Environmental Information Exchange

Understanding energy bills

Electricity and gas are metered utilities and bills are a reflection of that use. An energy bill is the main source of information about energy consumption. It shows how much energy (mostly in kilowatt hours) a business has used over a period of time, changes in energy use, costs and errors. Energy bills are sent to customers by administrators who provide billing but do not generate or distribute the energy.How much you pay for your energy consumption is determined by meter readings. Meters provide detailed information about the way in which energy is used, they are used to calculate and monitor energy use. Understanding your meter and its readings is an important first step to understanding your energy bills.

Meter reading

By monitoring energy use through accurate metering, inefficiency can be targeted and significant energy savings achieved. It is important to know the location of your gas and electricity meters, be sure that they are the ones you are being billed for and take readings when you enter and vacate a property as well as on a regular basis checking them against bills. Meter readings are mainly collected by the meter reader or by the customer for billing. The type of meter used and data collection and billing arrangements are the supplier's responsibility. In case of any discrepancies, notify suppliers immediately. Metering options include:

Half hourly metering automatically retrieves and records energy consumption every half hour for sites with a peak load above 100 kilowatts. The readings are passed to the energy supplier and provide a good source of information for energy management. Availability of half hourly metering is indicated by a '00' profile type on the MPAN section of an electricity bill. Sites with peak loads of less than 100 kilowatts have non-half hourly metering which can be read manually.

Smart metering : A smart meter is an advanced meter that provides automatic, regular meter data for small energy sites identifying consumption in more detail than a conventional one. Smart metering allows improved accuracy of forecasting energy demand at different times of the day.

There are a number of letters that appear before or after the meter reading on energy bills giving detailed information about the reading:

E - a reading estimated by your supplier
A - an actual meter reading obtained by a meter reader
C - a reading provided by the consumer
R - the final reading from a meter that has now been removed
N - the first reading from a new meter
F - the final meter reading when leaving a property, discontinuing a supply or switching supplier.

Common terms and abbreviations on energy bills

As energy prices continue to rise, it's important to fully understand the information provided on energy bills. Most bills will have account or reference numbers and meter numbers as well as details of the energy supplier and how calculations were made. You may encounter the following terms on your bill.

Available capacity is an agreed amount of electricity that a distribution company makes available for a business during an agreed period. If the business uses more than the agreed amount, they incur excess capacity charges.

Dual Fuel refers to the fact that both electricity and gas are received from the same supplier.

Gas Meter Point Reference Number (MPRN) is a unique 8 to 10 digit number that identifies a property's gas meter and is also referred to as the M number.

Green tariff is a term used when an energy provider supplies all or extra units of consumer electricity needs from renewable energy sources such as solar and wave power. This does not cost any more than conventional electricity.

KWh (Kilowatt hour): This is the standard measurement unit for energy consumption- one kilowatt of energy is produced over the period of an hour. Your meter will show how many kilowatt hours you have used with a unit price applied to every kilowatt hour of energy used to calculate the bill.

Maximum demand/ peak load: Electricity use varies from time to time. The maximum demand is the highest amount of electricity flow into a site in any half-hour period and is based on available metering and measured in kilovolt amperes (kVA).

Standing charge: This is a fixed charge for energy supply irrespective of consumption levels and pays for services like metering, meter reading, billing and the upkeep of mains cables.

The Metering Point Administration Number (MPAN) also called supply number) is a unique number given to domestic electricity customers to identify a property. It usually consists of 21 digits and is also referred to as the S number. Below is a sample MPAN with terminologies explained.

MPAN Number: s04 134 567 12 1023 4567 888
s -
04 Profile type
134 Meter Time Switch Code
567 Line Loss Factor
12 Distributor identifier
10234567 Meter Point ID Number
888 Check Digit

Profile Types: The first two digits of the MPAN reflect its profile type which range from 00 to 08 and separated into two categories with reference to available capacity of electricity supply. The 00 profile indicates half hourly metering while the rest of the profiles indicate non-half-hourly metering. Profile types provide electricity suppliers with expectations of electricity consumption throughout a day and are shown below in order of increasing electricity usage.

01 - Domestic - Single rate
02 - Domestic - Day / Night
03 - Commercial - Single rate
04 - Commercial - Day / Night
05 - Commercial Maximum Demand - Poor Load Factor (0-20% Load)
06 - Commercial Maximum Demand - Medium Load Factor (20-30% Load)
07 - Commercial Maximum Demand - Good Load Factor (30-40% Load)
08 - Commercial Maximum Demand - Excellent Load Factor (>40% Load)
00 - Half-hourly supply

The Meter Time Switch Code (MTC) indicates how many meter reads or dials the electricity meter has and what times of day they will operate.

Line Loss Factor (LLF) reflects expected costs a supplier will pay a distributor for the use of cables and network equipment in a region. It also indicates potential charges incurred due to energy loss when getting electricity supply to the meter.

Distributor Identifier geographically identifies the electricity supplier's local distribution area.

Meter Point ID number identifies the actual metering point and is unique within the distribution area.

Check Digit is calculated from distributor identifier and meter point ID number to provide a digit that can be used to validate both numbers.

Contacts for billing advice

The following organisations provide further information on understanding energy bills.

Energywatch is an independent gas and electricity watchdog. Working closely with Ofgem, it provides free and impartial advice to energy customers to help them get better service from their suppliers. It has a list of accredited companies providing internet price comparison services allowing customers to compare offerings from different energy suppliers and find out how much can be saved by changing suppliers.

Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem) is the regulation authority for Britain's gas and electricity industries. Its role is to promote competitive gas and electricity markets through creation of conditions that let companies compete fairly, and protect consumers' interests to make informed choices between suppliers. It also sets price controls and standards to regulate areas of the gas and electricity industry where competition is not effective.