How to read your energy bill

Words by Zembl

Energy bills can be confusing, especially as the look of your bill might vary between different energy retailers. But don’t worry, they contain the same core information. We’ve put together this guide so you can make sense of those numbers and charges and stay in the know.

Meter ID numbers

Electricity and gas meter numbers help connect the right information to your account so you only pay for what you use. Some of the key ID numbers to be familiar with are:


  • National Meter Identifier (NMI). Think of this as your energy bill’s unique fingerprint.  
    It is used to confirm your meter type, your supply area and the kind of energy user you are.  
  • Meter Identification Reference Number (MIRN). This is your gas meter number if you live in Victoria, Queensland, South Australia or Western Australia. In New South Wales, your gas meter number is referred to as a Delivery Point Identifier (DPI).


Meter reads

Your meter reads are the nitty gritty of what the meter measures and are used to determine energy consumption and your energy bill. They include:  


  • Meter number – the unique number that identifies your meter
  • Read date – the date on which your meter was read
  • Meter read type – how your usage was measured, eg actual, interval or customer.  
  • Start and end read – your read at the start and end of the billing period
  • Usage in kilowatts (kWh) – the unit of measurement for electricity
  • Usage in megajoules (MJ) – the unit of measurement for gas


Actual vs. Estimated readings

Your bill may have two types of readings:  

  • Actual – These are readings done at your premise.  
  • Estimated – These are calculated based on historical data at the meter.  

In the case of an estimate, it may end up being slightly higher or lower than your actual usage for the period. However, the next time your meter is read, your bill will be adjusted. For example, if an estimate was higher than your actual usage, you should be credited or refunded the difference on your next bill after an actual meter read is done.   

Types of charges  

Usage charges


  • Usage charges for electricity – the unit charge is in cents per kilowatt hour (c/kWh) however, some retailers may display this number as a $ figure (e.g. 0.31).  
  • Usage charges for gas – unit charge is in cents per megajoule (c/MJ).  
  • Consumption charges – the consumption charge is a variable charge that depends on how much energy you use.  


Meter type-related charges

Your meter type plays a role in the type of charges that appear on your bill and is determined by the distributor in your area. These include:

Single rate

You’re charged the peak rate for all your energy use, regardless of time throughout the day. Peak times can also vary depending on the day of the week.  


Time of use

You’re charged different rates at different times throughout the day. It may include peak, off-peak and shoulder periods. Peak times are generally when electricity is being used the most, and off-peak periods are quieter low-demand times. Shoulder times cover the gap between peak and off-peak times for a TOU tariff and vary depending on the distributor.  


Controlled load

This applies to specific high-power-usage appliances including hot water systems and underfloor heating and are separately-metered at a lower rate. These appliances are often used during off-peak times and are typically large, energy-intensive systems, so a controlled load tariff ensures that their energy usage doesn’t inflate your standard home bill.  


Demand Charges

These charges are becoming more common in certain areas, and is based on intensity of electricity used and is measured by your meter recording your energy use in KW typically over a 30-minute interval, with the highest interval over the month or billing period attracting this charge. Having all your appliances on at once will increase this charge. To decrease this charge, make sure to spread your energy use over the day as much as possible and avoid having everything on at once as a high spike = a high charge.  


Supply Service Charges (Daily charges)

The service charge is a daily service charge you pay to receive power to your property and covers your provider’s operational expenses. It is calculated based on the number of days they provided electricity or gas and appears on your bill in cents or dollars per day (c/day).  



Your electricity retailers will provide a graph or table comparing your usage to similar sized households in your area. Additionally, your bill may also include a graph showing your average daily electricity usage and costs over the past year so you can compare how much you have used over time.  


Other information you may see


Greenhouse gas emissions

Some retailers show a reading for the greenhouse gas emissions your electricity use has produced during the billing period.


Next scheduled read date

Your bill will highlight the date of your next meter reading. Your energy provider may send someone to read your meter, or you can also submit your meter reading online or by phone to your energy provider.

Individual retailer bill guides

Every energy retailer has its own bill structure, and they all provide handy guides to keep you in the know on how to read them. If you have any bill questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to the Zembl Customer Care team on 1300 957 721 or email us at

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