It’s a David versus Goliath battle – Australia’s biggest energy retailer taking on the new, loudmouth upstart that seems to enjoy poking fun at the old, boring incumbents. We’re talking, of course, about Origin Energy and Powershop. When it comes to electricity providers, they are quite literally poles apart. But who offers the cheapest prices and the best overall value for your money? In this review we compare electricity prices from Origin and Powershop to help you make a more informed decision about your power supply.
Before we go into detail about their electricity plans in Victoria, Queensland and New South Wales, let’s first set the scene by providing a little background information on both retailers.
Origin is Australia’s biggest energy company with millions of customers across the country and a wealth of both fossil fuel and renewable energy generation assets. Along with AGL and EnergyAustralia, Origin is currently ranked one of Australia’s ‘dirty three’ energy companies and is involved in the exploration of coal seam gas – the extraction of which is commonly known as ‘fracking’.
Origin is also one of the biggest retailers when it comes to household solar, offering panel and storage system installation along with competitive feed-in tariff rates. Origin is also one of just two electricity providers in Australia to offer households ‘fixed cost’ energy plans, which means households know exactly what they will pay for power every billing period, regardless of their energy usage. The Origin Predictable Plan is tailored to individual households needs and is not included in our comparison for the purpose of simplicity.
Powershop is an export of New Zealand, where it enjoys a far bigger market share than it does in Australia. However, since moving across the ditch, the company has been making a big impression. It currently tops our customer satisfaction ratings for electricity providers in Victoria and in 2015 was named Australia’s greenest energy company in a report by Greenpeace and the Total Environment Centre. Via its parent company, Meridian Energy, Powershop owns only renewable energy assets and has an emissions intensity of zero. It also has the highest percentage of GreenPower customers of any retailer in the country.
By its own admissions, Powershop is different to other energy providers in that customers are able to pre-purchase power packs at cheaper rates, for later use. It also has a strong focus on online energy management tools, utilising smart meters to provide helpful usage information to customers via its online portal and smartphone app.
Now you know the basics about Origin and Powershop, let’s dive into the facts and see which company has the cheapest prices in your state.
Origin offers Victorian customers three variable rate market offers, as well as one fixed rate plan.
- Origin Maximiser: This is Origin’s recommended plan. It comes with a generous 28% discount on usage charges for the first 12 months when customers agree to receive their bills via email and pay through direct debit.
- Origin Saver: For the first 12 months, customers who pay their bills on time will receive a 26% discount on usage charges. There are also no exit fees, meaning customers are free to leave at any time.
- Origin Supply: This is a basic electricity plan with no exit fees, contract term or discounts. When the benefit periods of the above two plans expire, customers will start paying the same rates as those on Origin Supply.
- Rate Freeze: Electricity rates tend to climb year on year, but customers on this plan won’t have their rates changed for two years. As a fixed rate plan, you effectively lock-in prices for the term of the agreement. The downside to this is that there are no discounts.
As we discussed, Powershop is a little different to most other retailers. While there is a plethora of promotional, top-up, future and GreenPower packs available, Powershop’s basic products are the Standard and Online Saver.
- Standard Saver: The Standard Saver is the basic plan available to Victorian customers. It applies a guaranteed 16% discount off Powershop’s standing offer usage rates. There are no exit fees or limited benefit periods on this plan.
- Online Saver: An additional 16% discount on base rates is applied on top of the Standard Saver plan, for a total discount of 34%. To receive this discount, you need to log in once a month and purchase the Online Saver pack.
Who’s cheapest in Victoria?
The amount households in Victoria pay for energy can vary between electricity distribution networks, but for the sake of this comparison, we have compared costs on the Citipower network, which covers large parts of Melbourne. To do this we compare the highest discounted offers from Powershop and Origin. So, based on average energy consumption for a five-person household, who comes out cheapest? These are quarterly costs once discounts have been applied.
Prices based on annual electricity costs broken down into quarterly payments on the Citipower network, January 2017.
Canstar Blue research has previously found that electricity plans with the highest discounts don’t always work out the cheapest options overall. This is because they also tend to have the highest usage or supply charges, meaning savings from the discount are largely negated. In this comparison, you see the plan that brings the highest discount does in fact work out cheaper overall, but not by much.
We need to stress, however, that in order to qualify for the maximum discount from Powershop, you will need to put in a little effort. This means purchasing saver power packs from the Powershop online store every month. Failure to do this could mean you pay more. In the case of Origin, its discount is a direct debit discount off usage charges, which you could consider more of a ‘set and forget’ type plan. See how these costs compare to those from other electricity retailers in Melbourne with our price comparison report.
New South Wales
Origin offers its New South Wales customers the same list of products that it provides in Victoria. Its offers include both fixed and variable rate contracts, as well as products which include conditional discounts.
- Origin Maximiser: Customers who agree to receive their bills via email and pay by direct debit receive a 15% discount on electricity usage charges. This plan has a benefit period of 12 months and there are no exit fees.
- Origin Saver: This plan has a slightly more modest discount of 13% off usage charges for customers who pay their bills on time. It also has a 12 month contract term, but there are no exit fees for leaving early.
- Origin Supply: This is Origin’s basic energy plan, with no discounts, incentives or additional fees. When the benefit period of another deal expires, customers will end up paying the same rates as those on Origin Supply.
- Rate Freeze: With the Rate Freeze plan from Origin, electricity usage and supply rates remain fixed for two years, protecting customers from rising electricity prices. However, there are no discounts available.
While the availability of certain promotional Powerpacks may vary from state to state, Powershop offers the same basic deals in New South Wales as it does Victoria.
- Standard Saver: This is the default plan Powershop customers are placed on if they haven’t pre-purchased an electricity pack. It comes with a guaranteed discount of 4% on standing offer rates.
- Online Saver: By selecting the Online Saver special from Powershop’s online store each month, customers are guaranteed a discount of at least 18% on standing offer rates.
Who’s cheapest in New South Wales?
The best non-promotional discount available to Powershop customers in NSW comes with the Online Saver power pack, while the Maximiser contract offers the highest discount for Origin customers. To find out how these plans stack up in Sydney, we’ve compared prices (including discounts) on the Ausgrid network.
Prices based on annual electricity costs broken down into quarterly payments on the Ausgrid network, January 2017.
Powershop also works out to be the cheapest option in NSW. Again, however, you must consider the leg work it will take to achieve the maximum savings from Powershop. Customers will need to regularly purchase power packs to get the cheapest rates. Find out how Powershop and Origin compare to other electricity providers in Sydney with our cost comparison review.
Origin has long been a popular retailer in Queensland. While its range of products is somewhat smaller in Brisbane compared to other states, its energy offers still promise competitive value. All Queensland Origin plans come with variable rates and do not include any exit fees.
- Origin Maximiser: Customers who pay their bills via direct debit will receive Origin’s largest discount of 10% off usage charges for the first 12 months.
- Origin Saver: This plan offers an 8% discount on usage to punctual customers who pay their electricity bills on time. Again, this discount only applies for the first 12 months of the contract.
- Origin Supply: This is Origin’s default plan with no discounts and no contract team. It has the same pricing as the above plans once discounts have expired.
Powershop came to Queensland in January 2017, making it one of the newer retailers in the state. Its unique approach of pre-purchasing electricity has proven popular in other markets, but how does it stack up in Queensland?
- Standard Saver: If customers don’t pre-purchase electricity packs, they are automatically placed on the Standard Saver. This is a variable rate deal that provides a 2% discount on all Powershop base rates.
- Online Saver: Customers who visit the Powershop website or app once a month to purchase the Online Saver pack will get a minimum discount of 10% off base rates. Further discounts may also be available through regular promotional offers.
Who’s cheapest in Queensland?
To find out which retailer is cheapest in the Brisbane area, we have compared their highest discounted offers. For Origin, this is the Origin Maximiser. In the case of Powershop, we are assuming that the customer regularly purchases the Online Saver powerpack.
Prices based on annual electricity costs broken down into quarterly payments on the Energex network, January 2017.
This time, Origin works out cheaper of the two retailers. While both energy companies have the same maximum discount, Origin has the cheaper rates, making it the more affordable option. That said, Powershop regularly runs promotional and seasonal packs, meaning proactive customers could stand to save more on electricity by checking the website for offers.
Which retailer is the best choice?
Origin and Powershop offer two very different energy retail propositions. Some consumers might feel more comfortable with the familiar Origin brand name and its traditional approach to electricity supply. Others may be drawn to Powershop’s new tech-savvy take on electricity in the hope they can snag a great bargain. If you participate in regular promotions and purchase power in advance, you may well do.
Ultimately the choice is yours. If you have a comfortable understanding of electricity, then Powershop may provide good value. If you would instead rather keep engagement with your retailer to an absolute minimum, then Origin Energy might be more your style.