Electricity and natural gas bills and meter readings generally
As a minimum, electricity bills are sent out every three months (four bills a year) and natural gas bills every two months (six bills a year).
The main parts of an electricity or natural gas bill are:
the service charge—a fixed charge that contributes to the cost of the networks of electricity poles and wires and gas pipes—there’s more information about the service charge under our frequently asked question
the usage charge—based on how much electricity or gas you’ve used, calculated on a meter reading and charged according to a tariff schedule—it’s usually the larger part of an energy bill
The Energy Retail Code sets out the information that must be included on your electricity or natural gas bill.
Your usage is worked out through a reading of the meter at your property. The local electricity or gas distributor reads your meter, not the retailer. It provides the information to your retailer so it can bill you. The companies must use their ‘best endeavours’ to ensure your meter is read at least once in any 12 months—this means that, each year, three out of four electricity bills and five out of six gas bills could be estimated.
If a bill is estimated, it will say so on it. It will usually be based on your previous usage at a similar time of the year—that may be more or less than what you used this time though, so you may end up being charged more or less than you should have been.
Some retailers bill monthly. In-between meter readings, they estimate the bill and reconcile (or ‘wash up’) the account when the meter is read.