Understand your energy bill
When you start making concerted efforts to save energy, it’s important to understand your energy bill so you can see whether the changes are having an impact on your overall energy use.
What costs make up my bill?
Your bill is made up of the amount of energy you consume, multiplied by the price per unit. The price per unit can vary according to the time of day you use your electricity and what sort of contract you’re on. It can also vary depending on where you live, as each state and territory makes its own decisions about the costs of the various components involved in energy supply.
Your gas and electricity tariff has 2 parts:
- a daily supply charge (sometimes called a service charge or fixed charge)
- a usage charge (a consumption or variable charge).
This daily supply charge is the cost of getting electricity or gas to your place, even if you don’t use any, and appears on your bill as a total amount or in cents per day.
The usage charge is the cost of the electricity or gas you use and appears on your bills in cents per kilowatt hour (c/kWh) for electricity or cents per megajoule (c/MJ) for gas.
Some bills might show more than one usage charge. For example, a time of use offer might have different usage charges for different blocks of time, which are usually called peak, shoulder, and off-peak.
Energy Made Easy has sample electricity and gas bills to step you through your usage and explain what all of the information means.
What if I think my bill is wrong?
If you think your bill is incorrect you should contact your energy retailer immediately. An energy retailer must review a bill if a customer requests this.
If you’re still not happy, you can talk to the energy ombudsman in your state or territory (an ombudsman is a free and independent dispute resolution service). You can also get more information from the Australian Energy Regulator online or by calling 1300 585 165.
Energy efficiency assessments
An energy assessment can help you to better understand a company’s energy consumption and identify areas for potential savings. It can reduce energy use, improve productivity and provide opportunities to innovate.
Energy assessments can be conducted in house, however if skills are not available internally then external experts or energy services companies can be engaged to conduct part or all of the process.
Option 1: Conduct an in-house assessment
Access energy data
Understanding where and when the business uses energy is crucial to finding the best ways to save money. Energy bills can provide some of this information, but detailed data and assessments will help you gain a better understanding of energy use.
To get a complete picture of electricity and gas use, at least 12 months of data showing energy-use patterns will need to be collected. Billing data should uncover gaps or identify some of your company’s higher-energy use processes. This information can be obtained directly from the energy supplier or a third party can be authorised to access the data
You can also hire a meter to measure short-term energy use, or install meters to capture specific operating periods. Don’t forget to factor in daily, monthly or seasonal variations when analysing the results.
Electricity monitors show in real time how much energy your business is using and how much this energy costs. Some energy retailers offer free energy monitoring. There are also energy monitoring apps available for both Apple and Android devices. Plug in monitors are also available.
For more information on accessing and understanding energy data, visit the Victorian Energy Saver website.
Analyse your energy baseline
This baseline will clarify the relationship between your business’s energy use and activities, linking energy costs to business output.
Common analysis techniques include:
- graph energy use over time to determine energy use patterns, factor in seasonal, monthly, weekly, daily or hourly usage
- X-Y plotting energy use versus production or other parameters
- benchmark energy performance to see whether a process, facility or business unit is operating at optimum performance level, or to draw comparisons between sites.
Close the loop by tracking your progress and any improvements in your company’s energy use over time. You’ll have useful data to share across your business. Successes are an excellent way to build support for continual energy savings.
Option 2: Engage an energy assessor
More complex energy-using businesses may find that paying for an energy assessment will pay off.
Assessments should be completed to the relevant Australian Standards:
- AS/NZS 3598.1:2014 Energy Audits—Commercial Buildings
- AS/NZS 3598.2:2014 Energy Audits—Industrial and related activities
- AS/NZS 3598.3:2014 Energy Audits—Transport related activities.
Choosing the right type of assessment
Australian Standard energy audits fall into 1 of 3 categories:
Type 1 audits (basic energy audits)
This will provide a basic overview of your company’s energy consumption, and a broad estimate of energy savings available from opportunities with relatively short payback periods. These audits are useful for smaller businesses. Larger businesses can also benefit if energy efficiency has not yet been assessed.
Type 2 audits (detailed energy audits)
This will provide a more rigorous analysis of your company’s energy consumption. It will quantify potential energy savings based on detailed data and analysis of the specific equipment and operating conditions applying to each site. This also includes financial evaluation of opportunities based on agreed financial criteria that will help business owners prioritise the opportunities shown in the audit. Installation of additional measurement equipment is not generally required.
Type 3 audits (precision subsystem audits)
This is useful for larger businesses with specialist equipment, or companies with major production facilities. These audits focus on a major subsystem, such as boilers or compressed air systems. It involves additional measurements to quantify opportunities to a higher level of accuracy than less complex audits.
Finding an energy assessor
Energy auditor training and accreditation varies between states and territories.
The Energy Efficiency Council website has a list of service providers.
The NSW Government's Energy Saver website lists energy efficiency experts.
New South Wales businesses can utilise the NSW Government's Find an Energy Expert scheme to help your business save energy and money.
Selecting an energy assessor
The Australian standards specify the kinds of skills, knowledge and experience assessors need to do their job well. These requirements can vary across industry depending on the audit required and the equipment used by the business. Questions to ask when selecting an assessor can include:
- Have you assessed other businesses in my sector?
- How much do you know about my industry, my type of business, my specialist equipment?
- Can you provide references from similar business owners you’ve audited using the Australian Standard?
- What type of audit are you experienced and qualified to provide for the equipment at my site?
- How do you or your team meet the competency requirements in the Australian Standard?
- What type of Australian Standard audit do you think my business needs and why?
- Can you help me with implementing the opportunities you identify?
- Does your company guarantee the savings identified will cover all project costs?
Information to provide to your assessor
Type 1 audits
Provide energy bills for at least the past 12 months, and as much information as you have on usage patterns – for example, the number of hours equipment or lighting is used every week.
Type 2 audits
In addition to the information provided for a Type 1 audit, provide energy sub-metering information, information on energy charges, and access to design, control system and maintenance information. This is all important, because a Type 2 audit will include a comprehensive analysis of energy consumption.
Type 3 audits
As well as the information for Type 1 and Type 2 audits, provide additional information on the interactions between the specified subsystem being audited and other equipment at your site. You should also supply the operating profile for that subsystem and any other information that will help to identify the additional measurements needed for this level of audit.
Note: For Type 2 or 3 audits in particular, it is advisable to refer to the standard to identify whether there is sufficient data available for the audit.
Business Energy Advice Program
The Australian Government's Business Energy Advice Program (BEAP) offers a free energy advisory service with one-on-one consultations to help small businesses understand their energy savings opportunities, choose the best energy plan, and receive tailored advice on energy efficiency opportunities best suited to their industry.
Small businesses with between 6 and 20 employees qualify for a free consultation, and businesses with 5 or fewer staff that have been adversely affected by drought are also eligible.
Register by calling 1300 415 224 or visit businessenergyadvice.com.au.
Small Business Energy Check
BEAP also offers an energy spend benchmarking tool that allows small businesses to compare their energy spend against similar businesses in their industry and region. It can be used on its own, or in conjunction with a Business Energy Advice consultation.
The Small Business Energy Check tool is available at checkyourenergyspend.com.au. You can use it as many times as you like, no registration is required.
The 20 Step Guide to Cutting Energy Bills in Your Business Australian Government
Better Business Guide to Energy Saving UK Carbon Trust