Looking for a better natural gas deal for your home in QLD? Compare natural gas plans from AGL & Origin 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 in September 2015, published in October 2015.
See our Ratings Methodology.
Some people like cooking with gas, while others favour electricity. But whatever you’re preferred option, you’ll probably agree that paying for energy isn’t as much fun as sitting down with a nice home-cooked meal and big glass of wine. In fact, you might dread the thought of receiving your next power bill almost as much as you dread the thought of cleaning your oven.
As consumers, all we can hope for is an energy company that gives us a fair go over price, provides good customer service when we need it, and makes the payment process as easy as possible – without any mistakes. That shouldn’t be too much to ask.
Queenslanders may not use as much as gas as their southern cousins, but those who do will demand all of the above – and more. And they have every right to do so. Like other states, the Queensland gas market is dominated by two of the biggest energy retailers in the country – Origin and AGL. And this year, just like in 2014, Origin was again rated 5 Canstar Blue stars in Overall Customer Satisfaction, winning the Canstar Blue award for Gas Suppliers in Queensland 2015.
If the thought of comparing and switching energy suppliers has crossed your mind, then we hope our star ratings prove helpful at the start of your journey.
In this report, we aim to make understanding your options as easy as possible in a language you can understand.
Queensland’s gas consumption has risen significantly since 2004 and there are approximately 172,000 natural gas residential and small commercial customers in the state, most of which are in Brisbane. Large industrial customers are located in regional centres such as Gladstone, Townsville and Mount Isa, as well as Brisbane, but its electricity generation, fertiliser production and mineral processing that accounts for over 95% of Queensland’s gas consumption. Residential and small-scale commercial use of gas accounts for a mere 3% – significantly lower than in the southern states due to Queensland’s warmer climate and resulting lack of gas use for heating purposes.
The electricity industry is made up of four interconnected sectors involved in its production and delivery. They relate to electricity’s generation, transmission, distribution and retail – the bit where the energy companies sell it to you. The Queensland generation sector has a mixture of Government and private ownership, but the transmission and distribution sector is entirely Government-owned. The retail sector has several privately-owned and licensed retailers, while Government-owned Ergon Energy provides retail services to regional parts of Queensland. It’s also one of two main electricity distributors in the state – the other is Energex. The two main gas distributors are Allgas Energy and Australian Gas Networks.
While the ownership and structure of the retailers operating in the state varies, they are all licensed to operate in the state by the Queensland Government Department of Energy and Water Supply.
Most Queenslanders have been able to choose their gas and electricity suppliers since 2007 when full retail competition was introduced by the state Government. This means all natural gas customers in the state – with the exception of those in Roma and Dalby – are entitled to choose which retailer they purchase their gas from. However, only households and businesses in south east Queensland are currently able to choose electricity retailers. Competition is limited in the rest of Queensland and most regional and rural consumers continue to be supplied by Ergon Energy under a standard contract. This is because Ergon Energy receives a subsidy to ensure that consumers in higher-cost regional and rural areas pay the same regulated prices as consumers in lower-cost south east Queensland. It’s unlikely that other retailers could offer a better deal to consumers than Ergon Energy provides, because they do not receive this subsidy.
Most of the state’s gas market has been deregulated, meaning the retailers are responsible for setting prices. But electricity prices remain controlled by the Government. The Queensland electricity market was due to be deregulated in mid-2015, but the Queensland Government has put it on hold for at least a year to “establish a commission to conduct a public inquiry into electricity prices in the state,” it says.
Deregulation would mean retailers can charge what they want. Until then, the Queensland Competition Authority (QCA) will continue to set electricity tariffs. The QCA sets the electricity tariff schedule – a list of the various tariffs with the relevant fees, charges and conditions that apply for a set period of time. However, customers may pay a different price if they are on a market contract with their retailer, rather than the regulated price.
Most Queenslanders are free to choose whichever gas and electricity suppliers they want – assuming they provide a service in their particularly region – so it makes sense to regularly review your current contract and assess your options. Our survey of bill-paying Queenslanders found that 75% are “generally happy” with their gas supplier, which may seem quite high but is actually the lowest percentage in any of the states involved. Despite that, respondents from the Sunshine State were least likely to want to switch. Almost a quarter (24%) said they’d like to switch but can’t find the time, while 28% would like to but find the process daunting.
However, the most notable difference between the states highlighted by the survey was the amount Queenslanders pay for their gas – $156 over the last quarter. This is considerably less than households in the other states, but can be attributed to the fact that Queenslanders generally don’t use as much gas as their southern counterparts. The average bills reported across the states were as follows:
Given that Queenslanders generally don’t use much gas, it’s understandable that factors other than price play a significant role in determining the overall satisfaction of customers in the state. We found the divers of satisfaction to be:
However, it’s interesting to note the importance Queenslanders place on billing clarity and accuracy compared to consumers in other states. The following graph illustrates what factors are most important in which parts of the country.
Source: Canstar Blue gas customer satisfaction survey, conducted by Colmar Brunton, September 2015, n=3,305.
Switching energy suppliers can seem like a daunting thing to do, but the retailer that is getting your new business should be able to make the process as easy as possible. Switching could begin with registering your interest on a retailer’s website and waiting for them to call you back. There are also various websites dedicated to helping you compare tariffs and prices.
The Queensland Government has committed to generating half of the state’s electricity needs from renewable energy by 2030, and to ensure that one million of its homes have rooftop solar panel systems by 2020. However, concerns have been raised that consumers will face higher power bills to enable the state Government to meet its targets. The Energy Suppliers Association of Australia said that creating a greater percentage of energy through options like solar and wind power could be more than $1 billion a year more expensive than traditional power generation such as coal and gas – and consumers will bear the burden. The switch could cost households an average $60 a year more, according to the ESAA. The industry body says about 6% of energy needs could be met from rooftop PV solar panels and similar devices, leaving 44% to come from “utility-scale” renewables such as wind and solar farms.
Meanwhile, energy retailers continue to offer customers green power options. Origin Energy, for example, says that with its GreenPower electricity and Green Gas, you’ll be able to cut back on your home’s greenhouse gas emissions and reduce your impact on the environment – from as little as $1 extra per week. This basically means that whatever percentage of your home’s energy supply you wish to assign to a green option, the retailer will source that amount of power from renewable energy sources. But before signing up to any such plans, be sure to do your homework and work out how much extra it is likely to cost you.
Origin Energy is one of Australia’s largest energy retailers, supplying electricity and gas to properties in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia. Based in Sydney, it was founded in 2000 as a result of a demerger from the Australian conglomerate Boral Limited, in which the energy business was removed from the construction materials business to form a new company. In 2010, Origin Energy purchased the retail divisions of both Country Energy and Integral Energy, and is well-known for its low-carbon products such as GreenPower, Green Gas and solar PV.
AGL is one of Australia’s oldest companies with a history stretching way back to 1837. Originally founded as the Australian Gas Light Company, it remains based in Sydney where it was charged with the job of lighting the city streets. The company was eventually re-branded as AGL Energy in 2006 and now boasts almost four million residential and commercial customers across New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia. It is also said to be the country’s largest private owner, operator and developer of renewable energy assets.
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 have an active gas account and regularly pay the bills – in this case, 294 Queenslanders.
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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