Do you live in NSW and are looking for a better electricity plan for your home? Compare electricity providers, plans and rates in NSW with Canstar Blue.
* Overall satisfaction is an individual rating and not a combined total of all ratings. Brands with equal overall satisfaction ratings are listed in alphabetical order.
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Canstar Blue research finalised December 2015, published January 2016.
See our Ratings Methodology.
How much thought do you give to your electricity use? If the answer is ‘not much’, chances are you don’t give much thought to your electricity provider either – which could be a costly mistake. Paying for electricity is a fact of 21st century life, unless you’re fortunate enough to have gone completely off the grid with a solar power system. For those of us stuck paying power bills every month or quarter, the best we can hope for is an energy company that makes the process – and cost – as painless as possible.
So which electricity provider is doing the best job in New South Wales? To find out, we surveyed more than 1,500 customers across the state, and for the second year running, Red Energy has received Canstar Blue’s Overall Customer Satisfaction Award after it was rated 5 Canstar Blue stars in NSW Electricity providers in 2015. This year, it also scored top marks for value for money, customer service, range of plans, energy efficiency advice and bill clarity – which, after all, is what most people look for from their energy supplier.
Red Energy is a retail subsidiary of Snowy Hyrdo Limited – the company that maintains the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric scheme. Red Energy was founded in 2004 and has grown to become one of the biggest challengers to Australia’s big three energy companies – AGL, Origin Energy and EnergyAustralia. Not only has Red Energy topped our satisfaction ratings for New South Wales for two years running, but it also performed strongly in our ratings for Victoria. Declaring itself as “small enough to really look after you, but big enough to give you the most affordably energy”, Red Energy says it entered the energy market to shake things up and customers certainly seem impressed so far.
New South Wales is the largest energy market in Australia and accounts for more than a quarter of all energy consumed nationally. Along with Victoria, New South Wales introduced Full Retail Competition in 2002, meaning new energy retailers, like Red Energy, were able to enter the market and challenge the dominance of the big three. South Australia followed suit in 2003 and Queensland in 2007. Our ratings include feedback from customers of five energy providers in New South Wales, but thanks to Full Retail Competition, there are several more to choose from, all licensed to operate in the state by the Australian Energy Regulator. The idea of Full Retail Competition was that by allowing new entrants to join the market, the increased competition would result in lower energy prices for customers. Things might not have worked out as well as planned, but customers in New South Wales can certainly benefit from switching providers in search of better value if they are not content with their current supplier.
While Full Retail Competition was introduced in 2002, it wasn’t until 2014 that the New South Wales state government removed retail price regulations from the electricity market. Deregulation occurred in Victoria in 2009, while South Australia followed in 2012 and Queensland is yet to deregulate electricity prices, although the state government appears set to do so in the near future. Deregulation means customers are free to choose whichever company they want to provide their electricity, but those retailers are now free to charge whatever power prices they want. With more and more households switching providers in New South Wales in recent years, new brands continue to join the market in the hope of securing a slice of your power bill pie. While electricity prices are now deregulated, some retailers still have a statutory obligation to provide regulated gas prices to customers in New South Wales.
The power is now in the hands of consumers who are able to search for the best power deals possible in their area. Our research shows that 42% of households in New South Wales have switched electricity providers in the last five years. This compares to 50% in Victoria, but just 31% in South Australia and 29% in Queensland. The majority of switchers in New South Wales (81%) are pleased they made the move and more than three-quarters (77%) say they have benefited from reduced power bills as a result.
As you’d expect, the prospect of lower costs was the main motivation for customers to switch, but others simply took the opportunity to try another provider when they moved home, while others were driven to switch by the poor customer service of their previous provider. But what about those who haven’t switched in the last five years? Are they happy with their energy retailer, or is something else preventing them from finding a better deal? We found:
Meanwhile, 2% of New South Wales customers are happy to stay with their provider because they benefit from a rewards program, while 3% are concerned about losing their power supply if they switch.
There is a perception – not totally unfounded – that switching energy providers can be a particularly odious challenge, but times are changing and moving your business elsewhere is becoming easier. It’s a good idea to regularly review your current plan and get quotes from other providers to see if they can offer you a better deal. It’s understandable to be put off if the quotes you are presented with don’t represent a significant saving, but always think ahead and consider what those monthly or annual savings could be over a number of years. You might be pleasantly surprised. And make sure you challenge your current provider to match any quotes you are offered by a competitor.
Whatever you decide to do, you shouldn’t be worried about losing your power supply if you switch providers. Electricity is supplied to your home through the same network in your area regardless of the logo at the top of your bill. So don’t think that a smaller retailer is somehow less reliable at powering your TV in the evening. The energy retailers are simply the customer-facing business which handles your energy contract, sets the prices you pay and deals with your enquiries. The energy distributors actually get the power to your home, with three main electricity distributors responsible for different geographical areas of New South Wales:
Most importantly of all, you should expect your energy provider to offer you a fair price on your power, and be open and honest about all the charges you can expect. But like any service you pay for, including your internet or mobile phone plans, there are other things to consider. Low costs are very important, but you’ll also want a retailer that is easy to contact if you have an issue to address, and provides billing information that is easy to understand and act upon. So what matters most to electricity customers in New South Wales? We found the drivers of satisfaction to be as follows:
Naturally, value for money was the biggest concern of electricity customers across all the states we surveyed, but it’s interesting to note that energy efficiency advice is more important to consumers in New South Wales than any other area. It seems reasonable to expect your energy provider to offer you sound guidance on how to reduce your energy consumption and power costs, but some are clearly doing it better than others.
With increasing competition in the New South Wales energy market, it’s important to assess your options and consider switching if you feel like you could be getting a better deal. Our research shows that customers of Red Energy are currently most satisfied with their service.
Canstar Blue commissioned Colmar Brunton to survey 6,000 Australian consumers across a range of categories to measure and track customer satisfaction. The outcomes reported are the results from customers within the survey group who live in New South Wales, have an electricity account, and pay the bill – in this case, 1,512 people.
Brands must have received at least 30 responses to be included. Results are comparative and it should be noted that brands receiving three stars have still achieved a satisfaction measure of at least six out of 10. The ratings table is first sorted by star ratings and then alphabetically. A rated brand may receive a ‘N/A’ (Not Applicable) rating if it does not receive the minimum number of responses for that criteria.
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