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Understanding your energy bill
Your energy bill is the key element to understanding how your energy service works and what you pay for those services.
Let's break down some energy jargon here to help you better understand your service.
Note: This information applies to customers in QLD, NSW, ACT, SA and TAS only. Victorian consumers should visit the Essential Services Commission website for more information.
The information on a typical energy bill can often include confusing terms but here are some things to check to make sure your energy bill is accurate:
- Your name, address and the date on the bill.
- How much you need to pay, including any credits or money owed from previous bills, and when you need to pay it by.
- Your meter number, the number on your bill should match the number on your meter.
- The billing period, the period in which you used the energy you’re being charged for.
- The meter readings that have been used to calculate the amount of every you’ve used during the billing period (measured in kilowatt hours or kWh and megajoules or MJ for gas). If your bill is based on an estimate of how much you’ve used, this should be clearly marked on the bill.
- The amount your retailer is charging you for each kilowatt hour (kWh) of electricity or megajoule (MJ) of gas.
- The supply charge for the billing period (this is a fixed charge for supplying your property with energy and is not based on how much energy you use).
- Any other fees or charges being applied.
- Any amount credited to your account as part of a rebate or concession.
The price you pay for your energy service includes the tariff and any other fees and charges that may apply under your contract.
Your tariff is the amount charged for providing energy under your contract, and it includes both fixed and variable charges.
The fixed charge is not based on how much energy you use, but is the cost of supplying energy to your property. It is often called the ‘daily supply charge’.
The variable charge may be referred to as the consumption charge. It is the amount you pay for each unit of electricity and gas you use. It is listed on your bill as cents per kilowatt hour (c/kWh) for electricity and cents per megajoule (c/MJ) for gas.
It is important to know that different variable charges might apply in the one bill:
- If you live in a house that has certain appliances separately metered and operating overnight, for example, storage hot water systems, you may see this listed as an off peak tariff on your bill. These off peak tariffs are normally cheaper as electricity demand is lowest overnight.
- If you choose to have renewable energy or GreenPower added to the cost of your electricity or gas, this can be charged as a higher variable price but sometimes can be included as a fixed amount.
- If your electricity meter records when you use electricity (rather than just the total amount used) you can be charged different prices for electricity used during the day, at night and on weekends. Some gas tariffs also change depending on the season, charging different rates in winter and summer.
Your energy tariffs can change during a billing period. Your retailer will provide you with written notice of this change, usually with or on your next bill.
If you have any questions or concerns, your energy retailer’s customer service number should be included on your bill. Your bill should also show your customer account of reference number, which you may need to quote when you contact your energy retailer.
Additional fees to your energy contract can include things like an establishment fee for setting up an account with an energy retailer, a termination fee for leaving your contract early, and a payment processing fee, for example if you pay by credit card.
A standing offer is one that if given to you by your retailer by default, if you don’t choose a market offer or negotiate a plan. For example, if you choose a plan that expires after one year and don’t take further action, your plan will then rollover onto a standing offer until you choose a new one. If you are on a standing offer, you may not be on the best deal available.
A market offer is an advertised plan that you choose or negotiate with your energy retailer. Market contracts may cost less than the standard offer, and can have certain discounts.
Under the National Energy Retail Law, retailers must assist customers that are having payment difficulties.
Talk to your retailer and ask for information about different payment options and the availability of government assistance. View our customer hardship policies page for a list of retailers' customer hardship policies and get a feel for what everyone's rights and responsibilities are.
Payment plans: Your retailer must offer you the option of paying your bill with a payment plan. One option may be bill smoothing, which is where you pay smaller amounts, more often. If you can’t agree with your retailer on a manageable payment plan, you can contact the Energy Ombudsman in your area for further support.
Rebates and concessions: These are generally available to people living on low incomes, pensions and individuals with medical conditions.
Centrepay: If you receive Centrelink benefits, ask your retailer about Centrepay. It's a payment arrangement that allows you to give Centrelink permission to deduct regular energy bill payments directly from your Centrelink payment before you get it and send it to the businesses you want to pay. Find out more about Centrepay.
Disconnection of your energy must be a last resort option for your retailer.
They must provide you with a reminder and a disconnection warning notice. Please talk with your retailer to discuss.
If you are disconnected you may have to pay a re-connection fee. Some retailers may also require you to pay a security deposit.