Explore Energy

To the uninitiated, the Australian energy industry is a mysterious world of complex terms and technical jargon. This can make it tough for the average consumer to decipher exactly what their prospective energy provider is offering.

We believe that comparing energy providers (also known as retailers) doesn’t need to be difficult. To make your life easier, we’ve put together a comprehensive glossary of some of the most frequently used terms you’ll likely come across when searching for a new power provider.

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

 

Abolishment

Abolishment is when your home or business is completely removed from the electricity and gas network (e.g. your meter is removed).

This process is different from de-energisation (or disconnection) in that when your property is de-energised, it remains physically connected to the network; your meter has simply been turned off, or the fuse removed. Abolishment is a complete removal from the network.

Accumulation meters

Accumulation meters (also known as basic meters) measure how much electricity you’ve used since the meter was installed. The quantity used in any given period is determined by subtracting the previous reading from the current reading.

However, this means you’re charged one, peak only rate for all the electricity you use, no matter what time of day you used it. You’re also charged a peak only rate for your gas consumption, although in some states this rate can change depending on how much gas you use during a period. Prices can also change depending on the seasons.

Actual read/actual bill

As its name suggests, the actual read is your bill for the actual amount of electricity or gas you’ve used during a given period. Providers are sometimes unable to provide actual bills (usually because the distributor or meter reader wasn’t able to read your meter), and so they’ll send you an estimated bill instead.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC)

The ACCC is a government regulatory body that supports competition and fair market trade, protects consumer rights and enforces consumer law.

Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC)

The AEMC is the independent body responsible for making and amending the rules of the National Energy Market (NEM) and advising the COAG Energy Council.

Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO)

The AEMO manages Australia’s electricity and gas systems and markets, ensuring that all Australians have access to reliable, secure, affordable and sustainable energy.

Australian Energy Regulator (AER) 

The AER ensures energy companies comply with the National Energy Retail Law. Some of its duties include providing market reports on the performance of the industry, ensuring providers (retailers) abide by relevant legislation and more.

Average daily load (ADL)

The average daily load is the amount of electricity (in kWh) you use on average each day.

Baseload

Baseload is the minimum amount of steady supply of electricity over a period required to maintain everyone at that network.

Basic meter

A basic meter (also known as an accumulation meter) is a meter that accumulates usage over time. Typically, these are analogue and need to be read manually by you or your energy provider.

Basic Plan Information Document (BPID)

A BPID is a document that contains important information about an energy plan, like how much your daily supply charge will be and any discounts you may receive. Ensure that you read this before you purchase a plan, so you understand what it entails. The BPID can usually be found alongside a Detailed Plan Information Document (DPID).

Benefit period

The benefit period is the set time a particular benefit (e.g. discounted rates) applies to your energy contract.

Billing cycle

A billing cycle is how frequently you’ll receive a bill from your energy provider.

Victorians receive gas bills every two months and electricity bills every three months. Those in NSW, ACT, WA, QLD and SA get their electricity and gas bills every three months.

For electricity accounts, if you have an interval meter, you may be billed monthly depending on your provider and distributor combination.

Biomass 

Biomass is any organic material derived from plant or waste streams;1 this includes wood, oilseeds, algae and other matter left over from agricultural processes. Currently responsible for generating around 12% of Australia’s renewable energy (May 2020), biomass helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions and is what biofuel is produced from.

Black energy

Black energy is generated by burning coal and other fossil fuels.

Centrepay

Some energy providers offer Centrepay, which allows you to pay your energy bills directly from your Centrelink payments.

Charge point

A charge point is where an electric car can be recharged. You can generally find charge points at a home, worksite or in a public place (such as a carpark).

Climate Council 

The Climate Council is an independent organisation providing valuable reports, data and insight into climate change and renewable energy.

Concessions and rebates

State and territory governments offer a range of energy concessions to help low-income households deal with the cost of electricity and gas. Your eligibility varies between regions, and the exact amount of money you could be entitled to depends on your circumstances. Check out our state energy pages for more information.

Connection date

The connection date is the scheduled date a connection point (e.g. a house) is connected to the electricity network. You can arrange a connection by contacting your provider or distributor.

Connection fee

Your distributor may charge you a connection fee (although your provider may collect this fee on behalf of the distributor) to connect the energy at your property.

Controlled load

A controlled load tariff is a charge applied to you for some appliances that use a large amount of energy (e.g. underfloor heating, electric hot water systems). Your provider charges a rate just for that appliance and the energy it uses. Controlled load tariffs are generally a lower rate than other tariffs, as these appliances typically operate during off-peak times (e.g. overnight).

Cooling-off period

A cooling-off period (generally 10 business days) applies when you sign up to a new energy contract. This period allows you to cancel the contract and not pay any charges or exit fees.

Daily supply charge

The amount you pay per day to have your electricity or natural gas connected is called the daily supply charge. This charge goes towards things like infrastructure (e.g. electricity poles, lines or gas pipes) maintenance.

Decentralised electricity

Decentralised electricity is electricity that’s been generated from a source not on the main grid, located close to where it’ll be used (e.g. solar photovoltaic – or PV – panels and cogeneration plants).

Default Market Offer (DMO)

The DMO is an annual price cap in NSW, SA and south-east QLD, and is based on your area’s yearly typical supply charges and electricity usage against standard meter types. This cap protects consumers on standing offers (a basic plan with no extras or discounts) from paying excessive prices by ensuring providers can’t charge them more than this price.

De-energisation

De-energisation is the process of the distributor turning off your energy supply at the meter. This can happen if, for example, you move out or you haven’t paid your bills (though there is a strict process providers and distributors must follow before they can de-energise your home or business).  This is also referred to as disconnection.

Detailed Plan Information Document (DPID)

The DPID contains detailed information about an energy plan. Be sure to read this before choosing a plan.

Disconnection fee

Your energy distributor may charge you a fee charged for disconnecting or de-energising electricity or gas at your property. Your retailer would typically pass this fee on to you through your first bill.

Disconnection for non-payment (DNP)

Providers can disconnect your energy supply if you’ve failed to pay your bill, and this is known as a DNP. However, there are several steps they must take by law before they can do so, including:2

  • sending the bill again, outlining your owing amount, when it needs to be paid and how you can do so
  • sending a reminder notice and a disconnection warning
  • contacting (or trying to contact) you before they disconnect your energy.

If you’re unable to pay your bills due to financial hardship, the first thing you should do is call your provider.3 They can help by evaluating whether you’re on a suitable energy plan, different ways you can repay your bill, directing you to financial counselling services or informing you on the various government concessions and rebates available.

Discount

Energy providers sometimes offer discounts on their plans, such as an ongoing discount, pay-on-time and online sign-up discounts. Discounts can be conditional or unconditional.

A conditional discount means you have to meet requirements (such as paying on time each bill or paying by a specific payment method) before you can receive the discount. An unconditional (or guaranteed) discount just means you don’t have to do anything to receive the discount – it’s applied regardless, or whether you pay on time or with any payment method.

Distribution network service providers (DNSP)

The DNSPs are responsible for building, maintaining and operating the electricity distribution networks. Services provided include:

  • new connections and disconnections
  • energisation and de-energisation
  • meter installation and configuration
  • abolishment
  • upgrades and investigations
  • installation and maintenance for under and above ground poles, wires and cabling.

Distributor 

Distributors are the companies responsible for building and maintaining the infrastructure necessary to distribute energy, including power lines, gas pipelines and electricity poles.

Distribution companies operate within set geographical areas around the country, so you can’t choose your energy distributor regardless of whether retail prices are deregulated in your area or not. They can also install meters (all kinds), check if they’re functioning and safe, and read them on behalf of providers.

Electric vehicle (EV)

EVs are vehicles powered by electricity and are rechargeable at charge points.

Electricity grid

The electricity grid (or just ‘grid’) is the interconnected network that carries electricity from generators, via distributors, to your home or business.

Embedded Electricity Network (EEN)

EENs are private electricity networks that serve multiple premises, like residential apartment blocks or shopping centres. Instead of each residence having its own meter, the whole building’s electricity is monitored from the one meter.

End users

An end user refers to you – the person who uses the electricity provided from generators via the transmission and distribution networks. It also refers to industries and businesses who use electricity.

Energisation

Energisation occurs when a connection point is turned on to the energy supply for the first time (e.g. when you’ve built a new house).

Energy Ombudsman

The Energy Ombudsman is a free and independent dispute resolution service for energy customers – both residential and small business – who have an unresolved issue with their energy provider. There’s a specific ombudsman service for each state and territory.

Energy Rating Label

Nowadays, you’ll find that many new gas and electricity appliances have a red and yellow Energy Rating Label. These labels give you an idea of the appliance’s energy efficiency and let you compare the energy efficiency of similar appliances (e.g. two different televisions). The more stars on the label, the more efficient the appliance.

Essential Services Commission (ESC)

The ESC is an independent Victorian regulator promoting the long-term interests of consumers in terms of the price, quality and reliability of services like energy and water. It regulates Victoria’s energy, water and transport sectors.

Estimated read/estimated bill

Your provider issues an estimated read/estimated bill if your distributor couldn’t read your meter (e.g. your meter was blocked by a gate or a pet in the yard). This estimation will be based on your past usage or the usage of comparable households.

If you provider issues a bill based on an estimated read, it will be clearly marked on your bill.

If your provider overcharges or undercharges you, they should adjust this in your next bill. Your provider can base three consecutive bills on estimated reads but must arrange for an actual meter if they still can’t access your meter after 12 months.

Exit fee

An exit (or cancellation or termination) fee is sometimes charged by your provider when you exit your energy plan before your contract ends.

Feed-in tariffs (FIT)

Feed-in tariffs are designed to encourage you to take up renewable energy sources by having your provider pay you for the energy you feed back into the grid. So, for example, if you have solar panels that produced more electricity than you use, a solar feed-in tariff would pay you for the excess electricity that you send back to the grid.

Fossil fuels 

Fossil fuels (such as coal or gas) are formed by naturally occurring processes.  They have traditionally been Australia’s energy source of choice. According to Geoscience Australia, around 75% of Australia’s domestic electricity is generated from coal.4

Generally available plan

A generally available plan is an electricity or gas plan that’s available to most residential or small business customers in certain distribution zones and with the appropriate meter set-up. Generally available plans are offered online and over the phone.

Green energy

Green (or renewable) energy is generated from sources such as hydropower, solar, biomass or wind.

Greenhouse gases 

The primary greenhouse gases include water vapour, carbon dioxide, methane, ozone and nitrous oxide. Greenhouse gases are just some of the gases that make up our atmosphere here on Earth. It’s widely agreed that these gases are responsible for increasing the greenhouse effect – an ongoing phenomenon where gases in the Earth’s atmosphere are gradually increasing the temperature of the planet.5

GreenPower

GreenPower is a government initiative through which, if your provider chooses to offer it, you can elect for them to buy green energy on your behalf. This energy is then fed back into the grid as a way for you to offset your energy consumption.

Hydropower

Hydropower is energy generated from hydroelectric plants, where flowing water is used to turn turbine blades. The blades are connected to a generator, which converts the power into electricity.

Imperial gas meter

An imperial gas meter has four dials that measure your gas usage in cubic feet. The hand on each dial rotates in the opposite direction to the one next to it (e.g. clockwise, then anticlockwise, then clockwise again and so on).

New homes will likely have metric gas meters, but you can still find imperial gas meters in older homes.

Interval meter

Interval meters record electricity usage every 30 minutes so that the data accurately reflects your usage throughout each 24 hour period.  This increased frequency is one of the benefits of an interval meter (also known as a time-of-use meter) since it gives your provider a more accurate reading of your energy usage.

In turn, this means providers can offer plans with better pricing to entice you to use energy during off-peak times. This also means you can have different electricity rates for your usage during certain times of the day (depending on your tariff).

Some interval meters (like smart meters) transmit the readings providers use to calculate bills, whilst others do not and need to be read manually.

Kilojoule (KJ)

A joule is a measure of energy and is the unit we use to measure gas usage. A kilojoule (KJ) is equal to 1,000 joules, and one megajoule (MJ) is equal to 1,000 kilojoules (KJ) or 1,000,000 joules.

Kilowatt (kW)

A watt is a measurement of power and is used to measure electricity output. A kilowatt is equal to 1,000 watts, and one megawatt (MW) is equal to 1,000 kilowatts (kW) or 1,000,000 watts.

Kilowatt-hour (kWh) 

A kilowatt-hour is a unit of measurement equivalent to the power usage of 1,000 watts over 60 minutes, which is what your electricity bill is measured in. One megawatt-hour is the equivalent of 1,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh). So, for example, a vacuum cleaner labelled as 2,000W will use two kWh if you spend an hour vacuuming.

Life support equipment

Life support equipment can include:

  • kidney dialysis machines
  • ventilators
  • oxygen concentrators
  • external heart pumps.

You need to register life support equipment with your energy provider, so they know to implement special arrangements for your household (e.g. advanced notice of planned electricity supply interruptions).

Your provider might have a list of approved life support equipment, and you’ll generally need to provide supporting documentation from a health professional. You may also be eligible for an energy concession depending on your state or territory.

Liquified petroleum/propane gas (LPG)

LPG is a portable gas fuel commonly used to power hot water and heating systems as well as places where gas pipelines can’t be run, like cooktops and barbeques. It’s usually transported in metal cylinders or gas bottles.

Local Network Service Provider (LNSP)

LNSPs own the poles and wires used to distribute electricity to premises within a geographical area.

Mains electricity

Mains electricity is the power supplied to homes and businesses from the national grid.

Manually Read Interval Meter (MRIM)

An MRIM is an digital interval meter which records energy usage in 30-minute intervals, but (unlike a smart meter) still needs to be read manually by a meter reader.

Market offer

Market offers are the prices and products that are available under a market contract (i.e. where your provider, not the government, stipulates the terms and conditions of the agreement). They typically come with perks and benefits, like discounts or credits, but may also include fees and charges that don’t apply to standing offers. There are different types of market offers available, including the Default Market Offer (DMO) and Victorian Default Offer (VDO).

Meter 

Meters are a way for both you and your energy provider to determine how much electricity or gas your household has used over a certain timeframe. Traditional accumulation meters have some limitations and are unable to provide real-time data on your power usage. As a result, they are steadily getting phased out in favour of more modern and versatile models (see ‘smart meters’ for more).

Meter Providers and Data Providers

In some states, providers can elect to delegate smart meter installation and reading to Meter Providers (MPs) and Meter Data Providers (MDPs) respectively, instead of the distributor.

Meter read

To issue a bill, the provider needs to know how much energy (electricity or gas) your household consumed. A meter read gives providers the data they need to calculate your usage and issue you your bill.

A meter reader is the person who reads electricity and gas meters at a scheduled time. They will sight the meter and record the reading, before providing it to your distributor. Your distributor then validates the reading and sends it to your electricity provider. Your electricity provider then bills you, based on this information.

Metering Charges

Some services performed by the distributor requires the customer to pay a charge in addition to the daily supply and usage charges.  If additional charges are applicable, this will be outlined on your bill.

Metering Identification Reference Number (MIRN)

The MIRN is a unique number identifying each gas meter.

National Electricity Market (NEM)

The NEM is a network of six interconnected states and territories (ACT, NSW, QLD, SA, TAS and VIC). Due to the considerable distance between networks, WA and the NT aren’t connected to the NEM. The NEM’s network transmits electricity from the generators to large industrial energy consumers and local distributors across the six states and territories and ultimately, to end users.

The interconnected infrastructure facilitates the wholesale sale and purchase of electricity from the NEM electricity grid in response to end user demand.

National Energy Customer Framework (NECF)

The NECF is designed to set a framework for the way in which retailers engage with end users to sell and supply energy. The framework is set out in :

  • the National Energy Retail Law (Retail Law);
  • the National Energy Retail Rules (Retail Rules); and
  • the National Energy Retail Regulations (Regulations).

The NECF currently applies in:6

  • ACT (from 1 July 2012)
  • TAS (from 1 July 2012)
  • SA (from 1 February 2013)
  • NSW (from 1 July 2013)
  • QLD (from 1 July 2015)
  • VIC (Chapter 5A of the National Electricity Rules only. From 1 July 2016).

The NECF doesn’t currently apply in WA or the NT (which has, however, implemented its own rules based on part of the National Electricity Rules).

National Metering Identifier (NMI)

An NMI is a unique 10- or 11-digit number assigned to the electricity connection at your address, found on your electricity bill. This series of digits is not the same as your electricity meter number(s).

NMIs in each state start with a different number (e.g. six in VIC or two in SA).

Next Scheduled Read Date (NSRD)

The NSRD is the date the next scheduled meter read is due to occur, where a meter reader will visit the property and take down your usage from your meter. Since meter readers are sometimes unable to get to the meter (e.g. locked gates), there’s a three to five-day window around this scheduled date, so the reader has more opportunity, if needed, to carry out the reading.

Non-renewable energy

Non-renewable energy is sources of energy that can’t be replaced once they’ve been used, like coal, natural gas and crude oil (which are also all fossil fuels).

Network Use of System (NUOS)

Your distributor applies this tariff to your provider to recover the costs of using the network to supply energy. The NUOS is made up of two other charges: the Distribution Use of System (DUOS) and Transmission Use of System (TUOS).

Off-grid 

Living ‘off-grid’ is a lifestyle where you disconnect from the grid and generate your own electricity, typically using a solar energy and battery set-up.

There are some significant up-front costs involved with living off-grid, but you can often recoup your expenses over the lifetime of your system. However, this does depend on your region, your energy usage levels and a range of other factors, such as system maintenance costs.

Off-peak  

Off-peak power is a specific time in the day when energy demand is particularly low. Some energy providers offer substantially cheaper electricity during these periods. If you’re able to use most of your energy within these hours, you may be able to reduce your power bill significantly.

Peak

Peak electricity is defined by each tariff and is during set times of the day when demand for it is highest (e.g. 5pm to 8pm, when everyone is home and using appliances).  In some cases, seasonal tariffs may apply on days with extremely hot or cold weather (when gas and electricity demand is also highest due to heating or cooling).

Photovoltaic (PV) cell 

PV cells essentially convert sunlight into electricity. In recent years, the cost of PV technology has dropped significantly. As a result, more and more households are starting to enjoy the benefits of solar energy. More than two million rooftop PV systems have been installed in homes across the country (October 2020).7

Point of delivery (PoD)

The point of delivery is the address where the energy supply is connected.

Power stations

Power stations or power generation plants are responsible for generating the electricity required to power most Australian homes and businesses.  They range from the coal-powered Loy Yang in Victoria to the hydro-powered Snowy Hydro in NSW. Power stations are owned and operated by generators.

Re-energisation

Re-energisation occurs when your energy supply is turned back on (usually by your distributor) after it’s been disconnected or de-energised.

Reference Price

The reference price is set by the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) and serves as a shared benchmark price for electricity providers. Based on the typical usage and supply charges for each meter type in each state’s distribution areas, the reference price is displayed alongside the provider’s prices so you can compare this figure against all other offers and see whether you’re being offered a competitive deal.

Renewable energy

Renewable energy comes from sources that can be renewed, or will never run out. Examples of renewable energy include wind, sunlight, hydroelectricity, gravity and geothermal heat.

Restricted offer

A restricted offer is one that isn’t advertised or readily available in the market. These are typically only available by calling your provider, have more restrictive conditions than generally available offers and have additional eligibility criteria attached.

Retail contract

You enter a retail contract when you buy an energy plan from a provider. There are two types of energy contracts: standard and market.

Retailers

Also called providers, retailers purchase energy from generators either directly or via the NEM and are the companies/brands who sell energy to you.

Retailer of Last Resort (RoLR)

The RoLR scheme is designed to ensure that you still receive energy if your retailer fails (e.g. goes out of business). The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) oversees the RoLR scheme.

Shoulder times

Shoulder times are the bridge between peak and off-peak times. Electricity usage during this period costs a little less than peak hours.

Single rate tariff

A single rate tariff charges you the same rate for your electricity or gas usage no matter the time or day of the week you used it.

The most common type of single rate tariff is the flat rate, which only includes one price (e.g. $0.30 for every kWh of electricity or $0.02 for every MJ of gas). There can also be a block rate, which includes pricing blocks (e.g. $0.33 for your first 100 kWh of consumption per day, and $0.27 for the rest). In some cases, single rate tariffs can also be seasonal, where you’re charged the same price no matter the time of day or day of the week, although the price might differ between summer and winter (e.g. gas rates).

Smart meter

A smart meter digitally measures your electricity usage. It sends this information directly to your provider, so the meter doesn’t need to be manually read by a physical meter reader, to calculate your bill. Smart meters have a host of benefits, like:

Special read

A special meter read is an actual meter reading taken outside of the usual reading cycle. You can request that your provider organises a special read, but keep in mind that this may incur a fee.

Standing offer

A standing offer (also known as a default contract) is an electricity plan that generally charges a higher price for your electricity or gas usage than market offers. You may roll over to these types of plans once the incentives and discounts end on your original plan, unless your terms and conditions state otherwise.

Tariff 

A tariff is the amount your energy provider charges you in exchange for supplying you with energy. Your tariff is comprised of both supply and usage charges. These charges depend on how much electricity or gas you’re using and your provider (which in turn depends on where your property is located).

While you can’t always control the tariff you’re on, looking for a tariff with competitive usage and supply charges is a great reason to switch electricity suppliers.

Time-of-use tariff

This tariff charges you a different rate depending on what time of the day, or day of the week, you use energy. Time-of-use tariffs will typically involve peak, off-peak or shoulder times, and each provider may have different hours for these periods.

Transmission

Transmission is the process of taking electricity from a power station to a local area so that it can be distributed to end users by a distributor. Transmission networks are owned and operated by transmission network service providers (TNSP).

Transmission network service provider (TNSP)

TSNPs build, maintain, plan and operate the transmission networks in Queensland, New South Wales, ACT, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania. These networks are interconnected to form the National Energy Market (NEM), which is one of the longest interconnected power systems in the world and covers around 40,000km worth of transmission lines and cables.8


Victoria Default Offer (VDO)

The VDO is an annual price cap in VIC, similar to the DMO, and is based on your area’s yearly typical supply charges and electricity usage against the standard meter types. This cap protects consumers on standing offers (a basic plan with no extras or discounts) from paying excessive prices by ensuring providers can’t charge them more than this price.

Wholesale Electricity Market (WEM)

The WEM is Western Australia’s answer to the National Energy Market (NEM). It encourages retail competition and private investment by allowing energy generators and providers more freedom to generate and sell electricity as they see fit.


Sources

1 Victoria State Government: Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning – Bioenergy. Last updated May 2020. Accessed October 2020.
2
Australian Government: Australian Energy Regulator – Energy disconnections. Accessed November 2020.
3
Australian Government: Australian Energy Regulator – Help for customers in hardship. Accessed January 2021. 
4
Australian Government: Geoscience Australia – Energy: Basics. Accessed October 2020.
5
Australian Government: Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment – Greenhouse effect. Accessed October 2020.
6
Australian Energy Market Commission – National Energy Customer Framework. Accessed October 2020.
7
Australian Government: Australian Renewable Energy Agency – Solar energy. Last updated October 2020. Accessed October 2020.
8
Australian Government: Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources – National Electricity Market. Accessed October 2020.

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