Ways to save on electricity now that energy prices are rising

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Undeniably, the world is witnessing a global surge in energy prices. Many factors have a hand in this phenomenon - economies recovering from a post-pandemic slump, high sustained inflation as well as the Ukrainian-Russian armed conflict.

Particularly, the war in Eastern Europe has far and deep-reaching consequences. The moratorium on purchases of Russian oil by the EU and US has sent oil prices skyrocketing.

Unfortunately, 95 per cent of Singapore’s electricity is generated using natural gas - a derivative of crude oil itself, and will continue to be the dominant fuel source in the near future, according to Singapore’s Energy Market Authority.

This means that Singapore energy costs will be at the mercy of global oil price movements. So what can we do to limit the impact of increasing electricity prices? In this article, we have explored a few innovative approaches to save money on your next utility bill.

Consider your options on the Open Energy Market (OEM)

Since 2018, the Singapore energy market has been liberalised to give Singaporean consumers more options. As a result of the OEM, Singaporeans are now not limited to just one national electricity provider, but have the luxury of choice to select the most competitive electricity provider on the open market.

As of right now, there are a total of 12 electricity retailers operating in the Singapore market. With so many different retailers, ongoing promotions and electricity plans (what’s the difference between a fixed-price and a no-contract plan?), it is indeed an arduous task to compare the numerous options available.

Depending on which kind of consumer you belong to, your preferences of an electricity plan might vary. Perhaps you are interested in plans that offer flexibility. Or perhaps you might be more environmentally-conscious and would want your power to come from sustainable sources. Or perhaps you simply desire price stability in your electric bills.

Fortunately, a handy but comprehensive guide already exists to analyse and compare the best possible plan for your specific needs. Beyond just competitive pricing, some energy companies offer attractive promotions such as cash rebates, discounted bills, and even complimentary home insurance!

Earning high cashbacks by paying your electric bills

Using credit cards is a fantastic way to make payment, regardless of whether to earn reward points, airplane miles, or even cashbacks. Some spenders might not have considered it, but paying your utility bills using credit cards is a consistent method to keep accruing these benefits.

Are you an avid traveller and require plenty of airplane miles to complement your wanderlust? Do you hate calling up your credit card company every year to request for an annual fee waiver? Or are you a wealthier consumer and require a card to capitalise on your high spending ceiling? Fear not - we have already compared over a hundred credit cards to help analyse the best card for you.

However, for most people, earning cashback is perhaps the most straightforward (and obvious) way to visualise how much you are rewarded for simply spending on essentials, such as your utility bill. After all, cashback in the form of money is the best way to directly offset the pinch of rising bills. So exactly which credit card offers the best bang for your buck when it comes to utility bill rebates?

For consistent spenders, the UOB One Credit Card offers attractive cashback rates for most categories. In particular, it allows up to 6per cent rebate on your utility bills among other perks which include higher savings for petrol spending.

If you are looking for annual fee waivers, the OCBC 365 Card does just that, with an automatic two-years fee waiver. Utility bills-wise, it offers a lower rate at 3per cent, but makes up for higher rebates for land transport, dining and groceries spending.

Other cards, like the UOB Absolute Cashback Card, offer unlimited cashback rate at 1.7 per cent for all spending with no restrictions and minimum caps - and that of course, includes your electricity bill as well.

Understandably, utility bills are just a fraction of your total spending. It is important to consider other spending categories which might have a higher cashback rate, such as dining, groceries, travel and even online shopping to maximise the rebates you are earning in total.

Harnessing the power of the Sun

Amidst global calls to action to pivot our energy consumption to more sustainable sources, we can also do our part to ensure our carbon footprint is kept to a minimum. Everybody knows the traditional (but still highly relevant!) advice of turning off your lights when not in use, or switching air-conditioning out for energy-saving fans, but are there any unorthodox alternatives to go green and cut costs at the same time?

Enter solar energy. Over the years, solar panel technology has advanced considerably, reaching efficiencies between 20 to 22 per cent instead of 15 per cent a decade ago. Moreover, costs of solar panels themselves have also dropped over the years. This means that it is increasingly viable for households to install these solar panels themselves from a commercial standpoint. Some companies even offer solar leasing and other favourable financing options to make installation a more compelling option.

Often, the energy generated exceeds the household consumption, so when excess power is sold back to the grid, some households even get negative electricity bills each month. Hence, SP group (which operates the national grid) sends these households or companies a cheque every month from buying their excess electricity, which the latter can use to offset their bills from a private retailer.

Unfortunately, despite the increased accessibility and popularity of harnessing solar energy on a household scale in Singapore, such an option is only available to residents of certain housing types. For landed properties, the existing roof’s material and angle can make installation an expensive, unsafe and inefficient process.

For condominiums, home owners need to seek approval from management committees, where approval is only granted on a case-by-case basis. Worse still, condominium owners are ineligible to sell excess electricity back to the national grid, limiting their cost-savings further.

For most of the population living in HDBs, installing private solar panels is nigh impossible. According to HDB, installations outside the flat are not allowed as they might affect the structural integrity of the building and pose a risk to public safety.

However, not all hope is lost! Smaller solar panel generators are readily available in the market, costing several hundred to a few thousand dollars. Users can use these products to charge their phones or mobile devices while outdoors, which could replace portable chargers that consume electricity.

Households on higher floors can also hang small solar panels at their windows, or install them inside their balconies which receive plenty of sunlight during the day. The electricity generated can be used to charge their mobility devices and other gadgets.

How to save on your electric bills

Reducing your electricity consumption directly is the most straightforward method to lower your electricity bill. Not only does it save you some money, but you are also doing the Earth a favour; less electricity consumed means less crude oil processed, in turn releasing fewer greenhouse gases into our atmosphere.

However, there are plenty of other ways to cut down on your electricity bills. Solar panel installation might not be feasible for most people, but there are other easier ways to trim off the figure at the bottom of your billing paper - including finding a cheaper electricity retailer and earning a higher cashback on your utility bills with credit cards.

This article was first published in ValueChampion.