Decoding your Energy Bill

20 October 2017
Decoding your Energy Bill

You look at you energy bill trying to work out why it costs so much as you don’t recall using that much energy in the last couple of month. You thought you were on a good plan with a good discount but you don’t have time to check it because you are busy, it’s a tedious task and the terms make no sense. So you pay it, hoping that your energy provider has got it right. But it's worth being able to interpret your energy bill to keep your provider on their toes. 

We say interpret as it can sometimes look like it’s written in another language with terms like - supply charge, daily charge, anytime, single rate, controlled, shoulder, units, peak, off-peak. No wonder we end up just hoping that our energy provider has got it right. 

The energy experts at Energy Pledge have put together a cheat sheet to help you decode what your energy bill actually means. This will help you should you decide to check whether the deal you are currently on is the best one for your household.  

Energy Bill Terms

Meter Type 

There are two types of electricity meters. These are:

  • Smart meters - latest meters which measures and records electricity consumption every half hour. Smart meters send readings directly to the energy distributors which means switching energy providers is very easy as a person doesn't have to come out to your property to read your meter.

  • Old Meters - Either in analogue or electronic. This does not send readings directly to the energy distributor so when switching energy providers, this will require a person to come out and read your meter

Usage (the electricity you use)

This is the amount of energy units your household has used for the stated invoice period. The larger number on your bill is the total units, usually expressed in “kwh” which stands for kilowatt hours. The smaller amount expressed as a $ figure (eg $0.27564) is the amount you are charged per kilowatt hour you used. 
Analogy: like paying for litres of fuel for your car 

Supply or Daily Charge 

These are different words used to describe the same concept. They are a fixed rate that you get charged every day to cover the cost of supplying energy to your household. 
Analogy: like paying rent

Anytime/single rate

This is a meter that only charges you at one fixed rate. It doesn't matter what time of day you consume your energy, you are paying the same rate.

Controlled load 

This is an additional component to your meter, which sends energy to one appliance in the house, usually a hot water service, pool or large freezer. This is often a much cheaper rate than your standard usage, because usage is more consistent.  

Peak/Off-Peak 

This is a meter that charges you per unit used at various points in the day. Peak is a higher rate per unit as it applies to peak times of the day where most people are using energy (usually before and after work and on the weekends). Off-peak is the opposite of that and during the times of the day when most people are not using a lot of energy. Off-peak is a slightly cheaper rate, so you should refer to your contract to determine what times these apply. This may change the times you do activities that require energy.

Shoulder rate 

The shoulder rate is a time in between peak and off-peak that you get charged a third separate rate. Usually a price that is lower than peak but higher than off-peak.  

What does this all mean for you?

With the above in mind, you may reconsider what you prioritise in a good plan. If you don’t use much electricity then you will be better off looking at providers with lower supply/daily charges. If you use a LOT of energy then it may be better to consider a provider that has lower usage rates even if their supply/daily charges are a bit higher. Also consider turning that washing machine or dishwasher on during off-peak times if this part of your plan. Understanding your energy usage and and rates will help you to keep your bill downs so you have money to spend on other parts of life where it is needed.