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Energy bills explained

How to use them to save £100s

Energy bills can be confusing - sometimes it's hard to decipher exactly how much you're paying. To make it clearer, we've explained exactly what each bill means to help you have more control over what you're paying and make it easier for you to switch companies and save money.

This guide shows you how to read your energy bills so you can find the cheapest deal and cut energy costs.

Sample bills explained, by company

Click your supplier's logo below, then hover over the highlighted areas on the bill (or if you're on a mobile or tablet, tap) for explanations.

Npower

nPower page 1

Thereís no one cheapest tariff - it depends on your region and usage, which is why itís important to do a comparison. Our MSE Cheap Energy Club has a Top Fixed Picks comparison which will show you bespoke prices for all the tariffs on the market.

nPower page 2

This is the tariff youíre currently on. Youíll need this exact name when comparing prices on comparison sites and switching energy providers. Suppliers often use similar names but use the exact name to get an accurate comparison.

Remember this is your estimated usage for the past year, not the actual usage. Always submit a meter reading to make sure youíre being charged for the exact amount of energy youíre using.

Energy tariffs are made up of lots of elements and can be confusing. The Tariff Comparison Rate was introduced by Ofgem - itís a figure which includes everything you have to pay and any discounts available including standing charges, unit rates and discounts. Using this figure should make it easier to compare tariffs from different providers - itíll be printed on any bills from your provider.

This part of the bill will show you what your annual consumption of electricity is. It will be less accurate if youíve not given regular meter readings. Use it when youíre looking to switch providers as it should be the most accurate figure.

This part of the bill will show you what your annual consumption of gas is. It will be less accurate if youíve not given regular meter readings. Use it when youíre looking to switch providers as it should be the most accurate figure.

nPower page 3
nPower page 4

Your supply number, also called a Meter Point Administration Number or MPAN, is unique to your house and youíll need it if youíre switching. It will be 21 digits in length and will be printed on all electricity bills.

British Gas

british gas page 1

This is the tariff youíre currently on. Youíll need this exact name when comparing prices on comparison sites and switching energy providers. Suppliers often use similar names but use the exact name to get an accurate comparison.

Energy tariffs are made up of lots of elements and can be confusing. The Tariff Comparison Rate was introduced by Ofgem - itís a figure which includes everything you have to pay and any discounts available including standing charges, unit rates and discounts. Using this figure should make it easier to compare tariffs from different providers - itíll be printed on any bills from your provider.

Thereís no one cheapest tariff - it depends on your region and usage, which is why itís important to do a comparison. Our MSE Cheap Energy Club has a Top Fixed Picks comparison which will show you bespoke prices for the deals below (if you switch, you usually get £30 dual fuel cashback, or £15 for a single fuel).

british gas page 2

This part will show you how youíre paying for your bills. Remember Ė itís always cheaper to pay via direct debit if you donít already as youíll get a £70 - £90 discount per year.

Suppliers should outline the terms of your contract. This should include exit fees and tariff end dates. Youíll get charged the exit fee if you leave the tariff early.

Energy tariffs are made up of lots of elements and can be confusing. The Tariff Comparison Rate was introduced by Ofgem - itís a figure which includes everything you have to pay and any discounts available including standing charges, unit rates and discounts. Using this figure should make it easier to compare tariffs from different providers - itíll be printed on any bills from your provider.

This part of the bill will show you what your annual consumption of gas is. It will be less accurate if youíve not given regular meter readings. Use it when youíre looking to switch providers as it should be the most accurate figure.

british gas page 3
british gas page 4

Your supply number, also called a Meter Point Administration Number or MPAN, is shown here. Itís unique to your house and youíll need it if youíre switching. It will be 21 digits in length and will be printed on all electricity bills.

EDF

EDF page 1
EDF page 2

This is the tariff youíre currently on. Youíll need this exact name when comparing prices on comparison sites and switching energy providers. Suppliers often use similar names but use the exact name to get an accurate comparison.

This part of the bill will show you what your consumption of electricity is. It will be less accurate if youíve not given regular meter readings. Use it when youíre looking to switch providers as it should be the most accurate figure.

This is the daily standing charge. Itís a fixed cost which includes things such as; the energy supply, meter readings and maintenance along with operating costs and any relevant discounts.

This is the tariff youíre currently on. Youíll need this exact name when comparing prices on comparison sites and switching energy providers. Suppliers often use similar names but use the exact name to get an accurate comparison.

This part of the bill will show you what your consumption of gas is. It will be less accurate if youíve not given regular meter readings. Use it when youíre looking to switch providers as it should be the most accurate figure.

This is the daily standing charge. Itís a fixed cost which includes things such as; the energy supply, meter readings and maintenance along with operating costs and any relevant discounts.

Your supply number, also called a Meter Point Administration Number or MPAN, is also shown here. Itís unique to your house and youíll need it if youíre switching. It will be 21 digits in length and will be printed on all electricity bills.

This part of the bill will show you what your annual consumption of energy is. It will be less accurate if youíve not given regular meter readings. Use it when youíre looking to switch providers as it should be the most accurate figure.

EDF page 3

This is a fixed tariff which means the price you pay per unit of energy wonít change during the period of the fix.

Suppliers should outline the terms of your contract. This should include exit fees and tariff end dates. Youíll get charged the exit fee if you leave the tariff early.

Scottish Power

Scottish power page 1

This is the tariff youíre currently on. Youíll need this exact name when comparing prices on comparison sites and switching energy providers. Suppliers often use similar names but use the exact name to get an accurate comparison.

This is a prediction of what your energy bills will look like over the next year, and the other options available from your supplier. Remember Ė comparing prices against other providers, which you can do for free with a comparison site Ė will give you a full range of cheaper tariffs on the market.

Scottish power page 2

Suppliers should outline the terms of your contract. This should include exit fees and tariff end dates. Youíll get charged the exit fee if you leave the tariff early.

This part of the bill will show you what your annual consumption of energy is Ė both the actual amount youíve used and the estimated amount the company thinks youíve used (if youíve not supplied regular meter readings). Use it when youíre looking to switch providers as it should be the most accurate figure.

This part of the bill will show you what your consumption of electricity is. It will be less accurate if youíve not given regular meter readings. Use it when youíre looking to switch providers as it should be the most accurate figure.

Energy tariffs are made up of lots of elements and can be confusing. The Tariff Comparison Rate was introduced by Ofgem - itís a figure which includes everything you have to pay and any discounts available including standing charges, unit rates and discounts. Using this figure should make it easier to compare tariffs from different providers - itíll be printed on any bills from your provider.

Gas is measured in units depending on the type of meter you have. These are then converted into kilowatt hours and suppliers will charge you per kWh used.

Scottish power page 3

This part of the bill will show you what your annual consumption of energy is. Here youíve been charged a set fee (a standing charge) and a for the energy youíve used so there are two charges listed.

Your supply number, also called a Meter Point Administration Number or MPAN, is also shown here. Itís unique to your house and youíll need it if youíre switching. It will be 21 digits in length and will be printed on all electricity bills.

SSE (includes Swalec, Southern Electric, Scottish Hydro and Atlantic)

SSE page 1

This part of the bill will show you what your estimated consumption of energy is. Instead of relying on this, if you give regular meter readings youíll be able to get an exact figure for your energy usage.

SSE page 2

This part of the bill will show you what your consumption of electricity is. It will be less accurate if youíve not given regular meter readings. Use it when youíre looking to switch providers as it should be the most accurate figure.

This is the tariff youíre currently on. Youíll need this exact name when comparing prices on comparison sites and switching energy providers. Suppliers often use similar names but use the exact name to get an accurate comparison.

This is the daily standing charge. Itís a fixed cost which includes things such as; the energy supply, meter readings and maintenance along with operating costs and any relevant discounts.

Your supply number, also called a Meter Point Administration Number or MPAN, is also shown here. Itís unique to your house and youíll need it if youíre switching. It will be 21 digits in length and will be printed on all electricity bills.

SSE page 3

In this section your supplier will give you details of its cheapest tariff. However, if you compare against other providers, which you can do for free with a comparison site Ė youíll be able to see the full range of cheaper tariffs available on the market.

SSE page 4

Suppliers should outline the terms of your contract. This should include exit fees and tariff end dates. Youíll get charged the exit fee if you leave the tariff early.

This part of the bill will show you what your consumption of energy is for the past year. It will be less accurate if youíve not given regular meter readings. Use it when youíre looking to switch providers as it should be the most accurate figure.

E.on

Eon page 1

This part of the bill will show you what your consumption of energy is for the bill period. It will be less accurate if youíve not given regular meter readings. Use it when youíre looking to switch providers as it should be the most accurate figure.

In this section your supplier will give you details of its cheapest tariff. However, if you compare against other providers, which you can do for free with a comparison site Ė youíll be able to see the full range of cheaper tariffs available on the market.

Eon page 2

This is the tariff youíre currently on. Youíll need this exact name when comparing prices on comparison sites and switching energy providers. Suppliers often use similar names but use the exact name to get an accurate comparison.

Suppliers should outline the terms of your contract. This should include exit fees and tariff end dates. Youíll get charged the exit fee if you leave the tariff early.

This part of the bill will show you what the provider thinks your consumption of energy has been for the past 12 months. It will be less accurate if youíve not given regular meter readings.

Energy tariffs are made up of lots of elements and can be confusing. The Tariff Comparison Rate was introduced by Ofgem - itís a figure which includes everything you have to pay and any discounts available including standing charges, unit rates and discounts. Using this figure should make it easier to compare tariffs from different providers - itíll be printed on any bills from your provider.

This part of the bill will show you what your consumption of electricity is for the last bill period. It will be less accurate if youíve not given regular meter readings. Use it when youíre looking to switch providers as it should be the most accurate figure.

This part of the bill will show you what your consumption of gas is for the last bill period. It will be less accurate if youíve not given regular meter readings. Use it when youíre looking to switch providers as it should be the most accurate figure.

Your supply number, also called a Meter Point Administration Number or MPAN, is also shown here. Itís unique to your house and youíll need it if youíre switching. It will be 21 digits in length and will be printed on all electricity bills.

What's included on your bill?

All regular (eg, monthly or quarterly) bills should include the following:

  • The name of the current tariff

    MSE's explanation: While suppliers must offer just four core tariffs, the market remains saturated with tariffs, all with identical-sounding names. Unless you can pinpoint exactly which one's your tariff, you won't be able to see how much you can save by switching.

  • The cost of energy in the last 12 months

    MSE's explanation: Bills must provide the cost of your energy from the last 12 months. If you haven't been with the supplier for this long, it will be based on a shorter time period.

    This is a useful tool for quickly seeing how much you're overspending by. The cheapest tariffs cost about £1,000/year for the average household. If you're well over this, switch!

  • An estimate of the next 12 months' cost

    MSE's explanation: This predicts the cost of your energy for the next year based on what you've used in the last year. It assumes you stay on the same tariff and use the same amount of energy.

  • Conditions of contract, including exit fees & end dates

    MSE's explanation: Suppliers should outline the terms of your contract. This should include exit fees and tariff end dates.

  • Information about discounts

    MSE's explanation: Suppliers must include full details of discounts or premiums that may apply to your tariff compared to standard tariffs where payment is by direct debit.

  • Switching info

    MSE's explanation: Suppliers must include a reminder that customers can switch, along with advice on how to do it. Obviously energy providers aren't going to push this, and the likelihood is it will only tell you about its own cheaper tariffs. Never rely on that - always do a full comparison. See below for full info on switching.

  • What bills DON'T explain

  • What does 'kWh' mean?

    MSE's explanation: A kilowatt hour (kWh) is the measure used to explain how much energy you use. One kilowatt hour is equal to 1,000 watt hours. Use an appliance rated at 1,000 watts for one hour and you'll be billed for 1kWh.

    This is unlike phone bills, where you can clearly see the price per minute and relate it to how much you're using.

  • Confusing terms, such as'debit' AND 'credit'

    MSE's explanation: While you'd usually associate "credit" with something you owe, in this case credit means when you've paid extra on your energy bill. "Debit" means when you owe the supplier extra.

  • No explanation of Independent Gas Transporters

    MSE's explanation: Independent gas transporters (IGTs) are often used by constructors instead of National Grid in new-build properties as they charge less to fit pipes. About 870,000 people are supplied by them instead of National Grid.

    If that's the case, you may have to pay £40-£70 more on top of any comparison quote, as the gas provider uses both pipes, so needs to pay both National Grid and the IGT to supply gas to your house. This charge is passed directly on to you.

    If the MPRN (the meter point reference number, unique to your house) on your bill is 10 digits long and starts with 74 or 75, this means you're supplied by an independent gas transporter. If you're not sure, Energylinx has a useful tool you can use to check.

Crucial tips to save £100s on energy bills

Here are our top tips to save:

  • Switch energy

    money saving energy bills Switching energy is easy: nothing changes other than who bills you. If you've never switched before you can save £100s every year. While the cheapest deals for typical users are around £1,000 a year, those on a standard tariff typically pay around £1,180.

    Thereís no one cheapest tariff - it depends on your region and usage, which is why itís important to do a comparison. Our MSE Cheap Energy Club has a†Top Fixed Picks comparison†which will show you bespoke prices for the deals below (if you switch, you usually get £30 dual fuel cashback, or £15 for a single fuel).

    For full info on the top comparison sites and how to get extra cashback, or a crate of wine, see the full Cheap Gas & Elec guide. Economy 7 users can also compare tariffs, though switching's a bit more complicated. See our Is Economy 7 Right for You? guide for full info.

  • Pay by monthly direct debit

    money saving energy billsSet up a monthly direct debit to pay your bill and you'll usually save around £70-£90/year extra. Yet it's crucial to make sure the energy company doesn't set it too low or too high. Either the supplier keeps hold of your cash unnecessarily or you end up with a big bill at the end of the year. Full details in the Energy Direct Debits guide.

    Your previous supplier(s) will owe you money if you were in credit when you switched, and you didn't get that money back automatically. If that happened, you have to ask for it back.

    We've created a guide for you to check if you're owed any of the £200 million that the big six providers are still sitting on. Plus, if you are owed, the guide will tell you how to claim. See how to get your previous supplier to cough up in Reclaim Energy Bill Refunds.

  • Do a meter reading regularly

    money saving energy bills Every time you receive a bill, do a meter reading. Don't rely on your energy provider's estimate; these are often way out. If they're under-billing, you'll have a big whack to pay at the end of the year. If they're over-billing, then they've unfairly got your cash.

    If your direct debit is way off kilter, call up and request it's changed. You have a range of rights to ensure it's correct. See the full Energy Direct Debits guide for template letters to help.

  • Switch to your company's internet tariff

    Switch to your company's internet billing. It will usually save you up to 10% over the standard tariff, and all it really means is you get your bills emailed.

  • Grab £1,000s of grants

    money saving energy bills There's a vast range of grants available for improving home heating and insulation. The best place to start is the Government's Energy Saving Trust (EST). It has an advice and information helpline, call 0300 123 1234 (0800 512 012 in Scotland and Wales).

    For more grants available for all types of home improvement, see the full Grant Grabbing guide.