How to Make Sense of Your Electricity Bill

At first glance, your electricity bill can seem confusing.  However, this doesn’t have to be the case.  At Foxie, we want to make reading your electricity bill as easy as possible for you. This way, you’ll get the confidence that comes with knowing you have the correct charges from month to month.

When you open your electricity bill, you’ll see a host of information that can be very overwhelming.  But, when you take it step by step, you’ll find that it’s easy to understand.

Your electricity provider is the company that sends you a bill for your electricity usage and there are many different electricity providers, each having their own bill format. However, despite these differences, all electricity bills have key information and sections in common. We’ve broken it down into seven general sections.

 

Section One – Billing Details

Your billing details are usually somewhere towards the top of the first page and include your name and full address. Note that the billing address may be different to the address where the electricity is being supplied (supply address).

 

Section Two – Account Details

Your personal account details will also be somewhere near the top of the first page.  This section will usually note your name, account number and invoice number.  If you need to call your energy provider for a bill enquiry, having both your account number and your invoice number ready for quick reference should speed things up.

The supply address, bill issue date, amount due, due date and names of any joint account holders, are sometimes also included in this section.  The name of your energy plan and any benefits that were applied to your account (e.g. government concessions) are sometimes detailed here as well.

Your energy plan sets out the rates, discounts, other benefits and contract terms that apply to your account.  It is essentially the deal that your energy provider offered you and details of this plan should have been included in the confirmation pack that your energy provider sent you when you signed up.  If your energy plan is not noted here, it may be noted alongside your usage and supply details (see section 4 below) or in a separate box on its own.  Also, if you are in Victoria, keep an eye out for “best offer” information on your bill.  New rules recently introduced in Victoria require your electricity provider to tell you, at least once every 3 months, if they have a better plan available that could save you money.  This usually comes in the form of a simple statement on the front page of your bill and instructions for how to switch.

State governments offer concessions for low income earners, pensioners, veterans and people with a disability.  The amount varies state-by-state and it’s important to note that your electricity provider cannot determine your eligibility for government concessions.  You will need to provide them with your relevant concession card details.  You can apply for concession cards through the Australian Government Department of Human Services (Centrelink).

Account Details Example

Account number 123 456 789
Invoice number 987 654 321 000
Supply address 123 South St, Melbourne VIC, 3000
Issue date 18 October 2019
Total amount due if paid on time
Includes $27.36 pay on time discount
$519.86
Due date 10 November 2019
Amount due if paid after 10 November 2019 $547.22
Your current energy plan is Basic Home Saver
Benefits applied to this account Pay on time discount 5%

 

 

Section Three – Your Account Summary

Your account summary is usually on the front page of your bill.  This section might have a different name like payment summary or invoice summary.  Here you’ll usually find your opening balance, last payment, new charges for this bill, and the total amount due.  This summary may also include any overdue amounts, adjustments and discounts or rebates you may be eligible to claim.  If your electricity provider offers a discount for paying by a certain date, this will be noted here as well.

Account Summary Example 

Previous activity
Opening balance $437.78
Payments received – thank you $437.78
Balance carried forward $0.00
New charges
Usage and supply charges
(see back for details)
$547.22
Credits and rebates
Solar feed-in credit N/A
Government energy concession N/A
Total amount due
Includes GST amount $49.75
$547.22
OR
Pay by 10 November to get a 5% discount
Includes GST amount $47.26
$519.86

 

 

Section Four – Your Usage and Supply Details

Your usage and supply details are usually on the second page of your bill.  This section is sometimes called electricity charges or supply charges.  It will have the National Meter Identifier (NMI), which is a unique number for the electricity connection at your property.

(Note, your meter will also have a serial number on it, sometimes also listed on your bill.  If your meter ever needs to be replaced, the serial number will change but the NMI will always stay the same.)

If you need to know what dates this bill covers, you’ll also find that information in this section.  This might sometimes be noted as the billing period or supply period and is normally for one month or one quarter.  Your next scheduled read will also be shown somewhere in this section.  Other information in this section may include:

  • Current read/Latest read/This read – the date your meter was recently read.  This is the end of the current billing period.
  • Previous read – the last date your meter was read before the current read.  The billing period starts the day after the previous read date.
  • Next scheduled read – the approximate next date your meter will be read.
  • Read Type – readings are usually noted as “actual” or “A.” However, if for some reason the meter reader was not able to physically read the meter at your property (e.g. if a gate was locked and they could not get in) they may have estimated your usage and recorded an “estimated” or “E” reading.

Site Details Example

National Meter Identifier (NMI) 62033581422
Billing period 15th July 2019 – 16th October 2019 (93 days)
Next scheduled read 15th January 2020 (+/- 2 business days)
Current read 16th October 2019
Previous read 14th July 2019
Read type Actual

 

Electricity is measured in kilowatt hours (kWh) and your usage is simply the difference between the current and previous readings;

Usage (kWh) = Current reading – Previous reading

Meter Details Example – Time of Use

Description Meter Number Previous Reading Current Reading Usage (kWh)
Peak 5473561 67665A 68520A 855.00
Off Peak 5473561 32564A 32784A 220.00
Shoulder 1 5473561 29645A 30057A 412.00
Shoulder 2 5473561 22148A 22234A 86.00

 

Now we get to the most important part of your bill, where your charges are calculated. Directly below the meter details you will find your supply charges.  The amount of detail in this section will vary depending on your provider and your energy plan.

Electricity charges are proportional to how many kWh you use.  Generally, rates (sometimes noted on your bill as tariffs) can vary from 15 cents per kWh to 40 cents per kWh. The rates that your provider charges you have a big impact on the bottom line of your bill.  Some energy plans charge the same rate for all usage (single or flat rate plans).  Other energy plans include multiple rates that are set in blocks according to the time of day you use the electricity (time of use plans).  For example, you might pay 18 cents per kWh for electricity used during off peak and 32 cents per kWh for electricity used during peak times.  Some electricity providers also include shoulder periods, which is the time between peak and off peak.  And peak is sometimes also broken up into steps where different rates apply for each step. E.g. step 1, step 2, etc.  Here’s a summary of the different time of use blocks;

  • Peak – if you’re on a single rate plan then all of your usage will be charged as peak or anytime.  If you’re on a time of use plan, then peak refers to the busiest time on the electricity network, typically from 7am to 10pm.
  • Off-Peak – a much quieter time for electricity use, typically when most people are asleep between 10pm and 7am.
  • Shoulder Usage – if you’re on a time of use plan that includes shoulders, your peak time will be shortened and shoulder time included between peak and off-peak times with shoulder rates falling somewhere in-between the two amounts.  You might only have one shoulder period or you may have two.  For example peak might be 3pm to 9pm, off peak between 10pm and 7am and shoulder periods between 7am and 3pm, and 9pm and 10pm.  Peak and shoulder times might also be different on weekends compared with weekdays. The exact times for each block are not usually included in the breakdown on your bill.  They may be on your energy plan or you can contact your provider to find out.
  • Peak step 1, step 2, etc – sometimes peak usage is broken down into brackets called steps where different rates apply to each step. For example you might pay 30 cents per kWh for the first 400 kWh (step 1) and 32 cents per kWh for the remainder of your usage (step 2).
  • Controlled Load – if you see a section with controlled load, it means that you have something like in-floor heating or an appliance like your hot water that gets billed separately from your other electricity usage.  Controlled load usage is sometimes noted on your bill as off-peak or dedicated circuit consumption.

Some electricity providers also vary their rates depending on the season. For example they may charge higher rates in winter than during summer. In addition, most electricity providers add a fixed daily charge (e.g. $1.38 per day) to your bill.  This is a charge just for being connected to the service and is usually noted as daily supply charge or service to property charge.

Supply Charges Example – Time of Use

Description Usage (kWh) Rate (cents/kWh)
incl GST
Total ($)
incl GST
Peak 855.00 31.06 $265.60
Off peak 220.00 18.00 $39.60
Shoulder 1 412.00 23.00 $94.76
Shoulder 2 86.00 22.00 $18.92
Daily Charge 93 days $1.3800/day $128.34

 

If your home or business has solar panels, your bill will also list your solar feed-in or solar generation credit.  This is the credit you receive for excess electricity that your solar panels generate that you don’t use in your own home and is fed back into the grid. This could include both government feed-in credits as well as schemes offered by your electricity retailer.  Your bill will usually include a breakdown showing the amount your system exported back to the grid, the feed-in tariff or rate that you are eligible for and the total amount in dollars that you are credited.  Feed-in tariffs vary across different states and territories.

Hopefully, now you understand the type of plan you are on and the rates you are being charged.  These rates can vary a lot between providers and plans and shopping around could save you a lot of money.  Foxie can help you find low rates and the right energy plan for you.

 

Section Five – Your Usage Statistics

It is a government requirement that electricity bills include some energy usage statistics. There’s usually a graph of your usage pattern across the last 12 months which shows whether your electricity consumption and costs are increasing or decreasing over time.  There’s also usually a table or graph showing how you compared to other households of a similar size in your local area.  Your usage statistics could be on the front or the back of your bill, and may also include information about your greenhouse gas emissions.

Usage and Greenhouse Gas Emissions Example

Average cost per day (Jul-Sep 2019): $5.59
Average daily usage (Jul-Sep 2019): 16.914 kWh
Same time last year: 17.225 kWh
Total greenhouse gas emissions for this bill: 1.604 tonnes CO2-e
Same time last year: 1.633 tonnes CO2-e

 

Household Size 1 Person 2 People 3 People 4 People
Summer 8.1 kWh 12.2 kWh 15.4 kWh 19.5 kWh
Autumn 10.4 kWh 13.1 kWh 16.8 kWh 19.8 kWh
Winter 14.4 kWh 16.5 kWh 18.9 kWh 23.3 kWh
Spring 13.7 kWh 15.3 kWh 16.9 kWh 19.2 kWh

 

 

Section Six – Payment Slip and How to Pay Your Account

Some electricity bills also include a payment slip at the very bottom of either the front or back page.  This typically will show the amount you need to pay and when you need to pay by.  There’s also a barcode which can be scanned if you are paying at a post office.

Payment Slip Example

Account number: 123 456 789
Due date: 10th November 2019
Amount due: $547.22
Amount due if paid by 10 November 2019: $519.86

 

Some information about how to pay your account will also be on your bill.  You can pay in person, online, over the phone or by mail. The various options you have available are listed and may include Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT), direct debit, credit card, mail, BPAY, Post Billpay, Centrepay and PayPal.  Not all providers offer all options.  If you choose to pay by credit card, or over the counter at a post office, check the fine print in this section because a processing fee may apply.  Take care to enter codes and reference numbers correctly when processing online payments.  If you pay by EFT you may need to email your remittance to your electricity provider.

Payment Options Example

DIRECT DEBIT Sign up for direct debit by going to sample.com.au/payments or call 1300 xxx xxx.
CREDIT CARD Phone 1300 xxx xxx or visit sample.com.au to use your credit card to make your payment.

Ref: 123 456 789

ELECTRONIC FUNDS TRANSFER (EFT) Save time and pay your account automatically by the due date. Apply for electronic funds transfer online at sample.com.au or phone 13 xx xx to get an application form.
MAIL

 

Send this portion of your bill with a cheque made payable to:

Sample Bill
1234 West Street
Melbourne, VIC 3000

BPAY Biller Code: 0000
Ref: 123 456 789
BPAY – Make this payment via phone banking or internet. Please your use 9 digit account number.
POST BILLPAY Biller Code: 0000
Ref: 123 456 789
Pay in person by visiting your local Post Office, go to postbillpay.com.au or phone 13 xx xx.
CENTREPAY Eligible residential customers can visit humanservices.gov.au/centrepay
Centrepay CRN: 000-000-000-0
Ref: 123 456 789
PAYPAL To pay via PayPal, visit sample.com.au/payments

 

 

Section Seven – Who to Contact for Help

If you have questions or concerns about your bill, you can generally find your electricity provider’s contact details at the top right-hand-side of your bill. There are sometimes other numbers listed here for specific enquiries about solar or if you need an interpreter.

Their will also be a separate number listed for faults and emergencies. This will be the number for your electricity distributor who is responsible for maintaining the wires, poles and meters that work to connect your property to the electricity network or grid. This is the number to call if you are experiencing faults, power outages, or a type of emergency.

Who to call for help example

Enquiries & customer care
(8am to 6pm local time Mon – Fri)
13 xx xx
Faults & Emergencies (24 hrs) 13 xx xx
Contact by post 123 Main St, Melbourne VIC
3000
Contact by email sample@gmail.com.au
Contact by website https://www.sample.com.au

 

Contact Foxie for Help

If you’re unsure about your electricity bills or think you may be being charged too much, you can reach out and get in touch with our Australian based staff today on 1800 275 369.  We’re happy to answer your questions or check to see if we can find you a better plan.

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