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Energy Bill Glossary
Anyone who's ever had to make sense of an energy bill will tell you that they're often filled with jargon, making it difficult to work out just what you owe.
To help you cut through the technical terms and better understand your energy bills, here's a comprehensive glossary of energy terms.
Your account is a record of how much energy you have used, on what tariffs, how much you have paid historically and how much you owe.
Your account number is a unique number used by your supplier to locate your account. If you phone them with a question or comment, they'll be able to help you quicker if you give them your account number.
British Gas, EDF Energy, E.On, npower, SSE, and Scottish Power are the six largest energy companies in the UK. They are sometimes referred to as the Big Six.
An energy bill is a statement which tells you how much you owe based how much energy you've used. If you pay by Direct Debit, it may show how much your account is in credit.
The date the bill was issued to you.
Your bill will tell you for what period of time the charges were calculated. For example, if the bill period is April 1 to June 30, then the amount you owe is for the energy you used during that time.
Your balance indicates how much you owe, or by how much your account is in credit.
Consumer Focus is an independent, government-funded service which can help you assemble a formal complaint against an energy company. They can be contacted by phone on 08454 04 05 06.
A measure of how much gas and electricity you have used, or 'consumed.'
The quality of the gas you receive. This essentially demonstrates the amount of energy created by burning the gas.
A capped energy tariff is one which guarantees the price per unit you pay for gas and/or electricity will not exceed a certain amount for a set period of time.
If you pay for your energy via Direct Debit, the amount you owe is taken automatically from your bank account, so you'll never miss a payment. You must make sure you have money in your account though, as payment will be taken regardless - which could lead to overdraft charges from your bank if you don't have the available funds.
Direct Debit payments are either made on a monthly, quarterly or variable basis. With monthly payment a set amount is taken from your account on the same date each month. With quarterly billing a fixed amount is taken every quarter on the same date.
If you use less energy than you've paid for in the month or quarter, your account will go into credit. For example if you use less gas and electricity in the summer, you'll continue paying the normal amount and your account will be in credit come winter, softening the blow of bigger bills when the cold weather arrives.
With variable payments, you pay for exactly what energy you used at the end of a fixed calendar period, be that a month or a quarter.
You can also get a discount by opting to pay by Direct Debit.
Energy suppliers offer discounts as incentives to make you manage your account a certain way. You can get discounts for buying both your gas and electricity from the same supplier (dual fuel discount), by paying via Direct Debit and by managing your account online.
A dual fuel discount or tariff is where you get both your gas and electricity from the same supplier.
An economy 7 electricity tariff gives you cheaper energy during a seven hour period - usually through the night.
An electricity tariff which gives you cheaper energy during a 10 hour period. The actual hours will vary from one supplier to the next.
Estimated meter reading
Sometime your energy supplier will make an estimated reading of you meter and bill you accordingly. This estimate is based on your energy consumption in the past. If your provider doesn't have your consumption history, the estimation is based on national averages.
By contrast, an 'actual meter reading' is based on a recent meter reading and will be more accurate.
To ensure you are billed accurately, it is important to regularly give updated meter readings to your energy supplier. This can be done online, over the phone or by post.
A fixed tariff is where the gas or electricity suppliers promise not to increase your cost per unit for a given period.
This can be a good way to protect yourself against price hikes, but there is a risk because if your energy provider reduces its variable rate prices you will not benefit.
Fixed monthly Direct Debit
This is when the amount you pay each month via Direct Debit is fixed at an agreed number. This does not mean your energy cost per unit cannot go up. If the supplier puts its price per unit up, they will notify you that you monthly direct debit will be going up (if necessary.)
Green energy refers to energy from a sustainable source, such as solar power, hydroelectric power, wind power and biomass.
Many suppliers offer green energy tariffs which either guarantees that for every unit of energy you use, the same amount of green energy will be generated, or that the extra amount added to your bill for green energy is invested in renewable energy projects.
Each household is classed as a low, medium or high energy user. High energy users are typically larger families living in detached homes with three or more bedrooms.
They consume 4,950 kWh of electricity and 28,000 kWh of gas or more each year, according to figures from industry regulator Ofgem.
kWh (Kilowatt hour)
A kilowatt hour (kWh) is a unit of energy which is equal to one kilowatt of power expended for one hour. On your energy bill you'll see how many kWh of energy you have consumed.
Your bill will break down your kWh usage over the bill period. It'll also tell you the cost of the energy per kWh, allowing you to see how your total bill is calculated.
Low energy users consume 1,650 kWh of electricity and 10,000 kWh of gas a year, according to Ofgem figures. Typically, low users are single people or couples living in one bedroom flats.
Medium energy users are more likely to be a couple or small family living in a semi-detached house. Medium energy users consume 3,300 kWh of electricity and 16,500 kWh of gas a year, according to Ofgem.
Your unique, 21-digit electricity 'meter point administration number'
Your unique gas meter number, which remains the same even if you switch suppliers. It stands for meter point reference number.
No Standing Charge (NSC)
You may see the abbreviation NSC on your bill; this means that your tariff does not include a standing charge. If a tariff has a standing charge then you pay a set amount for both the supply and the energy you use.
With an NSC tariff you only pay for what you use, but the standing charge is usually built into the cost per unit for a certain amount of units, until the equivalent standing charge is paid, then the rate lowers.
If you complain to your energy supplier about any aspect of your account and they don't resolve it satisfactorily within eight weeks, you can take your energy complaint to the ombudsman service, which is independent of the energy industry and regulator Ofgem.
The Office of the Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem) is the regulator for the energy industry, and works to protect consumers.
Online energy tariffs give you a discount on your bills for managing your bills and payments on the internet.
'Payment received on'
This shows the date and amount you last made to your energy supplier
Your last meter reading. Deducting your previous reading from your current reading will show how much energy has been used between the two readings.
Your bill may include a payment slip at the bottom, in case you want to pay your bill at the bank or by post.
The name of you current energy plan or tariff. This can be useful to have to hand if you're making an application to switch to a new supplier.
Pence per kWh
The amount you are billed for each kWh you consume. Multiply the number of kWh you have consumed by the pence per kWh to calculate what you're being charged for the energy you've used.
Your most recent and up-to-date meter reading. Subtracting your previous reading from your recent reading will show how much energy you have used between the two readings.
See 'No standing charge' (NSC)
A standing order is an arrangement which automatically sends payment from your bank account to the energy supplier as often as is necessary. The amount sent is set by you and can be changed by you alone.
Your energy tariff dictates how much you pay for your energy by setting the price you pay per unit and may offer discounts for things like dual fuel and account online management.
Some electricity and gas suppliers offer tariffs which charge a set price per unit until you've used a certain amount of energy. Anything you use over that amount is then charged at the next tier.
A measurement of how much energy has been used. Units of gas and electricity used are converted into kilowatt hours.
Variable Direct Debit
See 'Direct Debit'
Value Added Tax (VAT) is added to your energy bill at a rate 20%. VAT is charged on most goods and services.
Switch and save
If your energy bill is too high, you may be able to get cheaper energy by doing an online comparison on our energy channel.
Our free-to-use service allows you to compare all the major energy companies and tariffs to see if you can get a cheap quote and save by switching.