Retail energy market performance update for Quarter 3, 2020-21

Segment: 
Category: 
Quarterly report
Release date: 
30 June 2021

Overview

On 30 June 2021, the AER published retail energy market performance data for the five quarters from Q3 2019-20 to Q3 2020-21. The data is published in an Excel format to enable stakeholders to easily download and use the statistics. This quarter, we have not provided an accompanying written report.

We have split the data into three separate spreadsheets, which are modelled on the schedules in the AER (Retail Law) Performance Reporting Procedures and Guidelines. These spreadsheets contain:

  • Schedule 2: customer numbers, switching, contracts, meter installations, tariffs;
  • Schedule 3: complaints, debt (non-hardship), Centrepay, missed pay on time discounts, credit collections, payment plans, disconnections; and
  • Schedule 4: hardship customer numbers, hardship debt, hardship concessions, hardship payments, hardship program information, hardship assistance offered, hardship disconnections and hardship reconnections.

The AER is also undertaking additional and timely reporting on voluntary basis to have visibility of the effect of the pandemic on the retail energy market through our COVID-19 dashboard. Please refer to the dashboard for more recent market data trends.

Key findings

There was an increase in the proportion of customers on market contracts, as opposed to the often more expensive standing offers from retailers.

  • The most significant increase was in the ACT, where approximately 71% of all residential electricity customers are now on market contracts, which is up from 61% in the same quarter last year.
  • All other jurisdictions had small increases except South Australia which held steady and has the highest proportion with around 91% on market contracts.

The market share held by Tier 1 retailers (AGL, EnergyAustralia and Origin) and primary regional retailers (Ergon, Aurora and ActewAGL) continued to decrease this quarter, with more customers moving to Tier 2 retailers.

The number of customers on hardship programs has decreased. This trend has been occurring since Q3 2019-20 and goes against the upwards trend that occurred over the prior four years. The average debt amount of customers on hardship programs has increased for both electricity and gas over the past year. Quarter on quarter data shows:

  • The number of electricity customers on hardship programs at 30 March 2021 was 67,678, as compared to 74,361 customers the same time last year, a decrease of 6,683.
  • The number of gas customers on hardship programs at 30 March 2021 was 13,983, as compared to 16,096 customers the same time last year, a decrease of 2,113.
  • The average hardship debt for electricity increased 25%, from $1319 to $1646.
  • The average hardship debt for gas also increased 25%, from $628 to $783.

The number of customers on electricity and gas payment plans also decreased at the start of the pandemic period, as retailers offered other types of support not captured by our Retail Performance Guidelines. However, from July 2020 the numbers slowly started to increase and are now back around pre pandemic levels.

Disconnections increased from last quarter (Q2 2020-21) to this quarter, however remained less than half of the same time last year, as retailers responded to the AER’s Statement of Expectations that ensured households and small businesses impacted by COVID-19 were protected from disconnection:

  • In Q3 2020-21, the number of disconnections was 7,036, compared to 18,321 in Q3 2019-20.

The pandemic continued to have an impact on energy debt with the number of customers repaying energy debt climbing back to levels last seen in 2018. To compare quarter on quarter data:

  • The number of residential gas and electricity customers in debt as at the end of Q3 2020-21 was 178,167 compared to 161,117 for Q3 the previous year.
  • Average residential debt for gas and electricity at the end of Q3 2020-21 was $1,021, which increased from $826 in Q3 the previous year.
  • The number of small business gas and electricity customers in debt as at the end of Q3 2020-21 was 22,626 compared to 17,049 for Q3 the previous year.
  • Average small business debt for gas and electricity was $2,165 in Q3 2020-21 which increased from $2,104 Q3 in the previous year.

This data is provided by retailers in accordance with our Performance Reporting Guidelines and looks at key retail indicators including disconnections, debt, payments plans and hardship.

The AER’s most recent annual report on the performance of the retail energy markets is the Annual retail markets report 2019-20. Our next quarterly data, covering the period April to June 2021, will be published along with the annual retail markets report 2020-21, by 30 November 2021.