Learn to read energy bills effortlessly. Our guide simplifies the process, empowering you to understand and manage your expenses effectively.
Reading your energy bills may not be the most exciting thing you ever do in a day, right? However, your energy bills will show you how much energy you’re using and how you’re being charged for it. You can then use this information to compare your current plan with others and find potential savings. And that can be exciting – especially as your savings could add up to something substantial.
So, let’s start with your electricity bill.
Every electricity retailer’s bill will look slightly different, but they will all usually include the same key information. They are: account summary and due date, charge breakdown and tariffs, payment, and usage comparison.
Account Summary and Due Date
This is usually the first section you will see when you receive your electricity bill. It provides an overview of your electricity charges and when your bill is due. Some retailers may give you a ‘pay on time’ discount if you pay your bill by a certain date. It may also show your total usage in kilowatt hours (kWh), supply address and the meter reading interval (if applicable).
Charge Breakdown and Tariffs
This section shows the different ways you can pay your bill. Options usually include Direct Debit, BPay, credit card, or by mail. Some retailers may also include the option to pay with PayPal (via a link in an online bill). This section may also have a graph comparing your consumption to the last meter period or even last year.
Most electricity retailers these days also include a table that shows the average electricity usage of other households in your area. This can be a great way to check how you’re tracking against your neighbours. We’ll go into this in more depth in the example below.
In the following example we take you through an Energy Australia electricity bill highlighting the key sections. (Energy Australia also has an interactive, detailed version of this guide on their website, which you might find helpful. Another major electricity retailer, Alinta Energy, has a detailed guide to their electricity bills, too. If you are a customer with Alinta you might find this version useful.)
In the top right-hand corner of page 1 you’ll find the contact details. This includes how to get in touch with your electricity retailer for general enquiries. Plus, who to contact if there is a loss of electricity supply.
Due date and payment amount
Below the contact details you’ll see the due date and payment amount highlighted. If your plan offers a ‘pay on time’ discount, this may also be shown here.
Your account details
You’ll find your customer number, account number and the address at which your electricity service is supplied here. Your customer number links all of your accounts together. And the account number is the unique identifier for your electricity account. If you’re calling your electricity retailer, you’ll need to quote your account number.
Electricity account summary
The account summary shows if your reading was estimated, the opening balance, last payment received, adjustments and balance carried forward. It will also show the total amount due and any discounts that you are eligible to receive.
On page 2 of this example you’ll find the different ways you can pay your electricity bill. It also repeats the total amount due (with any discount) and the due date.
Now we’re at the interesting part. In this section, you’ll be able to see how your electricity usage is broken down into different tariffs and supply charges.
A tariff is rate charge for each kilowatt hour (kWh) used. If your plan has just one tariff it will only show the details for that tariff. This may be because the property has a Flat-Rate Meter. (Flat-Rate Meters are not able to allocate different tariffs to different times of the day.) It could also be because the electricity plan you are currently on only has one tariff. If this is the case, it could be worth comparing electricity plans. By comparing plans, you could find a mixed tariff plan that offers off-peak rates that could save you money.
The supply charge is the cost per day (including GST) charged by your distribution company for energy transmission and maintenance of poles and wires. Even if you don’t use any electricity during a billing period, this rate will still be charged. As long as your electricity supply remains connected, you will need to pay a supply charge. If your supply charge forms a large percentage of your bill, it may be worth looking for an electricity plan with a lower supply charge. This could make a significant difference to your overall electricity bill, especially if your household doesn’t use much electricity.
Electricity usage comparison
Here you’ll see a graph where you can compare your average daily electricity usage for this billing period with your usage for the same period last year. You’ll also find the average daily cost and the total greenhouse gas emissions for your electricity usage. You can then compare your average daily energy consumption with that over of similar households in your area by checking the benchmark chart.
The benchmark chart shows how much electricity you have used and how it compares with others in your community. It shows the average daily electricity usage for households of 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 people in your local area. In this example, it’s a one-person household with average daily use of 7.87 kWh. Other similar households in this area have an average daily energy consumption of 14.96 kWh. So, this household is tracking well against the average in their area.
If you find your average daily electricity consumption is tracking higher than others in your area, making some simple changes to the way you use energy in your home could help you save. You might also be able to save on your electricity bills by changing your electricity plan.
Next, let’s look at gas bills.
Your gas bills will look very similar to your electricity bill. The main difference is gas is measured in megajoules (MJ). This is instead of kilowatt hours (kWh) for electricity usage. You may also see a different company name on your gas bill. This is because your gas distribution network will be different to your electricity distribution network.
In the following example we take you through an Energy Australia gas bill highlighting the key sections. (Energy Australia has an interactive gas bill guide on their website. Or, if your gas is provided by Alinta Energy, you might like to check their gas bill guide.)
In the top right-hand corner of page 1 you’ll find the contact details. This includes how to contact your gas retailer, plus who to contact for any gas faults.
Due date and payment amount
Below the contact details you’ll see the due date and payment amount highlighted. If your gas plan offers a ‘pay on time’ discount, this will usually be shown here as well.
Your account details
Here, you’ll find your customer number, account number and the address at which the gas meter is located. Your customer number links all of your accounts together. And the account number is the unique identifier for your gas account. If you’re calling your gas retailer, you’ll need to quote your account number.
Gas account summary
The gas account summary shows if your gas meter reading was estimated, the opening balance, last payment received, adjustments and balance carried forward. It will also show the total amount due and any discounts that you are eligible to receive.
On page 2 of this example you’ll find the different ways you can pay your gas bill. This usually includes: Direct Debit, BPay, mail and by phone. It also repeats the total amount due (with any discount) and the due date.
Gas usage and service calculation
Like in the electricity bill example above, here you’ll see the details of your gas usage broken down. For gas bills it will show the tariff, heating value, pressure factor total usage, supply charge, and any eligible energy rebates .
A tariff is the rate at which you will be charged per megajoule (MJ) for gas usage. Your tariff will relate to the type of gas meter at your premises. This determines the plans or products available and the rates at which you are charged for your usage. In this example, ‘Flexi Saver’ is the tariff. The cost of natural gas may also vary depending on the season. This means, your gas retailer might have both winter and summer rates. If both winter and summer rates are applied during your meter reading period, then you may see both of these rates on your bill.
A heating value is used to calculate the amount of megajoules (MJ) in natural gas. The heating value is impacted by the temperature and pressure at different geographical locations. Your local gas distributor supplies your gas retailer with the heating value for your area.
The pressure and speed of the natural gas delivered to your premises will often vary and this is called the ‘pressure factor’. It’s based on environmental factors, such as temperature and the appliance that’s consuming the gas. The pressure factor is used to calculate your gas consumption and is supplied to your retailer by the gas distributor.
Your total gas usage is calculated by multiplying your base usage by your area’s heating value and pressure factor.
In this example, the total usage is calculated as follows: 200 (base usage) x 33.00 (heating value) x 1.10 (pressure factor) = 7260.00 megajoules (MJ)
The supply charge is the cost per day (incl. GST) that is charged for providing you with gas (including the maintenance of pipes and meters). This charge will appear on your bill as long as the gas supply is connected to your property.
Gas usage comparison
Here, you’ll see a graph where you can compare your average daily gas usage for this billing period with your usage from same time last year. This example bill shows a 25% increase in usage compared to the previous year.
Your energy bills could fluctuate over time for a number of reasons. The most common fluctuation is between seasons. Heating your home in winter and cooling your home in summer increases your energy usage and costs. Other reasons for an increase in energy use can include: additional people in your home, renovations to your home, or moving to a less energy efficient building.
Some of the easiest ways to save on your energy bills is to look at switching to time-of-use tariffs and a lower energy rate. It’s also worth checking your supply charges.
If your energy plan only has one tariff, you could look into whether it’s worth switching to a time-of-use tariff. Time-of-use tariffs, such as peak and off-peak rates, could help you save money on your energy bill. (Off-peak rates refer to lower, discounted electricity prices during times when homes and business are using less electricity. Off-peak times usually include the weekend and at night.)
Compare energy rates
Since you took out your current plan, new rates and offers may have become available. So, from time to time it’s worth comparing energy plans to see how much you could save by switching.
Compare supply charges
If your energy usage is low, your supply charge could make up a large percentage of your total energy bill. To try and find a lower supply charge, compare energy plans.