Compare SA electricity providers Simply Energy, Lumo Energy, AGL, EnergyAustralia and Origin on customer service, bill & cost clarity, tools & advice, focus on environmental sustainability, value for money and overall customer satisfaction in 2018.
When it comes to electricity in South Australia, it’s all about trying to make the best of a bad situation. Not only have South Australians been plagued by power blackouts in recent times, but they also pay the highest prices for electricity in Australia in the first place. Your electricity provider of choice should have no impact on the likelihood of you suffering a power cut, but it will have a major impact on the prices that you pay for energy and the customer service and support you receive. Picking the best electricity provider for your needs is about more than just the lowest price – but it certainly helps if you’re getting a good deal. Our customer satisfaction review of SA electricity providers takes all important factors into consideration. So who came out on top in 2018?
We’ve surveyed more than 600 bill-paying customers in the Adelaide area to find out what they think about their electricity provider when it comes to important factors like customer service and value for money. Five of the biggest providers in the state have featured in the results, but only Simply Energy scored five stars for overall satisfaction. It’s the second year in a row and third time in four years that Simply Energy has come out on top in SA.
This year’s ratings suggest there is a clear divide in customer satisfaction between the big three energy retailers and the smaller guys. If you’ve never considered a switch to a smaller provider before, it could be time to think again. We’ll go into more detail about the five providers in this year’s review soon, but before we do, why not jump into our electricity comparison tool to see how they stack up on price?
Simply Energy is typically a very price-competitive electricity provider in South Australia. The company is owned by French utilities giant Engie, but remains based in Melbourne. Simply Energy is well-known for offering a wide range of electricity products, including an exclusive deal for RAA members that brings an additional discount and a plan that provides ‘free’ movie tickets. Simply Energy’s electricity products all include varying pay on time discounts on usage charges, with contracts of either 12 or 24 months. Rates are variable and exit fees may apply on some plans. South Australians are clearly quite happy with what Simply Energy has to offer, rating it five stars for overall satisfaction, customer service, bill & cost clarity and value for money. It got four stars on tools & advice and environmental sustainability.
Lumo Energy is one of two electricity providers owned by renewable energy generation company Snowy Hydro – the other being Red Energy. Based in Melbourne, Lumo Energy offers a diverse range of energy products in SA, including a plan targeted at customers who rent a home and often move. Lumo Energy’s plans all come with modest pay on time discounts, but the details vary between products. Discounts are applied to the whole bill rather than just usage charges. Contracts are on a no fixed-term basis and there are no exit fees. Rates are variable. This year’s review suggests that Lumo Energy customers are pretty content, rating the retailer five stars on environmental sustainability, bill & cost clarity, customer service and value for money. However, Lumo Energy had to settle for four stars for overall satisfaction.
Overall Satisfaction Rating
Variable rate plan with a 10% discount for paying bills on time.
(Estimated Jan 2018)
One of Australia’s biggest energy companies, AGL offers three market contracts to households in South Australia, with varying discounts and conditions to suit different preferences. These include a plan with a direct debit discount, one with a discount for paying on time, plus a product that delivers a guaranteed discount. Discounts apply to either usage charges or the whole bill, depending on the plan. In each case, discounts apply for just 12 months. All three plans come with variable rates and no exit fees. Customers can collect flybuys reward points when they pay their bills, with one point for each dollar spent. AGL was rated three stars for overall satisfaction this year, with just two stars for environmental sustainability, tools & advice and value for money. It scored three stars for bill & cost clarity and customer service.
EnergyAustralia keeps its product line-up pretty simple in South Australia, with just two market offers to consider. One comes with a pay on time discount, while the other comes with a smaller but guaranteed discount. In both cases, rates are variable, the discounts apply to usage charges and there is a 12 month benefit period. No exit fees are applied. EnergyAustralia also tends to offer a modest credit on your first bill when you sign up online, but this offer is not always available. The retailer received three stars for overall satisfaction in our 2018 review, but it did earn a very respectable five stars for customer service and four stars on environmental sustainability, bill & cost clarity and tools & advice. It achieved just two stars on value for money.
Energy giant Origin has a comprehensive product range for South Australian customers, including three market contracts with varying discounts and conditions depending on personal preference. One boasts a pay on time discount, while another offers a bigger discount for paying by direct debit and receiving bills via email. In both cases, discounts apply to usage charges and there is only a 12 month benefit period. Option number three has a smaller guaranteed discount, but it is applied to the whole bill rather than just usage charges. The benefit period can be 12 or 24 months. Rates on all plans are variable and there are no exit fees. Origin also offers a fixed cost plan aptly named ‘Predictable Plan’, with customers given personal quotes depending on their usage history. Origin was rated three stars for overall satisfaction in 2018, but scored a creditable four stars for customer service and bill & cost clarity. However, it rated only two stars when it comes to value for money and three stars for both tools & advice and environmental sustainability.
In addition to their market offers mentioned above, all five retailers also have standard contracts in SA. These are default electricity plans that customers may find themselves on if their market offer has expired, or they have never switched to a new plan.
Our customer ratings featured on Today Tonight Adelaide, which you can watch here.
Our customer review and ratings include the five most prominent electricity retailers in South Australia, but it’s important to know that there are many more providers operating in the state. Here is a complete list of residential electricity providers in SA.
Given the ridiculously high prices that South Australians pay for electricity, you would be forgiven for thinking there wasn’t much competition between providers in the market. The price of any product or service generally gets higher when there is no competition. However, this is not the case at all in South Australia as there are many different electricity providers fighting hard for new customers. The problem is the cost of electricity transmission and distribution, which these energy companies need to pass onto their customers. However, the extent to which these costs are passed on to customers is the subject of much debate. South Australia is also heavily reliant on renewable energy generation, and during periods of very high demand – such as hot summer days – supply has occasionally failed to meet demand, resulting in blackouts.
Despite the competitive nature of the South Australian electricity market, latest figures from the Australian Energy Regulator show that 75% of households in SA remain with one of the big three power companies – AGL, Origin and EnergyAustralia. This is largely because many households have not switched electricity providers since the SA electricity market was deregulated in 2012. Deregulation resulted in many new providers entering the local market, and means that they are now free to set their own prices, plans and conditions. Previously, electricity prices in SA had to be agreed with the Essential Services Commission of South Australia. While the removal of energy price regulations has increased competition, the merits of it remain debated, especially considering the high prices South Australians pay.
There are two types of electricity contracts in South Australia – known as standard contracts and market contracts. Knowing the difference between them is the first step to finding a cheaper deal.
Canstar Blue’s electricity database shows that households in SA stand to save hundreds of dollars a year by switching from a standard contract to a market contract, even with the same provider, provided they stick to the conditions of their plan. Bigger savings could even be possible by switching providers. Based on typical electricity usage for a family of five, the difference between the cheapest and most expensive electricity plans in SA is almost $1,500 a year. According to the AER’s latest report, 12% of households in SA remain on a standard contract.
Once you’re settled on the type of electricity contract you want, the next thing you need to understand is the charges you’ll face. Electricity prices can vary considerably between providers, so it literally pays to get to know these charges, and what cheap energy rates look like. The two charges that make up your electricity bills are fixed supply charges and usage charges.
It’s important to get to know these charges, which can be found in the energy price fact sheet of your contract. Working out what represents ‘cheap’ rates can help you pick the plan that’s best for you. Keep in mind that households with low usage can expect supply chargers to account for a higher proportion of overall costs, while high usage households can expect usage rates to account for a higher proportion.
With almost 20 different electricity providers in South Australia, you won’t be surprised to discover that there are plenty of options to consider. In their most basic form, energy plans fall into two categories – those with variables rates and those with fixed rates.
While some energy retailers play it fairly straight with their electricity plans, it’s common to see various promotional offers to get new customers to sign up. Simply Energy, for example, has a specific offer for RAA members, which brings an additional discount. Simply Energy also boasts a plan for movie lovers, bringing up to 32 ‘free’ cinema tickets throughout the contract period. Lumo Energy, meanwhile, has a rewards program whereby customers get money off at various retail outlets and theme parks, while AGL customers can collect flybuys points through their bills. While tempting, it’s important to compare electricity providers in SA on their supply and usage charges before taking any discounts and incentives into account.
While some electricity providers offer specific incentives in an effort to get you to sign up, most simply rely on attention-grabbing discounts to stand out from the crowd. It’s common to find electricity plans boasting discounts of more than 20% off, but it’s important not to automatically assume that the biggest discounts will mean the biggest savings. There are a few things you’ll need to know to get a good deal, including:
Whatever type of discount you decide is best for you, make sure you can meet the conditions. Failure to meet the conditions will result in much higher prices, and you may also be charged a fee.
Tariffs are often the subject of confusion for energy customers, but once you get to grips with what they are and how they work, you should realise that they can actually guide you towards cheaper bills. Across Australia, there are two main types of electricity tariffs – known as ‘single rate’ and ‘time of use’. Their difference is reflected by their names:
In South Australia, the majority of households have single rate tariffs, so the prices you pay for electricity will not depend on the time of day that you happen to use it. If you’ve been in the habit of using your washing machine, dishwasher or other major appliance late at night because you thought it would save you a few bucks, you are mistaken.
While some states have different single rate tariff options, in SA there is just one standard tariff for all residential customers, but the way retailers use it can differ. This is called Tariff 110, but you may also see it called ‘peak’, ‘domestic’ or ‘anytime’ on your bills. Tariff 110 comes with ‘block rates’, meaning the price you pay for electricity will depend on how much you actually use, rather than when you use it. This basically means that your energy usage is split into daily blocks, with the first ‘block’ of power (typically 11 kWh) usually charged at the lowest rate (say, 36c per kWh).
Where retailers differ is that some will split usage up into just two daily blocks (the second resulting in higher prices of, for example, 39c per kWh), while others split their usage charges into multiple daily blocks, with rates getting gradually higher. You will find plans with as many as five different block usage rates during the day, with Alinta Energy probably the most prominent retailer to follow such a pricing structure. There are pros and cons to this way of charging.
This means it’s important to understand your household energy consumption, to find the best plan for your needs. If you’re a large household with high energy usage, pay close attention to the price of power in later blocks. If you’re a small household with modest energy usage, you’ll be better off finding a plan with the cheapest first block of power, for example.
While the majority of electricity plans in South Australia have single rate tariffs and block rates, you will still find some providing time of use tariffs. However, to access a time of use tariff, you will need to have a smart meter installed at your property. Momentum Energy seems to be the most prominent electricity provider in SA when it comes to time of use tariffs. You will also find block rates applied to time of use tariffs, meaning that you could be charged different rates depending on when you use power and how much you use!
In addition to your primary tariff (single rate or time of use), you may also have a controlled load tariff. A controlled load is a separate metred circuit to the rest of your property, which means that you can be charged a different usage rate for major appliances, usually your electric hot water system or pool pump. A controlled load tariff (also known as Tariff 116 in SA) should be much cheaper than your primary tariff, often costing less than 20c per kWh. The catch is that power will only be supplied for a few hours each day.
Also be sure to check your retailer’s energy price fact sheet for ‘demand’ charges. Some providers adjust their prices between summer and winter, meaning you can be charged higher rates in summer – when there is greater demand for energy – and lower rates in winter. AGL is the most prominent retailer for seasonal pricing.
If you haven’t worked it out yet, finding the best electricity provider and plan for your requirements is extremely tricky. The fact is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to energy costs in South Australia. Instead, you will need to work out which offer best meets your needs based on primarily:
You should also keep in mind that the ‘cheapest’ electricity provider doesn’t necessarily mean the ‘best’ for you. Our annual ratings are based on customer satisfaction, rather than just the cheapest rates. Our cost comparison report for SA electricity providers, however, is a useful guide to which retailers offer the cheapest deals. Ultimately you will want an electricity provider that has competitive rates, but also delivers reliable bills and good customer service when you need to.
Realistically, if you haven’t switched electricity providers for two years or more, you are almost certainly paying more for power than you need to. This is because the cheapest offers are often made possible by the conditional discounts we discussed previously. Furthermore, the best deals are generally reserved for new customers. Even if you’re satisfied with your existing provider, it’s worth reviewing your options from time to time and challenging them to match the discount they offer new customers. The power is typically with new customers, or those who threaten to leave. So if you’re ready to save some money on your energy bills, it’s time to get proactive.
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 South Australia, have an electricity account and pay the bills – in this case, 614 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 SA Power network in Adelaide, January 2018. For more information on annual cost calculations please click here.Elec
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