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.

In this guide..

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.

Could you pay less? There's no one cheapest tariff - it depends on your region and usage, which is why it's 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. 

Tariff Name: This is the tariff you're currently on. You'll 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. 

Your estimated usage in the last 12 months: Remember this is your estimated usage for the past year, not the actual usage. Always submit a meter reading to make sure you're being charged for the exact amount of energy you're using. 

Total kWh used/This cost: This part of the bill will show you what your anual consumption of electricity is. It will be less accurate if you've not given regular meter readings. Use it when you're looking to switch providers as it should be the most accurate figure. 

Total Units (100s of cubic feet)/This Cost: This part of the bill will show you what your annual consumption of gas is. It will be less accurate if you've not given regular meter readings. Use it when you're looking to switch providers as it should be the most accurate figure.

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

Electricity tariff: This is the tariff you're currently on. You'll 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. 

569 kWh: Energy tariffs are made up of lots of elements and can be confusing. The Tariff Comparison Rate was introduced by Ofgem - it's 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 - it'll be printed on any bills from your provider. 

Could I pay less? There's no one cheapest tariff - it depends on your region and usage, which is why it's important to do a comparison. Our MSE Cheap Energy Club has a Top Fixed Picks comparison filter which will show you bespoke prices for the deals below (if you switch, you usually get £25 dual fuel cashback, or £12.50 for a single fuel).  

Payment method: this part will show how you're paying for your bills. Rember - it's always cheaper to pay via direct debit if you don't already as you'll get a £70- £90 discount per year. 

Exit fees: Suppliers should outline the terms of your contract. this should include exit fees and tariff end dates. You'll get charged the exit fee if you leave the tariff early. 

Your electricity use in detail: This part of the bill will show you what your annual consumption of gas it. It will be less accurate if you've not given regular meter readings. Use it when you're looking to switch providers as it should be the most accurate figure. 

About your TCR: Energy tariffs are made up of lots of elements and can be confusing. The Tariff Comparison Rate was introduced by Ofgem - it's 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 a different providers - it'll be printed on any bills from your provider. 

Your electricity use in detail: This part of the bill will show you what your annual consumption of gas is. It will be less accurate if you've not given regular meter readings. Use it when you're looking to switch providers as it should be the most accurate figure. 

Where can I get some help? Your supply number, also called Meter Point Administration Number or MPAN, is shown here. It's unique to your house and you'll need it if you're switching. It will be 21 digits in length and will be printed on all electricity bills. 

Tariff: This is the tariff you're currently on. You'll 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. 

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

202= 224 kWh: This part of the bill will show you what your consumption of gas is.  It will be less accurate is you'be mot given regular meter readings. Use it when you're looking to switch providers as it should be the most accurate figure. 

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

Fixed tariff: This is a fixed tariff which means the price you pay per unit of energy won't changer during the period of the fix. 

No termination fee: Suppliers should outline the terms of your contract. This should include exit fees and tariff end dates. You'll get charged the exit fee if you leave the tariff early.

Online Fixed Energy November 2014 tariff: You'll 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. 

Could you pay less? This is a prediction of what your energy bills will look like over the next year and the other options available. There's no one cheapest tariff - it depends on your region and usage, which is why it's 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. 

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

Your <actual / estimated> usage in the last 12 months: This part of the bill will show you what your consumption of electricity is - both the actual amount you've used and the estimated amount your energy company thinks you've used, if you have not provided meter readings. Use it when you're looking to switch providers as it should be the most accurate figure. 

Your energy use: This part of the bill will show you what your consumption of energy is. It will be less accurate if you've not given regular meter readings. Use it when you're looking to switch suppliers as it should be the most accurate figure.

About your TCR: Energy tariffs are made up of lots of elements and can be confusing. The Tariff Comparison Rate was introduced by Ofgem - it's 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 a different providers - it'll be printed on any bills from your provider. 

Converting gas units to kWh: 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. 

S: Your supply number, also called Meter Point Administration Number or MPAN, is shown here. It's unique to your house and you'll need it if you're switching. it will be 21 digits in length and will be printed on all electricity bills. 

1143 = 1143 kWh used: This part of the bill will show you what your consumption of energy is. Here you've been charged a set fee (a standing charge) and a fee for the energy you've used so there are two charges listed. 

Your estimated reading: 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 you'll be able to get an exact figure for your energy usage. 

Your electricity charges this period: This part of the bill will show you what your consumption of electricity is. It will be less accurate if you've not given regular meter readings. Use it when you're looking to switch providers as it should be the most accurate figure. 

Your tariff is Standard Energy: This is a tariff you're currently on. You'll 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. 

Standing charge: This is the daily standing charge. It's 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: Your supply number, also called Meter Point Administration Number or MPAN, is shown here. It's unique to your house and you'll need it if you're switching. It will be 21 digits in length and will be printed on all electricity bills. 

Choose a better tariff: 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 - you'll be able to see the full range or cheaper tariffs available on the market. 

Early exit fee: Suppliers should outlining the terms of your contract. This should include exit fees and tariff end dates. You'll get charged the exit fee if you leave the tariff early. 

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

Each day at a glance: This part of the bill will show you what your consumption of energy is for the bill period. It will be less accurate if you've not given regular meter readings. Use it when you're looking to switch providers as it should be the most accurate figure.

Could you pay less: 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, you'll be able to see the fill range of cheaper tariffs across the market.

Name: This is the tariff you're currently on. You'll 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. 

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

Estimated use: This part of the bill will show you what your provider thinks your consumption of energy has been for the past 12 months. It will be less accurate if you've not given regular meter readings. Use it when you're looking to switch providers as it should be the most accurate figure. 

Electricity charges: 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 you've not given regular meter readings. Use it when you're looking to switch providers as it should be the most accurate figure. 

Gas Charges: 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 you've not given regular meter readings. Use it when you're looking to switch providers as it should be the most accurate figure. 

About your TCR: Energy tariffs are made up of lots of elements and can be confusing. The Tariff Comparison Rate was introduced by Ofgem - it's 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 a different providers - it'll be printed on any bills from your provider. 

Supply details: Your supply number, also called Meter Point Administration Number or MPAN, is shown here. It's unique to your house and you'll need it if you're 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 £835/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 1 million people are supplied by them instead of National Grid.

    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.

Crucial tips to save £100s on energy bills

Here are our top tips to save:

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  • Switch supplier

Switching energy supplier 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 £835/year, those on a standard tariff typically pay around £1,083.

There's no one cheapest tariff – it depends on your region and usage, which is why it's important to do a comparison. Our MSE Cheap Energy Club has a Top Fixed Picks comparison which will show you bespoke prices (if you switch, you usually get £25 dual fuel cashback, or £12.50 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. See our Is Economy 7 Right for You? guide for full info.

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  • Pay by monthly direct debit

Set up a monthly direct debit to pay your bill and you'll usually save around £75/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. 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 which shows you how to claim what you're owed. See how to get your previous supplier to cough up in Reclaim Energy Bill Refunds.

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  • Do a meter reading regularly

    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.
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  • Grab £1,000s of grants

    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. It has an advice and information helpline – call 0300 123 1234 (0808 808 2282 in Scotland and 0800 1422 865 in Northern Ireland).

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