Customised price plans for electricity in the pipeline

Plans incorporating green energy, varying daytime tariffs among options for consumers

Electricity retailers are preparing a buffet of options for consumers.
Electricity retailers are preparing a buffet of options for consumers. PHOTO: ST FILE

Consumers can look forward to shopping for electricity the way they choose a phone plan.

Electricity retailers are preparing a buffet of options for consumers, as the Energy Market Authority (EMA) plans to fully open up the electricity retail market to competition in the second half of 2018.

For the eco-conscious, there will be plans that guarantee a portion of energy consumed will be linked to renewable energy, such as solar power. And those who work in the day could sign up for options that allow them to take advantage of lower electricity tariffs at night.

Electricity is cheaper at night as there is lower demand for it.

Those who are home all day could in turn benefit from schemes that offer varying tariffs for different periods of the day, allowing them to choose to run home appliances when electricity prices are lower.

There will even be short-term trial packages to entice consumers who are resistant to change.

"In the initial stage, many consumers will be sceptical about switching for various reasons, like reliability, security and so on," said electricity retailer iSwitch.

"iSwitch is planning to roll out price plans, such as short-term trial packages, to increase their confidence in switching," it said.

These are just some of the customised price plans that small energy users, such as households and small businesses, could benefit from.

Currently, only 33,000 commercial and industrial consumers with an average monthly electricity consumption of at least 2MWh - which amounts to a monthly electricity bill of about $450 - are taking advantage of this flexibility. But the remaining 1.3 million consumers, mainly households, will get to benefit with the change, EMA said.

During this year's Singapore International Energy Week, which starts today, participants are expected to discuss issues such as green energy and the implications of low energy prices.

There were just seven electricity retailers in 2013. This has increased to 20, EMA told The Straits Times.

Industry players say market liberalisation will benefit consumers.

"Not only will it lead to better value and services (for customers), but it also gives them the opportunity to achieve their other objectives, such as environmental protection in purchasing green energy," said a spokesman for retailer PacificLight.

Customers may also enjoy lower tariffs.

Mr Vijay Sirse, chief executive of Red Dot Power, said: "It is expected that every household will potentially save anything from 10 per cent to 20 per cent of its monthly electricity bill."

Associate Professor of Marketing (Education) Seshan Ramaswami, from the Singapore Management University, noted that while it is difficult to say whether prices will definitely go down, customers could benefit in other ways.

For instance, retailers could try to differentiate themselves by offering bundled or value-added services - such as installing smart home systems or giving discounts on energy-saving appliances.

Housewife Mastzainah Jalil, 45, likes the idea of being able to time the use of her appliances to when electricity tariffs are the lowest.

Assistant manager Daniel Govindan, 28, prefers a price plan which incorporates renewable energy and a smart system that sends alerts when energy-intensive appliances are in use when electricity tariffs are high.

He said: "Renewable energy is the way to go. I think clean air is a public good. So less fossil fuels, more clean air."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 24, 2016, with the headline 'Customised price plans for electricity in the pipeline'. Subscribe