How to read your electricity bill
Last updated April 2023
We at National Energy Action have produced a series of advice leaflets to help you with your energy bills.
Different suppliers will have different-looking bills. Electricity bills will also look different depending on the way you pay. See below for information relating to the numbers in circles to help with reading your electricity bill.
Your electricity bill
What the different parts of your electricity bill mean
- Your ACCOUNT NUMBER, sometimes called a CUSTOMER REFERENCE NUMBER, is unique to you and is used to identify your personal account details when you contact your supplier.
- Your ELECTRICITY SUPPLY NUMBER provides a unique identity reference number for your electricity meter.
- The CONTACT DETAILS of your electricity supplier, including phone number and office opening hours.
- EMERGENCY CONTACT DETAILS to be used out of hours.
- The DATE your electricity bill was issued.
- The bill will be ADDRESSED to the person whose name appears on the account. You may wish to have more than one named person on the account in case of a change in circumstances.
- The PERIOD OF TIME you have been charged for the electricity you have used.
- The AMOUNT that was left on your bill from the previous payment. This could be a credit, a debit or a zero balance depending on how you pay.
- The PAYMENTS YOU HAVE MADE since the last bill.
- This is the TOTAL COST of the electricity you have used (or have been estimated to have used) for the billing period.
- Your NEW ACCOUNT BALANCE or AMOUNT OWED will take into account any existing credit you have on your account and will show as either a credit, a debit or zero balance.
- If you are a Direct Debit customer this will fluctuate throughout the year due to seasonality and the amount of electricity used.
- If you pay each bill in full, as with standard quarterly customers, it will usually show a zero balance followed by the full amount owed for the current billing period.
- If you pay by DIRECT DEBIT you pay a fixed amount each month over a set period of time, usually a year. If these payments are too high and you are building up a large credit, or too low and you are building up a debt, your supplier will recalculate the amount you need to pay and will either increase or decrease your monthly payments to match your use.
- The PERSONAL PROJECTION is an estimate of your electricity use over a set period of time, usually a year. This helps your supplier to set your payment plan if you are a Direct Debit customer, or can help people budget if they pay quarterly.
- Cheaper tariff options now have to be highlighted to you by your supplier. Some suppliers will even tell you of cheaper tariffs with other energy suppliers. You can use an accredited switching site to view the best deals in your area.
- Your PREVIOUS reading is the meter reading which is issued as the starting point for this billing period.
- Your LATEST reading is the meter reading which is used as the end point for this billing period. It is used to generate your current bill.
- The ESTIMATED or ‘E’ readings are those supplied by your electricity supplier when they do not have an ACTUAL or ‘A’ reading supplied by either yourself or a company meter reader. Some suppliers may show readings you have provided as CUSTOMER, ‘C’ or YOUR reading. ESTIMATED readings are based on your previous use and average consumption levels.
- ELECTRICITY UNITS USED is the amount of electricity you have used during the set billing period. It is calculated by taking your PREVIOUS reading and subtracting it from the LATEST reading.
- Electricity is measured in kilowatt hours (kWh). The kWh rate is the current amount you are
paying for your electricity. You may be on a tariff that is FIXED and this will remain the same for
the period of your contract, or you may be on a STANDARD tariff which means the cost of
electricity will fluctuate depending on the market.
- The STANDING CHARGE is a fixed cost associated with providing your electricity supply such as meter reading, maintenance and the cost of keeping your home connected to the network and fees paid to other companies who operate and maintain parts of the electricity network.
- The CHARGE is the amount you need to pay, minus VAT which will be added to the total cost at a rate of 5%. If the VAT on your bill is more than 5% you may be being charged a commercial rate and you should contact your supplier.
- How you pay for your electricity and the amount you pay is called a TARIFF. There are many different tariffs to choose from offering different payment options, discounts and terms and conditions. It is worth asking your supplier if you are on the best tariff, or looking to see if there is a better tariff with a different supplier. There may be a cancellation fee if you switch tariffs or suppliers.
- Further information on how the DIRECT DEBIT plans are calculated.
- Big energy suppliers have to offer their vulnerable customers extra services. They each have a Priority Services Register which offers free support to those with extra needs. Contact your supplier for further details.
- Ask your energy supplier if you are entitled to the Warm Home Discount. This is a discount of £140 on electricity bills for the winter period. Those who receive the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit are eligible, as are some other low-income and vulnerable households. Contact your fuel supplier to see if you qualify.