Understanding my gas bill

It’s true there are more fun things to do than examine your energy bill and plenty of other things which are easier to read, too, but they do contain a lot of useful information beyond just what has to be paid.


Bills provide information on how much energy has been used, how the bill has been calculated, your customer reference number and a range of information on your tariff and charges.


The basics 



  • Open your bill


It’s all too easy to ignore your bill or shove it in the ‘special filing cabinet’ (also known as the bin), but you could be throwing away cash. You wouldn’t scrunch up a hundred pounds and throw it away now, would you?



  • Read you bill


Taking some time to read and understand your bill is important. Learning what the different parts of your bill mean, will help you to save money.



  • How often should you get an energy bill?


This will often depend on the supplier and tariff that you have signed up to. In Northern Ireland, if you are on a typical plan, you will be billed every few months or quarter, and depending on whether you have signed up to online billing or not, you will receive your bill in the post or online.



  • PrePayment (PaYG) Tariffs


For people who use a prepayment meter (Pay as You Go) they will not receive a regular bill but will receive an annual summary or statement. This will include details of the tariff, energy used and other useful information.



How am I charged?


Gas bills are charged in pence per Kilowatt hour (kWh). Gas units are usually measured by cubic metres (m3) but any bill will set out your usage and costs based kWh.


[One kilowatt hour is equivalent to 1000 watts of energy used for 1 hour. For example, a 100-watt light bulb switched on for 10 hours will use 1 kWh of electricity]


The rate you pay will depend on the tariff you are on, your supplier, payment method and how you receive bills. 


If you see two different rates on your bill this may mean your tariff rate changed during the billing period. This may be because the tariff rate changed or an introductory discount has ended. Suppliers will also display a breakdown of average daily consumption and a comparison of consumption to the same period last year. 


Key information on your gas bill


The Utility Regulator sets out the information that energy suppliers must present on their bills. Although the exact wording and layout may differ across energy suppliers they should contain similar information which will include:


  • Customer Name and Address

Check the bill is addressed to you and is for the correct property which is displayed under the Supply Address. If you have not registered with the supplier the account may be addressed to “the occupier”. If so contact the supplier and register your details. If you are moving out of a property, your supplier may require a forwarding address in order to close your account.


  • Account or Customer Reference Number

This is your unique identification number and is usually printed at the top of your bill.


  • Gas Point Reference Number (GPRN)

This number indicates the point at which your house is connected to the gas network


  • Billing Dates (and Invoice Number)

Check that the bill only covers periods when you were living in the property.


  • Meter Serial Number

The meter serial number is the number for the meter you currently have installed and will change if you get a new meter.


  • Payment (or Action Required)

Your bill will set out any action you have to take on receipt of the bill. If you are on a Direct Debit plan there is usually no action to take – any amount owed will be automatically deducted from your account.



Gas usage breakdown


  • Tariff Name

This is the name of the tariff you are on. It will normally be displayed on the front page of your bill


  • Gas Usage 

This will be how many units of gas you have used up during the billing period. Energy units are measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh).


  • Tariff Unit Rate

The rate your units are charged at. The amount of gas used multiplied by unit price will give you the total amount for your gas usage before other charges are applied.


  • Meter Readings

If a reading is estimated (E) or has been provided by the customer (C), this should be stated on the bill alongside the reading. An Actual (A) means the meter was read by the Gas Network operator.


If your reading is estimated contact your supplier with an up-to-date reading. This will ensure you receive a bill based upon an actual meter reading. If you have difficulty reading your meter, contact your supplier and ask what assistance they can provide.


  • Historical Usage / Comparison 

Your bill will also provide a comparison of your current energy consumption against consumption for the same period in the previous year. This can be useful to determine if you are using more energy or less and the impact of this on your bill.


  • Balance brought forward (Credit or Debt)

This is any credit or debt that has been brought forward from previous bills. You’d think that “credit” is something you owe, but oh no! In the energy world, credit means that you’ve paid extra on your energy bill and that you’re owed money back. “Debit” on the other hand, means you owe your energy supplier money.


  • VAT

VAT is applied at 13.5% on the total, so you pay VAT on every element of your bill.


Unexpectedly high gas bill


The following are common reasons why some bills may be higher than others. You should check these to ensure your bill is accurate. For any errors or issues with your bills, your first port of call is to contact your supplier and provide them with your account number and the invoice number.


  • Wrong bill

Although an obvious point make sure the bill is for the correct address and not for another property. 


  • Estimated bill

Check whether the meter readings are estimated (an E may be displayed beside the meter reading). Estimated bills will not be as accurate as actual meter readings. If this is the case, take an actual meter reading and provide it to your supplier so they can produce an accurate bill. 


  • Billing period

Check that the bill covers the dates you were resident in your home and not for dates before you moved in. Also ensure that when comparing billing periods you take into account summer usage will often differ from winter usage.


  • Not receiving bills

If you are not receiving bills it might be tempting to say nothing but you have a responsibility to bring this to the attention of the supplier. Consumers often believe that if the company does not bill them they won’t have to pay but there is a responsibility to pay for any energy used.


  • Faulty meter

If you think there may be a fault, keep a log of meter readings every day for a week. If you have done this and still think there’s a fault, contact your supplier with this information. They can arrange for a test on your meter to find out whether it is faulty or not.


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