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Received a monster electricity bill and wondering why? If you haven’t made any drastic changes to your lifestyle or the way you use your electricity at home, there are other factors that could have contributed to your larger-than-expected bill. Let’s take a look.
We reckon you should be comfy when relaxing at home so that air-con might have to do a few all-nighters in the middle of January. Whether it’s a scorching summer or a particularly icy winter, a new season often means different levels of heating or cooling are required. This can translate to different amounts of energy use from more recent bills.
New washing machine or dishwasher? Upgraded to a much bigger TV? New appliances can contribute to a larger electricity bill, especially if they’re not energy efficient or having a new one could mean a sudden increase in usage. But if you haven’t bought any new appliances recently, your existing appliances could be the culprit. If they’re faulty in some way, they might be using up more electricity than they should.
If your bill seems wildly different to the norm, it could simply mean that unpaid charges from a previous bill were carried over to your current one. If this is the case, it should say so on your current bill. You can also look through your previous bills and payment records to double-check this.
If your meter wasn’t able to be read (due to overgrowth, construction or an angry doggie), your Energy Provider might send you an estimated bill. If they do, it legally must have the letter ‘e’ or the word ‘estimated’ next to the usage charge.2
Estimated bills are often above or below your actual usage. If your Energy Provider estimates too little, they’ll send you a back-bill or add the gap to your next one.3 If they charge you too much, a credit should be applied to your account.4
If you have an estimated bill, you may be able to submit your own meter reading (known as a ‘self-read’) by taking a clear photo of your meter. If your self-read disputes the bill, your Energy Provider must adjust the bill.5 Contact your Energy Provider to forward a self-read.
If nothing else in your house has changed or your energy habits are the same, the good news is it might not be your fault. The bad news is rising energy rates could be behind your electricity bill going up. These rates reflect rising costs elsewhere in the electricity industry, including wholesale prices and network prices,6, 7 with the additional increases flowing on to consumers. At large, these rate rises are happening across the country, with different states and territories experiencing their own increases depending on how their energy market is regulated.
For example, on 1 July 2023 approximately 10% of households in New South Wales, South Australia and South-East Queensland were affected by the Australian Electricity Regulator (AER) raising the Default Market Offer (DMO) by around 21% on average.8 While the DMO only affects standing offer contracts, your Electricity Provider may still have raised rates on market offers in accordance with those rising wholesale and network prices.
Similarly, on 1 July 2023, about 15% of Victorian households had their Energy Plan affected9 by the 25% increase to the Victorian Default Offer.10 On the other side of the country in Western Australia, the State Government raised residential tariffs by 2.5% for the new financial year as well.11
If your bill is wrong, or you think it might be, the first step is to double-check the details. Your bill should have a meter number on it; this is what your Energy Provider uses to link your energy usage to your account. So, if you’ve never looked before, go on a bit of a Carmen Sandiego hunt around your house, find your meter and check the meter number. If the number doesn’t match what’s on your bill, take a photo and contact your Energy Provider.
Alternatively, your bill may have the correct meter number but not the right meter reading. This may be because your meter was inaccessible, and your Energy Provider had to estimate your electricity usage. As we covered above, you’ll know this is the case if your bill has the letter ‘e’ or the word ‘estimated’ next to the usage charge. All you need to do then is forward a photograph of your energy meter with the reading clearly visible for your Energy Provider to amend the bill as appropriate.
Remember, if you’ve contacted your Energy Provider regarding an incorrect bill and you’re not happy with how they resolved it, you can escalate the issue by reaching out to your state or territory’s energy ombudsman service.
Unfortunately, you can’t do much about electricity price rises. But there are other small changes you can make at home that can add up, resulting in a difference to your bill.
High energy bills have had a large impact on many households, which is why the Australian Government created the Energy Bill Relief Fund. Administered through state and territory governments, the fund has up to $3 billion in relief available for eligible households. You can learn more about this fund through the energy.gov.au website.
As of September 2023, totals available per household in each state are:
Depending on your state and territory, you may be able to access additional cost of living and electricity bill assistance, rebate schemes or discounts. Further, as mentioned above, you may also be able to negotiate payment plans and the like with your Energy Provider.
Save hours on research time by comparing a range of Energy Plans with iSelect*. A better value Electricity Plan could be just around the corner. Get started here.
1 iSelect commissioned i-Link Research to conduct a national online survey between 28 April and 3 May 2023. The sample is n=1,000 Australians 18+ years, with data weighted to represent the population by age, state and gender, and is representative of all Australian adults 18+.
2 Energy and Water Ombudsman Victoria - Estimated bills
3 Energy and Water Ombudsman Victoria - Backbilling, refunds and lost payments
4 As above.
5 Energy Made Easy - Received an energy bill you think is wrong?
6 Australian Energy Regulator - Default market offer prices 2023–24: Final determination, p3–4
7 Essential Services Commission - 2023–24 Victorian Default Offer: Final Decision Factsheet, p3–4
8 Australian Energy Regulator - DMO Electricity price safety net, p1–2
9 Essential Services Commission - 2023–24 Victorian Default Offer: Final Decision Factsheet, p4
10 As above, p1
11 Government of Western Australia - Electricity price changes in Western Australia from 1 July
12 Sustainability Victoria - Reduce fridge and freezer costs at home
13 Energy Made Easy - Which type of tariff is right for you?
14 Government of South Australia - Time of use tariffs
15 Australian Competition & Consumer Commission - Electricity prices and plans
16 Moneysmart - Problems paying your bills and fines
17 energy.gov.au - Energy bill relief for households, NSW
18 energy.gov.au - Energy bill relief for households, South Australia
19 energy.gov.au - Energy bill relief for households, Tasmania
20 Victoria State Government - Help paying your bill
21 Northern Territory Government - Energy Bill Relief - households
22 ACT Revenue Office - Energy Bill Relief Fund
23 energy.gov.au - Energy bill relief for households, ACT
24 Queensland Treasury - Energy bill relief - Tackling the cost of living
25 Government of Western Australia - Household electricity credit