How to read your power bill
Reading an electricity bill doesn't need to be complicated.
Knowledge is power when it comes to understanding your energy bills.
RACV senior product manager energy Kieran Davies says it pays to do your homework about all those confusing terms on a power bill.
“The most important thing about understanding your bill is the final amount,” he says. “People get fixated on discounts, but they don’t matter if you’re getting a 40 per cent discount on a terrible rate.
“People find it all too hard, they don’t engage with the system. Not everyone is going to understand every aspect of a bill, but they need to know enough not to get ripped off.”
Check out the sample bill below, and if you’re still unsure, head to our Facebook page to post a question about your bill. You can read on for some additional explanations of power-bill terms.
- Your electricity distributor: This is the company responsible for maintaining the poles and wires that supply electricity to your property. It is separate to your electricity retailer and is the company you should contact in case of an electrical fault or emergency.
- Your usage profile: This graph shows either your total usage or average daily usage over a number of months or bills. Depending on your electricity source you may also see the greenhouse gases created to supply your home with power.
- Bill summary: This section of your bill shows any amount that was owing on your account from previous bills, any new charges and the final amount outstanding. You should always aim to pay your bill before the due date as late payments can attract hefty fees or equivalent lost discounts.
- National Meter Identifier (NMI): The NMI is a 10 or 11-digit number that is unique to every connection point to the electricity network in Australia.
- Bill Period: These are the dates that the current electricity bill covers. Electricity bills are usually sent monthly or quarterly.
- Meter Number: This number is usually 6 or 7 digits and may include letters before or after. An electricity bill may include multiple meters, each of which measures usage on the site.
- Electricity usage: This is a measure of the amount of electricity you have used for the bill period, and is measured in kilowatt hours or kWh – a unit of energy. The usage may be broken down into peak and off-peak based on the time of usage, or into steps with different charges per step. Adding these together will give your total consumption.
- Supply charge: In addition to usage charges you also pay a daily fee to be connected to the electricity network.
- Unit charges: These are the rates your electricity retailer charges you for each unit of energy supplied and each day of connection to the grid. These charges and any discounts are what you should use to compare the costs of different electricity retailers
- Discounts: Discounts are often applied by retailers to usage charges and occasionally to supply charges or total bills. Discounts can be substantial but are often dependent on paying on time or by a certain method e.g. direct debit. The value of discounts should be compared against unit charges as a big discount on a high charge may not be as cheap as a more competitive rate with no discounts.