Compare NSW electricity providers Alinta Energy, Origin, EnergyAustralia, Red Energy, Click Energy, AGL, Dodo Power & Gas and ActewAGL on their customer service, bill & cost clarity, tools & advice, value for money, focus on environmental sustainability and overall customer satisfaction in 2018.
See our Ratings Methodology.
New South Wales customers are now spoilt for choice when it comes to picking electricity providers. The state has become one of the most hotly-contested for the retailers, which is good news for households looking for a better deal. However, with all this competition comes confusion. All electricity providers in NSW will promise you a great deal, but who can you really believe? You’ll obviously demand competitive rates, but what about good customer service too? To find out which energy companies are ticking all the boxes for NSW residents, Canstar Blue produces an annual customer satisfaction review, asking more than 2,200 bill-paying customers about their personal experiences with their electricity providers. Read on to find out which retailers performed well and how you can get a better deal.
This year eight different electricity providers feature in our ratings report, with customers offering their feedback on a range of important factors, including bill & cost clarity, tools & advice, customer service, value for money and environmental sustainability. But despite the increased competition between NSW electricity providers, Red Energy remains the retailer to beat – once again recording five stars for overall satisfaction, in addition to most other research categories. It is the fourth year in a row that Red Energy has come out on top in NSW.
This year’s review has highlighted a clear divide in customer satisfaction between NSW energy providers big and small. Some people may be sceptical about switching to a smaller electricity company, but these results suggest that doing so may be a smart move. While not necessarily a reflection of prices, Red Energy, Alinta Energy and Dodo customers generally report good ‘value for money’. You can see how they really compare on dollars and cents by searching for your suburb in our electricity comparison tool above. And read on for further details about the energy providers in this review and how you can get a better deal.
Owned by renewable energy generation company Snowy Hydro, Red Energy operates across New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia, keeping things nice and simple with just two electricity market offers for prospective customers to consider. Both come with variable rates, modest whole bill discounts for paying bills on time and no contract term or exit fees. The discounts are ongoing. The only difference between the plans is that one includes 100% accredited GreenPower, meaning an additional cost to electricity usage charges. Both plans also come with access to Red Energy Rewards, the retailer’s rewards program that can deliver discounts on various social activities, such as movie tickets, hotels and attractions. Red Energy is the highest rated electricity provider in our NSW review for the fifth year in succession. In addition to overall customer satisfaction, it also got five stars for customer service, value for money, bill & cost clarity and environmental sustainability, with three stars for tools & advice.
Variable rate plan with a 10% pay on time discount.
(Estimated Feb 2018)
A major gas and electricity retailer in Victoria, South Australia, Queensland and Western Australia, Alinta Energy is a new addition to our NSW electricity provider ratings for 2018, suggesting that it is increasing its presence in the state significantly. Alinta Energy remains based in Sydney, but was recently acquired by a Hong Kong-based conglomerate company. In terms of electricity plans, Alinta keeps things simple with a single variable rate market offer in each state that it serves. This comes with a significant pay on time discount off usage charges, with a benefit period of two years. This helps make Alinta Energy a generally price-competitive retailer in the states that it serves. In NSW, it achieved four stars for overall customer satisfaction and the same rating for all other research categories, including customer service and value for money. In addition to its strong showing in NSW, Alinta has emerged as the highest rated electricity provider in Queensland this year.
Variable rate plan with a 27% pay on time discount.
(Estimated Feb 2018)
Perhaps best-known as a phone and internet provider, Dodo completes the set of home services by also selling electricity and gas. Dodo operates in NSW, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia, with a single variable rate market offer to its name, usually boasting a large conditional discount off usage charges. The discount is ongoing, but is dependent on paying on time. Dodo is owned by Vocus Communications, the company behind lots of names in the telco industry, including iPrimus. Dodo’s big selling point is that its customers have the convenience of dealing with just one company for all of their home services. It even sells insurance! As an electricity provider in NSW, Dodo Power & Gas has achieved four stars for overall customer satisfaction. It also recorded four stars for customer service, value for money, bill & cost clarity and tools & advice. It was given three stars for environmental sustainability.
Energy giant AGL offers three electricity market contracts for NSW households to choose between based on personal preference. All three products come with notable discounts but the conditions of them vary. The biggest discount goes to customers who are happy to commit to direct debit billing, with a reduced discount available for those who would rather not set up automatic payments, but can still pay bills on time. In both cases, discounts are applied to electricity usage charges only. However, AGL’s third plan provides a smaller, guaranteed, discount off both usage and supply charges. All three plans have a benefit period of 12 months. AGL customers could also benefit from the retailer’s association with the flybuys program, with one point awarded for every $1 spent on energy. Switching to AGL online could also see customers bag a bonus 10,000 flybuys points. In our NSW electricity provider ratings, AGL got three stars for overall satisfaction and the same score in most other research categories. The exception was bill & cost clarity where it rated four stars.
Part owned by AGL, ActewAGL is the primary electricity provider in the ACT, while also servicing parts of regional NSW, including Queanbeyan, Shoalhaven and the south east corner of the state, covered by the Essential Energy network. ActewAGL offers large guaranteed discounts off electricity usage charges, with a benefit period of two years. However, rates and discounts can vary between geographical areas. This is the first year that ActewAGL has featured in our review of NSW electricity providers, scoring three stars for overall customer satisfaction. It also rated three stars for customer service and bill & cost clarity, but was deemed worthy of only two stars with regards to value for money, environmental sustainability and tools & advice.
Click Energy could probably be described as one of the biggest ‘second tier’ electricity providers in NSW and other states. A serious challenger to more established retailers like AGL, Origin and EnergyAustralia, Click Energy claims that its online business model allows is to offer great value to customers. It typically offers one big discount market offer in each state, in addition to a specific product for owners of electric vehicles. However, Click Energy has a habit of regularly switching products, so today’s big offer could be different to what you’re offered tomorrow. A consistent theme is that Click’s electricity plans come with ongoing discounts off both usage and supply charges and no contract term or exit fees. Click’s rates are variable. Click Energy is now owned by phone and internet provider Amaysim – itself an energy provider. In our latest review of electricity providers in NSW, Click achieved three stars for overall satisfaction, bill & cost clarity and value for money. It scored four stars for customer service, but just two stars in regards to environmental sustainability and tools & advice.
Variable rate plan with a 27% discount for paying bills on time and by direct debit.
(Estimated at Feb 2018)
EnergyAustralia offers NSW customers a fairly comprehensive range of products to consider, including a fixed rate electricity plan that sees rates locked in for two years. With this plan, EnergyAustralia claims it will pass on savings should the wholesale price of electricity drop during the two-year contract period. A large conditional discount is also applied to usage charges when bills are paid on time, but exit fees will apply if the contract is cancelled early. EnergyAustralia also provides two variable rate plans in NSW. The first has a large pay on time discount, while the second has a smaller but guaranteed discount. Discounts are applied to usage charges and there are 12 month benefit periods. No exit fees apply. EnergyAustralia also tends to offer online sign-up credit with some plans, but this is not always available. EnergyAustralia received three stars for overall satisfaction in our latest review of NSW electricity providers. It also rated three stars for customer service, bill & cost clarity and environmental sustainability. It achieved just two stars on value for money and tools & advice.
Origin provides arguably the most comprehensive range of electricity options for NSW residents, though with these options may come some confusion. Origin has three variable rate plans, with varying discounts and conditions based on personal preference. The biggest discount is offered with direct debit payments and email billing, while the next plan is for customers who would rather not pay by direct debit, but can still pay bills on time. Discounts are applied to usage charges. Both plans have 12 month benefit periods and no exit fees. The third variable rate deal from Origin includes a smaller but guaranteed discount, applied to both usage and supply charges. The benefit period is 12 or 24 months. Origin also offers the only fixed cost plan in NSW in the shape of its Predictable Plan. With it, customers pay the same price for their power every month for a year, regardless of their actual consumption. Specific quotes are offered based on the household’s usage history. Origin rated three stars for overall customer satisfaction, but recorded a creditable four stars for customer service and bill & cost clarity. However, it got just two stars for value for money and tools & advice, with three stars on environmental sustainability.
In addition to the market offer plans mentioned above, all eight providers also have standard electricity contracts in NSW. These are default plans that customers may be on if they have never switched energy retailers, or haven’t moved onto a new deal for several years. Standard contracts are significantly more expensive than the cheapest market offers.
Our NSW electricity provider ratings feature eight of the most prominent retailers, but it’s important to know that there are several others all competing for your business. Just because they didn’t get enough responses in our survey to be included in the ratings, doesn’t mean they’re not worth a closer look. Here is a list of all residential electricity providers operating in NSW.
There are many electricity providers in NSW now, but it wasn’t long ago that households in Sydney and the rest of the state were stuck with one of the big three energy companies – Origin, EnergyAustralia or AGL – with no other retailers able to challenge their dominance. It’s for this reason that they continue to supply 87% of customers in NSW, according to the Australian Energy Regulator’s latest industry report. If you don’t remember signing up with one of these companies, you were probably transferred over when one of them absorbed your old retailer.
The NSW electricity market began to change in 2002 when the state Government introduced ‘Full Retail Competition’, meaning that smaller electricity retailers could provide alternative options for consumers. However, while Victoria lifted pricing restrictions in 2009 – and South Australia followed suit three years later – the NSW electricity market remained regulated by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal until 2014, so there was little or no financial incentive for customers to switch before then. This was a story replicated in Queensland where price regulations were only lifted in 2016.
Electricity price deregulation means the electricity companies are free to set their own plans, prices and conditions, resulting in a plethora of new entrants into the market. The benefits of deregulation are still up for debate, but the fact is that households in NSW have never had so many providers to choose from, presenting the opportunity for consumers to save if they shop around or just use new offers as leverage to negotiate a better deal with their existing supplier. However, in order to save, you must have at least a basic understanding of the different providers, contracts and plans available. Read on for details.
The first step in saving money on electricity costs is to understand what type of energy contract you are on. There are two types of electricity contracts:
Canstar Blue’s electricity database shows that customers stand to save hundreds of dollars a year simply by switching from their retailer’s standard contract to its cheapest market contract, provided that they stick to the terms and conditions. The latest figures from the Australian Energy Regulator show that one in five (21%) households in NSW remain on a standard contract. Depending on your household’s typical electricity consumption, the difference between the most expensive standard contract and the cheapest market contract in NSW is as much as $1,600 a year. If you’re not sure which type of contract you have, consult a recent bill or contact your provider. Switching from a standard to market offer is a simple and easy way to save a significant amount, provided you’re able to stick to the conditions of any discounts.
Whether you’re on a standard contract or market offer, your electricity bill will be made up of two main costs – supply charges and usage charges.
For most households, usage charges will make up the majority of overall costs. However, you should still pay very close attention to supply charges which can vary significantly between retailers and plans. For small households, it’s possible that supply charges will make up a higher proportion of overall electricity costs. This could also depend on where you live in NSW.
You may not realise that there are three different electricity distribution networks covering NSW. This is important because the network you live on could have a big impact on your bills, with distribution costs accounting for as much as 50% of your overall bills. The three distribution networks are:
Electricity retailers will have different prices for their plans on each network, meaning that the amount an Origin customer – for example – pays on the Ausgrid network could be quite different to what another Origin customer will pay on the Endeavour network, even if their energy plans are the same. As a homeowner, there is little you can do about this. However, if you are renting a home and take energy costs seriously, you could look into different prices before deciding which suburb to move to, because it could save you a significant amount.
To get the best deal on your electricity supply, you’ll need to understand how different tariffs work and how they can impact your overall costs. Some tariffs, however, will only be available if you have a smart meter installed at your property. Tariffs available in NSW are:
If you have a single rate electricity tariff, you will pay the same usage charges no matter what the time of day, up to a point. This is because ‘block rates’ are applied to single rate tariff usage, with households charged differently depending on how much power they actually use. In most cases, households pay the highest prices for the first ‘block’ of power they use during the day (usually around 10 kilowatt-hours) and then less for each following block. There is usually only a marginal difference between the costs of these blocks, but they are still worth being aware of.
Regardless of whether a household has a single rate or time of use tariff, they will still be able to benefit from having a ‘controlled load’. A controlled load, or ‘dedicated circuit’ as it is often called, is a separate circuit that allows you to meter selected high-usage appliances independently from the rest of your property. A controlled load will usually just be used to power the electric hot water system in your home. Controlled load prices should be much lower than normal usage rates, but are only applicable for a few hours each day (between 6 and 8). Households can also add a second controlled load with other big appliances such as pool pumps. These can be applied for up to 16 hours per day, but the usage rates will be higher than the first controlled load.
The electricity providers in NSW bring a wide variety of different market contracts, usually differentiated by headline discounts or other sign-up incentives, such as ‘bonus credit’ when you sign up online. While some electricity providers offer multiple market contracts for NSW households to choose from, others have a far more concise range. Dodo Power & Gas and Alinta Energy have only one residential market offer each for NSW, while Red Energy has two. The big three retailers, Origin, AGL and EnergyAustralia, provide three or four market contracts each. These could include both variable and fixed rate plans.
There are other electricity providers doing things a little differently in NSW. Pooled Energy, for example, offers specific electricity plans for households with swimming pools, combining its license as an energy retailer with its pool maintaining services – so your electricity retailer is also responsible for cleaning your pool! Meanwhile, Energy Locals gives customers an opportunity to donate to their favourite charity via their power pills.
To make them stand out from the crowd, most electricity plans come with headline-grabbing discounts, usually off usage charges for either paying on time, paying by direct debit, getting bills via email, or for signing up online. Discounts of more than 20% are common in NSW, and while they will help you save on the base rates of your respective plan, it’s important to know that plans with large discounts do not always result in the cheapest overall prices. That’s why it’s very important to use an energy comparison tool that cuts through the marketing and offers a real guide as to which deals work out cheapest.
To help reduce electricity costs, there are a range of different energy rebates available for households in NSW. Customers with low incomes, dependent children and certain medical conditions may be eligible for financial support towards their gas and electricity costs.
To get the cheapest possible deal for your household, you will need to take into consideration all of the factors previously mentioned, including:
When you spell everything out like this, it’s easy to see why many consumers find the subject of energy so confusing. However, in an effort to simplify matters, Canstar Blue’s cost comparison report for NSW shows overall estimated prices for many of the electricity providers mentioned in this report. Based on average energy consumption figures and market contract pricing for single rate tariff households on the Ausgrid network, we found customers could save as much as $700 per year by switching to the cheapest offer available. The ‘cheapest’ electricity provider doesn’t automatically mean ‘best’, but if the bottom line is all you worry about then our report is certainly worth a look.
Ultimately, it’s all about educating yourself on the options that are available to you. The energy retailers are required by law to publish all of their price fact sheets online, so use the information gathered in this report and check out the facts and figures with your own eyes. Our customer ratings also offer you an insight into how the big providers in NSW are performing in the eyes of those paying the bills, so be sure to keep these details in mind too. Good luck finding a better deal!
Canstar Blue surveyed 9,000 Australian adults across a range of categories to measure and track customer satisfaction. Data was collected use Qualtrics’ online sample aggregation from ISO accredited panels. 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 bills – in this case, 2,277 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. Not all brands available in the market have been compared in this survey. 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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*Costs based on annual usage calculations using statistics from AER for a three person household on the Ausgrid network in Sydney, January 2018. For more information on annual cost calculations please click here.
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