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1. Understand your energy use

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How to read your energy bill

If you want to save on your energy and reduce emissions, it’s important to understand your energy bill to know the impact your actions are having on your energy use. This is also helpful when shopping around to get a better energy deal for your business needs.

What’s in your energy bill

Different retailers’ energy bills may look different but they contain the same core information including:   

  • supply address or service address
  • meter number
  • energy bill start and end dates
  • amount owing, usually including any credits, discounts or overdue amounts
  • amount of energy consumed during the billing period.

Your bill may indicate if the energy you consumed is estimated rather than actual. Estimated readings occur when the energy company cannot gain access to the meter. Companies may also accept self-read meter readings in these circumstances.

Tariffs and fees

Your bill is normally made up of tariff charges for providing energy under your contract. It can also include a separate network charge and itemised breakdown of any other regulatory or service fees.

Your gas and electricity tariff normally has 2 main parts:

  • a daily supply charge (sometimes called a fixed or service charge)
  • a usage charge (a variable or consumption charge).

The daily supply charge is the cost of getting electricity or gas to your premises. It appears separately on your bill as a daily rate (e.g. cents per day) or total amount for the billing period.

The usage charge is the cost of the electricity or gas you use. It appears on your bill in cents per kilowatt hour (c/kWh) for electricity, or cents per megajoule (c/MJ) for gas. One kilowatt hour (kWh) is equivalent to the amount of energy an appliance uses in an hour. For example, a 2400 watt radiant heater would use 2.4 kWh in an hour.

The usage charge can vary depending on:

  • the time of day you use your electricity
  • the type of contract you’re on
  • where your business operates, as each state and territory makes its own decisions about the costs of the various components involved in energy supply.

Some bills might show more than one usage charge. For example, a time-of-use tariff might have different usage charges for different blocks of time. These are usually called:

  • peak (charged during high-energy use times, generally weekdays from 4pm to 8pm)
  • shoulder (charged between peak and off-peak hours)
  • off-peak (charged at the lowest rate, generally weekdays and weekends from 10pm to 7am).

Retailers may have different times so check your contract for actual peak, shoulder and off-peak times to minimise your bills.

It is important to review your contract to ensure it is working for your business. Energy Made Easy can help you understand the different tariffs and choose which one is right for you.

See the Australian Energy Regulator website for more about your energy bill and tariffs and fees.

Solar PV billing credits and offsets

Businesses with solar PV panels will also receive a summary of solar credits relevant to their energy bill.

The amount of solar power exported is metered and normally shown on the bill. However, your bill likely won’t provide separate figures for total solar power generation and usage of that generation onsite. The amount of power generated and used on site is recorded in the PV inverter and can be easily accessed using energy monitor phone apps.

Power usage on the bill refers to the 'purchased power' which is power purchased after exceeding available onsite solar generation.

Billing for energy-intensive SMEs

There may be differences in billing for larger or more energy-intensive SMEs. These differences include:

  • electricity bills being monthly rather than quarterly (more frequent energy bills give greater insight into energy use patterns throughout the year)
  • more complex tariff structures
  • more line items, detailed breakdown of cost components and possibility of multiple meters and energy suppliers within a single facility.

Due to the added complexity of energy supply arrangements for energy intensive SMEs, it may pay to seek independent expert advice.

Energy-intensive businesses with a net consumption of more than 0.05 PJ per year should refer to the energy procurement for large energy users section for billing information.

Energy bill examples and guides

Energy Made Easy has sample electricity and gas bills to step you through your usage and explain what all of the information means.

In Australia, there are multiple energy providers who all format their bills differently. Most providers have company-specific how-to guides on reading their energy bills. Links to illustrated guides from some of Australia’s energy providers are listed below:

What to do if you think your energy bill is wrong

Detecting any errors in your energy bill is essential. An error of just a few percent can amount to substantial costs.

Consider these ways to help ensure your energy bill is correct:

  • Compare your bill to previous bills. Compare like-for-like periods as previous bills may be affected by seasonal factors or variation in production output. Adjust for variation by using an average of several previous bills.
  • Compare your bill to onsite meters and monitoring data. To read more about onsite metering see the Metering and monitoring guide.
  • Review all the billing service details including dates and meter numbers.
  • Check the usage charges are based on actual (not estimated) energy usage.

If you think your bill is incorrect, contact your energy retailer as soon as possible. An energy retailer must review a bill if a customer requests it.

If you’re still not satisfied, you can talk to the energy ombudsman in your state or territory. An ombudsman provides a free and independent dispute resolution service. You can also get more information from the AER online or by calling 1300 585 165.

Energy audits

An energy audit can help to clarify your company’s energy consumption and identify areas for potential savings. It can lead to reduced energy use, improved productivity and highlight opportunities to innovate.

Energy audits can be conducted in house. However, if skills are not available internally, external experts or energy services companies can be engaged to conduct part or all of the process.

Read more about how to conduct an energy audit.

Read more

Business support programs and advice

Equipment and technology guides

Industry sector guides

Better Bills Guideline (AER) Australian Government

Business.gov.au Australian Government

Energy Made Easy Australian Government

My energy bill (AER) Australian Government

The 20 Step Guide to Cutting Energy Bills in Your Business Australian Government