Canstar Blue’s annual review of business electricity providers compares AGL, EnergyAustralia, Origin, Alinta Energy and Red Energy on factors including customer service, bill & cost clarity, online tools & advice, payment plan options, value for money and overall customer satisfaction.
See our Ratings Methodology.
Electricity is one of the biggest overheads for many Australian businesses, particularly in light of rising energy prices. In fact, half of the businesses we surveyed (52%) said electricity is their greatest financial concern. As any business owner knows, running a successful company requires finding the best supplier at a competitive price. The same, of course, goes for energy. Why pay more for a service than you need to?
Most businesses are energy-savvy, with 77% of survey respondents – who own or help run a business – claiming to have made a conscious effort to use less power in the last year. 47% of businesses have also invested in tools to monitor and understand their energy usage. However, only 43% have taken one of the biggest leaps and switched providers in an effort to save some money. While 70% said they believe their business gets a good deal on power, you can’t know for sure until you shop around.
The needs of businesses are different to those of residential customers, so where do you even begin comparing energy providers for business? Well, Canstar Blue annually surveys hundreds of Australian small businesses, asking them to rate their energy company across key criteria like customer service, billing & cost clarity, payment plan options, online tools & advice, value for money and – ultimately – overall satisfaction. You’ll never really know how good or bad an energy company is until you sign up and find out for yourself, but our review provides a helpful guide because the ratings are based on the real-world experiences of business customers just like you. So, what did we find this year?
Canstar Blue’s 2020 business electricity review saw five major providers compared and rated in the following order for overall customer satisfaction:
For a second consecutive year, Alinta Energy claims top spot as the best-rated business electricity provider, scoring five stars across all research categories, including online tools & advice, self-service, payment plan options, customer service and value for money, in addition to overall satisfaction.
An honourable mention also goes to Red Energy. Finishing in second place overall, Red Energy was the only other provider to achieve a five-star rating in any category, which was for value for money.
The average monthly electricity bill for the businesses we surveyed this year was $1,048, which is a big chunk of change no matter what type of business you’re in. The good news, however, is that there are many energy providers all desperate for your… business. So, read on as we provide details about the five energy providers compared in this report, in addition to several others also worthy of consideration.
Business energy has become big ‘business’ to electricity providers in Australia, not least because the usage needs of business customers are generally a lot higher than your typical household’s. While some providers publish specific energy rates for business customers, many instead operate on a personalised basis where rates are tailored or negotiated based on the specific customer’s needs.
In addition to the major energy providers, there a number of retailers that primarily or exclusively serve business customers, including:
The advantage of these retailers is that they specialise in and understand the needs of business electricity customers. In addition to standard retail services, some of these energy companies also undertake energy audits for customers to help them understand how they can manage their energy usage. They may also provide personal account managers so you always have a specific contact to get in touch with. Of course, if you’re not interested in these extras and services, and you’re simply looking for the cheapest price, you’ll need to shop around and get quotes from multiple providers.
Let’s now take a look at what the five major providers in our 2020 review have to offer, as well as those business-focussed providers already mentioned.
Small business customers have the option of signing up to our 2020 customer satisfaction award winner, Alinta Energy. If you’re a SME (small to medium enterprise) in NSW, VIC, QLD or SA, Alinta’s range extends to provide electricity and gas, while WA-based businesses can also be supplied dual fuel, which includes gas.
Red Energy’s business plans mirror its residential offerings. In its line-up is one standard plan with no exit fees, or another plan that give customers the opportunity to earn Qantas points upon sign-up and paying bills in full. Business customers can also choose to have their gas supplied through Red Energy.
AGL’s set of business electricity plans are similar to those offered to residential customers. Its plan range includes the Business Essentials and Business Essentials Saver products. The first is a fixed rate contract with low rates, while the second has variable rates.
EnergyAustralia is another power retailer that offers business customers a similar range of products to residential customers. Its offers include Total Plan and Basic Business. Rates, fees and discounts vary across different locations, so be sure to check EnergyAustralia’s price fact sheets for more details.
Origin Energy has two variable rate market offers for business customers. One product comes with a guaranteed discount on your power bill, which means you receive the discount regardless of when or how you pay – maybe great for businesses trying to manage their other priorities. The other is a basic plan with rates the same as the Reference Price/VDO.
QEnergy specialises in business electricity for small and medium-sized businesses within NSW, VIC, QLD and SA. It also has residential energy plans on offer. Businesses looking to sign up to QEnergy have a few plans to choose from, with differing sign-up criteria and multiple tariff options. Something that makes QEnergy stand out for small businesses is its commitment to energy-efficiency and sustainability.
Blue NRG has a distinct focus on SMEs (small to medium-sized enterprise) in Victoria, NSW and South Australia. This retailer first launched in Victoria in 2012, but has since expanded to the aforementioned states. It doesn’t appear to offer discounts, bill credits or sign-up incentives, but in exchange customers don’t pay credit card fees. The website prompts you to contact the provider directly for a quote.
Commander is first and foremost a business electricity retailer in South Australia, Victoria and NSW, although it does also service residential addresses. With this retailer, you’ll score the best value by bundling your electricity with other services, such as office phone plans and internet. Commander is currently offering a market offer, as well as a plan equal to the Reference Price/VDO.
While Powerdirect has made an obvious effort to advertise its residential electricity plans in recent times, what this retailer is better-known for is its business energy services. Backed by AGL, it operates across Victoria, NSW, Queensland and South Australia. Powerdirect appears to have one plan available for Aussie businesses, the Business Discount Saver, which comes with a guaranteed discount on your total bill.
ERM Power started off as an energy consultancy group, moving into energy retail in 2008. It exclusively supplies business energy customers and operates across all Australian states and territories. With ERM Power, you can choose between fixed and bundled tariffs, giving flexibility in how you pay. ERM Power also owns a decent portfolio of energy generation assets, mainly coal-fired power stations.
Next Business Energy has been powering Australian businesses since its launch in 2014. It is privately listed, in its own words “100% Australian operated energy”, and services businesses in NSW, QLD, VIC, SA and the ACT. Signing up to this retailer will also give you access to Nextconnect, it’s energy tracking and management app.
The energy providers in our 2020 report only retail electricity to businesses in QLD, NSW, VIC, SA and the ACT. Energy markets outside of these areas face tighter regulations, and subsequently have fewer suppliers.
Businesses in Perth and the surrounding areas can only choose their electricity company if they are deemed ‘contestable’. That is, they consume more than 50mWh of electricity per year (that’s approx. 137 kWh/day). Contestable customers have several options, including:
Perth business customers that use less than 137kWh per day however, have no choice but to sign up with Synergy. This will include many small restaurants, cafes, stores and the like. Similarly, customers do not have much choice outside of Perth, with most areas only supplied by Horizon Power. For more, see our WA Energy guide.
Tasmania’s electricity retail market remains fairly tightly-regulated, which means it isn’t bustling with competition. Unless you have a large business that consumes lots of energy, your only options remain Aurora Energy – the government-owned electricity and gas retailer – or new entrant to the market, 1st Energy. Large businesses using more than 150mWh/year may have other options. For more details, see our Tasmania Energy Guide.
Only very large companies can choose their electricity supplier in the Northern Territory. For most customers, Jacana Energy is the only option. Business tariffs are government regulated in the NT and include a flat rate tariff called the ‘Everyday Business’. It also offers a unique tariff called ‘Business 6 to 6’, which applies a higher rate from 6am through to 6pm and a lower rate from 6pm to 6am. This makes the plan a particularly attractive tariff for businesses that operate at night. Some specialised tariffs may also apply for charity organisations and caravan parks.
While businesses on the Energex network in the Brisbane area of south-east Queensland have lots of energy retailers to choose from, those on the Ergon Energy network in regional areas do not have a lot of choice. In most cases, businesses in these areas will have to sign up with Ergon Energy, although in some locations, QEnergy may be an alternative. It’s best to call QEnergy directly to see if the retailer is available in your area.
Having the ability to choose your electricity provider can be both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, it means retailers will offer competitive deals to win your custom. While on the other hand, it means you need to be proactive and regularly compare retailers to ensure you’re still getting the best deal on electricity. The moment you take your power costs for granted, the moment you fall into the trap of paying too much. And that’s where many Aussie businesses now find themselves.
If you have not compared electricity providers recently, then your energy bills could be unnecessarily cutting into the bottom line of your business. The question then is, which electricity company is best? While Alinta Energy won this year’s award for having the most satisfied business customers, all of the major retailers that featured in this year’s report are perfectly viable electricity providers, albeit with different prices, features and other incentives.
Remember that every business is unique, and the needs of your company may be different to those of another. What’s important is that you understand how your business uses power, you think about what you could do to be more energy-efficient, and regularly shop around to ensure you’re on the best deal that suits your business. Even if you think you’re already on a good deal, it never hurts to look around.
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This page was originally published by Canstar Blue Editor-in-Chief Simon Downes. He’s been writing about the Australian energy industry for more than five years, covering the evolution of the competitive market, retailer behaviour, regulatory changes and what it all means for consumers trying to find a better deal. He’s passionate about helping Aussies better understand their options and highlighting the best new deals. Simon also acts as spokesperson for Canstar Blue and is one of Australia’s most prominent energy industry commentators.
Canstar Blue surveyed 2,032 Australian small to medium-sized business owners or decision makers (i.e. the main decision maker for the small business) across a range of categories to measure and track customer satisfaction, via ISO 26362 accredited research panels managed by Qualtrics. The outcomes reported are the results from customers within the survey group who have an electricity account that they use for business and their business pays for – in this case, 955 small business owners/decision makers.
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. Not all brands available in the market have been compared in this survey. The ratings table is first sorted by star ratings and then by mean overall satisfaction. 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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*Prices correct as of publication date.