What should I do during a price spike?


Price spikes in the wholesale energy market happen infrequently in a typical year and usually last from 30 minutes up to 3 hours. 

When they do happen, it’s usually during the evening in very hot or cold weather when lots of people are cooking dinner and running cooling/heating at the same time, putting strain on the grid.

We're expecting a scorching summer, with Australia set to experience the first El Niño summer in years. When it gets really hot, it can seriously strain the power grid, causing prices to go wild. Normally, there are a few hours each year when the demand maxes out the grid's capacity. During these times, coal and gas generators jack up their prices to a whopping 100 times the usual rates, which makes the wholesale price shoot up temporarily to $3 - $19/kWh inc. GST (up to $21/kWh in SA inc. GST).

At these unusually high demand times, dirty coal and gas generators take the opportunity to charge up to 100x normal prices for their power.

But while price spikes can and do happen, you can manage them and still come out ahead.

Step 1: Don’t panic! It’s time to shift

To minimise your costs during a spike you need to shift particularly power hungry activities earlier or later to try to avoid the spike. 

During the spike, try to avoid:

1. Air conditioner or heater.

Pre-heating or cooling your home to avoid the spikes can save you up to $100 a year.

2. Electric stove top or oven. 

Cooking dinner earlier or later than normal can save you up to $50 a year. 

3. Washing machine or dishwasher. 

This can save you up to $40 a year.

If you can avoid just these 3 activities then you'll make a big difference to your bill.

Step 2: Keep calm and carry on (using these appliances)

There’s no need to sit in the dark, feeling bored. Go ahead and continue using low energy intensity appliances, such as:

  • Lights
  • Entertainment like TV, computers, stereo, gaming consoles.
  • Fans to keep cool
  • Always-on appliances like your fridge
  • Microwave some leftovers for a quick and easy dinner

These devices use relatively little power and won’t add much to your energy bill during a price spike.

Step 3: Sit back and feel good about doubling your climate action impact

In addition to helping you save, taking these simple steps to shift your energy use and avoid price spikes also helps get Australia off fossil fuels, faster. 

That's because the big fossil fuel generators make a large share of their annual profits from people who use power during price spikes (unfortunately anyone who doesn’t use Amber to see the real wholesale price would be none the wiser about whether they are using power during a price spike or not). 

By shifting your usage during a price spike, you’re not only saving on your energy bill - you get the satisfaction of knowing that you’re not funding a fossil fuelled future. #Legend.

Keen to get even shiftier? Good for you! We've put together this detailed guide on how much different home appliances can cost to run during a price spike.

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