Explore Energy

Energy bills can often read like a road map. However, if you want to stay on top of your household budget, it’s an important skill to have. After all, you’d want to make sure all the charges are accurate.

In this article, we’ll outline the key features you should look out for when reading your power bill to help minimise the confusion.

The basics: how to read your electricity or gas bill

The content in your utility bill can be categorised into three different sections: essential information, usage costs and payment details.

Find out about ways to keep track of your energy usage.

Essential information

The essential information can usually be found at the very top of your energy bill. It usually includes details regarding your:

  • account reference number
  • account name
  • tax invoice number
  • date of the bill and billing period
  • supply address
  • retailer’s phone number
  • distributor’s phone number

You’ll need these basic account details and account reference number on hand if you want to discuss your energy plan, bill or account details with your retailer. Note that you can only discuss your account details with your retailer if you’re the primary account holder.

The supply details, including the property address and billing period, will be outlined in this section. This section will detail what energy plan you’re on.

Tip: If the supply address is your business location, keep a copy of the invoice filed away for taxation purposes.

Your retailer’s* contact information should also be listed on the bill to discuss any general queries or lodge complaints. You can also contact your distributor*, whose name and contact number are listed on the bill, to report any faults or emergencies affecting your energy service.

*Energy retailers buy energy from energy generators, package it into plans and sell it to customers. Distributors are responsible for delivering energy and connecting homes and businesses to the grid.

essential information in energy bill

Usage costs: how to read an electricity bill

Charges for your electricity bill are broken down into various structures and rates. The section detailing your usage costs will normally be broken down into two subsections: meter details and usage calculation.

Meter details

The meter details will outline:

  • your supply address
  • your meter number; National Metering identifier (NMI) for electricity and Meter Identification Reference Number (MIRN) for gas.
  • billing period
  • meter reading (the period covered, and whether it’s the actual or estimated read)

Usage calculation

This section of the bill will explain how your energy bill has been calculated. It will outline:

  • Daily supply charges. The cents per day charged for the property to be connected for electricity or gas.
  • Usage charges. The cents per kWh or cents of MJ for the amount you use for electricity or gas.

Your provider (also referred to as retailer) will calculate the usage charge with any peak rate, off-peak rate, shoulder and controlled load rates (see table below) that may apply to your energy plan.

In each row of your bill calculation table, you’ll be able to see the amount of energy you’ve used and how much you’ve been charged for each applicable rate during that bill period. Keep in mind that the type of meter you have will also affect your bill.

Usage charge

Peak

  • This rate is charged for electricity usage during the busy times of the day when demand is highest.
  • If you’re on a single rate electricity or single rate gas tariff, you’ll typically be charged the peak rate.

Off-peak

  • A reduced rate charged for electricity usage during quieter times of the day when demand is low. For example, 10pm-6am for off-peak electricity.
  • If you are in Victoria, you might see off-peak rates for gas. Retailers typically charge a reduced rate for gas usage during the summer period (seasonal rates).

Shoulder times

  • The rate that covers the gap between peak and off-peak times

Controlled load

  • An electricity supply for specific appliances, such as for hot water and underfloor heating, which are separately metered at a lower rate as these appliances are often used during off-peak times (e.g., overnight).

Tariffs

  • Single rate: The same amount is charged, regardless of time of day or day of the week. Note that this rate can include blocks* and can vary by season.
  • Time-of-use pricing: Prices vary depending on the time of day or day of the week you’re using energy. Prices are defined by peak, off-peak and shoulder periods.

*Blocks refer to specific amounts of energy usage, which may be charged at varying rates. For example the first block of your energy usage may be priced higher than the next block of your usage.

Below the meter details and usage, you’ll find any discounts, fees and concessions (if applicable). If you have solar, the feed-in tariff (an amount you get for sending excess electricity back to the grid) will also be included in this section. Some common items in this category may include:

  • Guaranteed discounts. A discount, which is guaranteed and doesn’t require you to meet any conditions, that’s applied to your account during a specified benefit period.
  • Pay-on-time discounts. A discount for paying early or on time.
  • If you’re a concession card holder, you may be eligible for a rebate.
  • A sign up bonus, once off incentive or loyalty credit (e.g. $50 for staying with the retailer for 12 months).

Note that if you’re moving to a new house, there may be a connection fee added to your first bill. This is a fee charged by the distributor for connecting a property to power. That’s to say, you won’t be charged if you’re switching plans as your home will already have been connected.

meter and usage details in an energy bill

Looking for ways to save on electricity? Check out our article on how to save electricity!

Usage costs: how to read a gas bill

A natural gas bill is typically broken down just like an electricity bill; however, instead of kWh, your usage will be calculated in megajoules (Mj) or units (if you live in Western Australia). Refer to the information details in the how to read an electricity bill section to find out more about how natural gas bills are detailed.

Keep in mind that the type of gas you use will affect your energy bill. If you have an LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) cylinder gas system that gets delivered to your home, you’ll have to pay as needed when you order a new cylinder as opposed to getting a regular bill.

LPG bills won’t have the same sections or items listed on a bill as an electricity or natural gas bill because they’re charged by bottle and not by usage. A typical LPG bill may look like this:

how to read a gas bill

Payment details

In the payment details, you’ll find important information, such as the total bill amount, which is usually highlighted in bold on the front of the bill. Next to it, you’ll also find the due date and additional conditions (if applicable). For example, you may have a payment plan set up with your retailer as a part of an additional condition. It’s important to take the time to review your bill and ensure there are no discrepancies or issues prior to the payment date.

If there are no additional conditions, payment options can be found at the very bottom of the same page (commonly referred to as a payment slip). BPay biller codes, direct debit, credit card, mail, PayPal and others are common payment options.

payment details in an energy bill

There should be instructions on how to pay your bill and you can always call up your energy retailer if you’re having trouble or have any specific queries about your energy bill. Keep in mind that if you’re paying with a cheque, you’ll have to cut off and send this section off with your cheque.

Compare energy

Now that you know how to read an electricity bill, why not compare electricity plans to  review your options? It could help you look for a cheaper plan for your household. You can also compare gas plans with us!

Compare quotes in minutes with some of Australia’s top energy providers. Plus, if you do switch, there’s no disruption to your supply and we’ll handle all the paperwork.

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