage “no matter how much or little you use”.
So, in other words, the rest of the LED retrofit I am undertaking at my rental home, that I figured would make my bills just that tad skinnier, would end up costing me more as the savings would not be realised. Surely not, I thought, they couldn’t be so… dastardly.
A quick call to the promotion’s specified phone line confirmed the T&Cs that, yes, indeed, if I sign up, and then save energy over the next 12 months compared to the historical figure used to determine my fortnightly or monthly payments, then yes, I still pay for energy I didn’t use.
How’s that for ensuring their bottom-line is efficiency-proof?
Not only that, one has a sneaking suspicion that while cutting bills and saving money is a prime motivator for turning off lights, not leaving appliances on standby and being more inclined to don a jumper than put on heating – if energy becomes an all-you-can eat buffet, wouldn’t some consumers be tempted to think “payback time!” and use as much power as they possibly could, knowing the cost is then carried by the energy company?
Free stuff is a bit hard to decline when it’s something useful that we like having around.
It’s scary – given our grid electricity supply is still largely coal-driven – to think what it could mean for our national carbon footprint too. And it seems downright contradictory to initiatives in many states such as the Victorian Energy Efficiency Target or NSW and South Australian residential energy-saving programs – initiatives it must be said the retailer gives tacit support to.
Despite the offer of an all-you-can-consume year off efficiency, I won’t be opting in. Not only do I want to see ROI on my retrofit, the rest of my household has finally twigged that saving money by turning stuff off is actually a fairly good habit to have.
I would hate to undo that good training – just as it seems unfortunate the hard work done by the sustainability sector on residential energy efficiency and the residential business case may also be somewhat eroded.