2016 Solar Energy Providers
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Compare electricity providers on their solar power offerings with our customer satisfaction review and ratings.
Canstar Blue research finalised May 2016, published June 2016.
See our Ratings Methodology.
Click Energy shines in solar satisfaction ratings
Over 1.5 million Australian households have a rooftop solar system installed, which means our country has the highest rate of solar penetration in the world. And for the majority of us, solar was an investment we’re glad we made. Our survey of solar power customers found that 83% think it was a good financial decision, while 81% have reduced electricity costs. So if you’re not yet on board with solar but are considering your options, that’s a strong endorsement from the Aussie public.
A solar system is a significant investment, so you want to make sure you’re with a quality retailer that wants to help its solar customers as a priority. It’s quite common for households to continue with the same energy provider after having a solar system installed, and while this is the most convenient option, you might not be receiving the best value on your green power.
To find out which energy provider is rated highest by its solar customers, we surveyed more than 1,300 households across the country to seek their expert opinions. Nine different solar providers featured in the results, but it was Click Energy that came out on top. Click Energy has received the Canstar Blue award for solar providers in 2016 after it was rated 5 stars in Overall Customer Satisfaction. It was also rated 5 stars in value for money, customer service and overall solar satisfaction.
Feed in tariffs
Unless you have a solar battery installed, any excess electricity produced by your rooftop solar will be fed into the energy grid in return for a feed-in tariff.
A feed-in tariff is a rebate on your energy bill for each kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity that your solar system exports into the grid for others to use. There is no nationwide solar scheme in place, meaning that ‘buy-back rates’ vary across the states. Some state governments fund mandated feed-in tariffs (households in Queensland have benefitted from particularly generous rebates), some have mere recommendations in place, and some just leave this decision for the retailers. Keep in mind the same feed-in tariff rate may not be available across all parts of a particular state, so contact your energy retailer to learn what’s available.
In some states, there are solar schemes which offer buy-back rates of up to 40c per kWh, to customers who had solar panels installed and their meter configured before a certain date. As a general guide, however, the below feed-in tariff rates are what new solar customers of each state might expect to receive.
|State||Rate per kWh||Note|
|South Australia||6.8c||Legislative minimum|
|New South Wales||4.4c – 5.8c||Recommended rate|
|Queensland||6.0c – 10c||No legislative minimum for SEQ customers. Regional customers receive 6.348 c/kWh|
|Western Australia||7.135c||Legislative minimum. Rate may also vary by location for Horizon network customers|
|Tasmania||5.55c||Legislative minimum (residential only)|
|ACT||6.0c to 7.5c||Recommended rate|
|NT||19.23c||Legislative minimum (residential only)|
Feed in tariffs by retailer
Electricity retailers are free to deviate from these rates, so long as they don’t offer below any mandated rates. The following table shows advertised feed-in tariff rates from the electricity retailers we rated, though keep in mind that some retailers do not provide feed in tariffs in all states.
|Click Energy||6-10 c/kWh||10 c/kWh||6-11 c/kWh||8-12 c/kWh|
|Red Energy||5.5 c/kWh||5 c/kWh|
|Lumo Energy||5.5 c/kWh||6 c/kWh||7 c/kWh|
|Simply Energy||5.1 c/kWh||5 c/kWh||6 c/kWh||6.8 c/KWh|
|Origin||5 c/kWh||6 c/kWh||6 c/kWh||6.8 c/KWh|
|AGL||5.1 c/kWh||5 c/kWh||6 c/kWh||6.8 c/kWh|
|Energy Australia||5.1 c/kWh||5 c/kWh||6 c/kWh||6.8 c/kWh|
|Ergon Energy||6.348 c/kWh (regional only)|
*Rates vary considerably for customers on the Horizon network in Western Australia.
A closer look at Click Energy
From the above table, you can see that Click Energy offers some of the most generous feed-in tariffs in the market. It’s little surprise, therefore, that the Melbourne-based retailer scored five stars on solar value for money.
These tariff rates are offered as part of Click Energy’s range of ‘Click Shine’ solar plans. The standard plan gives customers a 10 c/kWh feed-in tariff and a 7% discount when they pay their bills on time, receive bills by email and pay using an approved method. The Shine packages vary across the states.
- New South Wales: Click Energy offers NSW customers two solar plans – Shine and Shine Saver. New customers subscribed to the Shine plan will receive a standard 10 c/kWh feed in tariff and a 7% conditional discount, while those on the Shine Saver will receive a buy-back rate of 6 c/kWh and a 15% conditional discount. Shine plans are available on the Ausgrid, Endeavour and Essential energy networks.
- Victoria: Click Energy’s Shine plan is offered across the Ausnet, Citipower, Ausnet, Jemena, Powercor and United energy networks.
- Queensland: Click Energy customers connected to the Energex network have access to three solar plans: Shine, Shine Budget and Shine Reward. The Shine plan offers a 10 c/kWh buy-back rate and a 7% conditional discount. Shine Budget includes a 6 c/kWh rate and a 15% discount, while Shine Reward offers an 11 c/kWh feed-in rate with a 5% discount.
- South Australia: Unlike the other states, South Australian customers are not offered the standard Shine package, but are instead presented with either Shine Essentials or Shine Plus. Shine Essentials includes an 8 c/kWh feed in tariff and a 17% discount, while the Shine Plus plan has a 12 c/kWh rate and a 5% discount.
Finding the right solar retailer
Our survey found that Aussie solar power customers have been with their energy provider for an average of 10 years. While we understand that navigating the energy market can be a rather confusing task, it can also be extremely rewarding and can save you a lot of money in the long run. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to say that one energy retailer is better than another in all circumstances. Customers will need to weigh-up their options depending on their energy use, spending preferences and location, amongst other things.
When you find a good deal, it may be tempting to sign away without examining the terms and conditions, however this can be costly. Customers need to be sure what they’re getting into – especially if it’s a fixed-term contract. Some important terms to look out for are:
- Eligibility requirements on feed-in-tariffs, (e.g. solar system size limitations)
- Electricity usage and supply charges
- Connection, exit and late fees
- Ability for the retailer to change prices and any notice requirements
If an energy retailer wants to truly satisfy however, it needs more than just competitive rates. According to Canstar Blue research, the top drivers of customer satisfaction are:
- Value for money 36%
- Customer service 25%
- Range of plans 15%
- Bill clarity 13%
- Information & advice on energy efficiency 11%
There are a lot of factors to weight up when you’re looking for the best solar retailer for your needs. We hope this review has proved useful in your decisions-making process.
Frequently Asked Questions
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 a solar electricity account and pay the bills – in this case, 1,383 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.