An Adelaide company Emberpulse has declared war on greedy energy retailers and even more deceptive, so-called comparison websites that are working for the energy companies – not you.
Adelaide-born Dom Gelonese, founded Embertec back in 2004 to bring his father’s invention – the Emberplug to fruition. That was a power plug that allowed basic monitoring of an appliances use and to turn it off when not in use. Emberpulse is further development of the ability to control energy use.
Fast forward, and the company has more than 1.5 million energy-saving devices in Australia, Canada and the US, and they are all saving at least $500 on their energy costs – guaranteed.
But we will come back to Emberpulse later. Why is its offering so needed now?
The ACCC has just released its report into the national energy market, and it found that many energy retailers have high-priced standing offers using a variety of price structures comprising a mix of fixed and variable charges. This adds to the complexity when trying to compare offers causing financial harm to consumers.
In short, a consumer is not equipped to compare hundreds of retail plans nor access their usage data to find the right plan. Three out of four consumers [in the UK] have turned to price comparison websites because it is all too hard. They don’t realise the rip-offs that they may face.
Fact: Most of the proliferation of so-called price comparison websites do not independently service consumer’s needs and match them with the best deal.
The ACCC has instituted proceedings in the Federal Court against iSelect Limited, for misleading or deceptive conduct and false or misleading representations about its energy plan comparison service.
It alleges that iSelect’s claims consumers using its website would benefit from iSelect comparing all plans available from its partner retailers in a specific location. iSelect also claims it recommends the most competitive plan.
The ACCC alleges iSelect does not compare all available plans, and does not necessarily recommend the most competitive plan, but draws on a limited the number of plans based on the commercial arrangement it had with retailers. iSelect does not disclose this information to consumers who use its service.
ACCC Chair Rod Sims said
“When comparison sites mislead consumers, it further adds confusion to the already complicated retail energy market, denying people an informed choice on what is often a major household expense. Secret business relationships with retailers often drive comparison site recommendations. This needs to be very clearly disclosed to consumers so they can make an informed decision about whether to use these services.”
The ACCC has been busy exposing shonky behaviour
In 2018 Amaysim was fined $900,000 for its electricity and gas brand Click Energy misleading consumers offering ‘pseudo’ discounts were less than the standing offer rates – using Amaysim was more expensive than going direct.
Also in 2018 group-discount website On Big Switch was fined $25,200 for advertising a 27% discount for consumers in south-east Queensland who switched to Click Energy’s ‘Big Switch Up’ offer.
The ACCC said that One Big Switch did not know what a customer was paying under their current plan with another retailer, and so it did not have reasonable grounds to estimate the savings by switching. “The actual savings for some consumers were much less than the amount advertised by One Big Switch,” Mr Sims said.
And further proof of collusion goes back to 2012 when the ACCC fined Energy Watch (a price comparison website) more than $2 million for misleading advertising. Energy Watch was acquired by iSelect in 2014.
Consumer advocate Choice found that that in 2018 Australian’s paid $1.2 billion more than they should for energy. It said that
- Energy comparison sites can save you money, but you may not get the “best” or “cheapest” offer.
- Most comparison sites only examine a portion of the market.
- The differing tariffs, fees and charges make it difficult to compare plans.
You can read more of Choice’s findings here – and we strongly suggest you do.
So much for independent advice.
Emberpulse’s Gelonese says that energy companies deliberately offer a huge array of confusing plans to make it hard to compare one retailer with another. And without knowing your real energy usage and patterns, you can’t make an informed decision.
He added that many comparison-websites were actually more expensive than negotiating directly with the energy retailer. iSelect and others steer business to retailers that pay higher commissions.
Which is the sole motivation for Emberpulse’s existence – to provide tools to help the consumer win.
GadgetGuy has checked out Emberpulse (details here), and we can report (in a technical sense)
Part 1 – data gathering
- A licensed electrician installs Embermeter – a small power monitor in your power meter box. This monitors real-time power usage
- It relays this via Zig-bee (like Wi-Fi but designed to go through walls and metal power boxes) to Emberpulse – a Zig-Bee receiver and Wi-Fi connected IoT device.
- Emberpulse uses visual warnings about power use and power expense.
- It transmits that use to the Embercloud (AWS hosted in Sydney) that records usage.
This can be for energy use from the power grid, solar, battery or other sources.
Part Two – analytics on your data
Emberpulse regularly collects (via screen scraping or data exchange) publicly available data from retailers 5000+ plans. Your location may have access to hundreds of these.
It then analyses your data use (using over 259,000 quarterly energy readings) to identify the best electricity plan for your home and matches it with the best plans. You are notified of the best plans and can switch at will. Or after it has earnt your trust, it can switch plans automatically for you.
Gelonese categorically states that
- It is 100% independent
- It receives no commissions or revenue from energy retailers
- It does not sell your data
- It is a free service – it reserves the future right to charge a small fee for switching
- And importantly it guarantees its savings
“We guarantee to find you at least $500 in energy savings over three years. Savings may include identifying a better energy plan, recommending a solar system or home battery, or automating your energy usage. If Emberpulse doesn’t, we’ll pay you the difference between your identified savings and the $500 guarantee.”
Gelonese says savings are more like $400-500 a year.
The cost of an electrician installing the Embermeter and Emberpulse is around $500 (varies depending on single phase or three phase) – that is it.
And yes, there is more
Gelonese is chuffed that the app can detect if your solar system is working efficiently, or when it is time to update to a battery (and what size), or if it’s a waste of time and money.
He is also a smarthome advocate and sees huge potential to update users homes to smart energy switching for air conditioners, lighting and appliances. No, Emberpulse does not sell them.
GadgetGuy’s take – take back control over power bills
As a techie, I can tell you that a little knowledge is a beautiful thing. Knowledge of your energy usage takes back control from retailers and gives you the ability to control what you spend by selecting lower cost times to do the washing or use a dryer. it also means you avoid rip-off
I like that it starts you thinking about the eventual need to go solar and be self-sufficient as the use of fossil fuel declines.
And as one whose power bills have skyrocketed over the last two years from $500 to $1000+ a quarter without an appreciable change in use, I will be trying this soon – very soon.