Dictionary of energy jargon – and how to decode it

Living Well | RACV | Posted on 13 December 2019

Get fluent in the language of gas and electricity with this handy energy lingo decoder.    

These days, you practically need a science degree to read your energy bills. With so much industry jargon and trite terminology, it almost feels like your bills are written in another language. Well, confusing gas and electricity lingo will befuddle you no longer.

The next time you need help speaking fluent Energy Company, we’ve got you covered. Here’s an A-Z guide of energy jargon – and how to decode it.   

Close up of power lines with blue sky background

Energy jargon, decoded


Average daily cost
Average daily cost is how much you are charged for each day of energy use by your retailer.

Average daily usage 
Average daily usage is the average amount of energy your household used each day for the billing period. 

Benefit period 
The duration for which a retailer incentive applies to a bill. This is usually for sign-up benefits which apply for a number of billing cycles before they run out.

Carbon neutral option
An option to source energy from a non-polluting generator in the case of electricity, or to offset emissions through carbon-capture activities (like tree planting) for both electricity and gas. 

Concessions and bonuses
Discounts or incentives that are applied to your bill either through a government scheme, for pensioners for example, or paid by the retailer to reward loyalty or to try and win your business.

Controlled load
A controlled load is a specific device in the household, for example an electric hot-water heater, that can be controlled by the electricity network. This allows the networks to run these devices at times when there is little other usage in the area, like the middle of the night. Households are unlikely to notice any difference, and this allows the network to be run more efficiently. In return, households will usually receive a discounted usage tariff for the controlled load which will be metered separately.

A small child standing in front of a house fan
A lone windmill in a green paddock

 

Controlled load charges
The charges relating to specific devices in your home that are controlled by the network and metered separately, like an electric hot-water heater. (see above)

Demand charge
Demand charges are common on commercial bills but uncommon for households. They are based on the maximum amount of power that is drawn by a user at a single point in time. For example, if you ran every device in your house all at the same time even for five minutes, this could result in a high demand charge for the billing period.  

Distribution area
The electricity and gas networks are divided into areas with each managed and maintained by a different company called a distributor. In Victoria there are five electricity distributors – CitiPower, Jemena, Powercor, United Energy and AusNet Services – and three for gas – Australian Gas Networks, Multinet Gas and AusNet Services.

Energy charge
Usually another term for usage charge.

Flat-rate tariff 
A flat-rate tariff means you pay the same amount for power regardless of the time of day you use it.

General feed-in tariff
The amount paid for any power you generate and feed back into the grid. A general feed-in-tariff is a standard rate paid by retailers as opposed to any kind of special feed-in-tariff or scheme.

General usage
General usage is another term for the amount of energy used by the household. If a bill has multiple usage charges, general usage will be the default or standard usage of the household as opposed to peak usage, for example. 

The grid
The grid refers to the network that transports power from generators (coal plants, solar and wind farms, hydro projects, etc), through the high-voltage transmission network (HV powerlines), then the low-voltage distribution network (street power poles) and to consumers (homes and businesses). 

kWH 
This is the symbol for kilowatt hour which is a measure of energy and is used on bills for electricity consumption. Gas is measured in MJ, short for Megajoules.

Row of solar panels on in a field against a blue sky

 

NMI
Stands for National Meter Identifier, which is a unique number for every electricity meter on the grid.

Off-peak consumption
Energy used when there is minimal demand on the network and energy is cheapest – from around 10pm to 7am on weekdays and all-day weekends.

Peak consumption
The amount of energy used in periods of high demand when energy is most expensive. This is usually on weekdays in the late afternoon and evening from around 3pm to 10pm.

Premium feed-in tariff
The premium feed-in tariff is a legacy scheme that applied to systems installed in Victoria between late 2009 and 2011. Those systems will continue to receive a high feed-in tariff of 60 cents per kilowatt hour fed into the grid until 2024.

Shoulder consumption 
Energy used in periods of moderate demand when energy is more expensive. This is 7am to 3pm on weekdays.

Single-rate feed in tariff
A feed-in tariff that is the same regardless of the time of day energy is fed back into the grid.

Solar buyback rate
Another term for feed-in tariff.

Stand-by and always-on
This refers to the amount of electricity your home uses when you are not actively using power. Always-on devices are things like fridges that stay on 24 hours a day. Stand-by power is used by devices like TVs that still draw a small amount of power while ‘off’ so that they can start up quickly.

Supply charge
The supply charge is a fixed cost per day that is the same regardless of the amount of energy consumed. You can think of this cost as the access charge to be connected to the network rather than for energy use.

Typical usage
Usually means the same as average daily consumption. Sometimes this is used to benchmark your house against others of different sizes, so you can see how much energy you use compared with others.