Confused about your kilowatts and tariffs, generation and distribution? Unsure about what your energy bill is really telling you? Here’s some help:

What is a watt?

A watt is a measure of power.

Look at the label on your appliance to find out the wattage. (This is not the same as the energy rating label – and not all appliances are energy rated.).

Some typical wattages:

  • mobile phone charger: 5-20
  • laptop:500
  • washing machine: 400 – 1300
  • microwave: 1800
  • frig: 300-600
  • dishwasher: 1800
  • 50 inch plasma TV: 200
  • angle grinder: 1500-2500
  • drill: 500-700
  • cash register: 50 – 100
  • copier: 1500+

The wattage is not the same as energy consumption though. You need to convert to kilowatt hour (kWh) to get a real measure of your power use. For example toasters and kettles use around 2000 watts, but only for a couple of minutes. A frig may be 300 watts, but it runs for 24 hours a day.

(If your appliance only has an Amps rating – multiply by 240 to get the wattage (there are 240 watts in an Amp). For horsepower, multiply the value by 746 (there are 746 watts in a horsepower. We won’t get into KVA here, but if you need a generator, it’s important).

A kilowatt is a thousand watts.

What is a watt hour?

The standard measure of electricity use is the amount of energy (watts) used over an hour: the watt hour (Wh). A thousand watt hours is one kilowatt hour (kWh).

Your electricity bill is based on the total number of kilowatt hours consumed over a set period, which is usually three months.

A great link to find out the energy usage of your specific appliances is www.energyrating.gov.au.

You can also get more specific about energy consumption of  your own appliances by using the State Government home appliance calculator.  Or try/buy an energy meter.

Don’t forget some appliances on standby power can use more energy than you think.  And others have a higher start up wattage than their continuous/running power use (eg those with heating elements or electric motors – fridges, air conditioners, grinders, saws, etc) – they can actually be up to three times as high at start up.

Knowing how many watt hours you use and, importantly, when you use them can help you work out what your best option is for energy billing (eg. peak or off peak, flexible rate, etc), when the best time to use your energy is, and what size solar system you need – especially if going off-grid – if you are looking at installing one.

Dozing off yet?

Generation, Distribution, Retail – who does what (and who pays for it?)

From the source to your house, three distinct businesses are involved: generators, distributors and retailers.

Generators: produce electricity from coal and other sources, such as the sun or wind and sell it at wholesale rates to retailers. They cover the investment and operating costs to build and run electricity power stations. This link gives you an idea of who is generating power in Victoria. Some generators are also retailers.

Distributors: own and manage (fix faults, repair lines, etc) the power infrastructure and networks – the poles and wires that deliver electricity to your home or business. Powercor are our local distributor.

Retailers: buy the electricity from generators and sell it to you. Retailers typically offer a number of different deals. Changing retailer has no effect on the reliability or quality of your supply. The Victorian Energy Saver website have a list of retail companies. Some retailers are also generators.

You will not see these itemised costs on your power bill, but they all make up the total cost of your energy.

Retail costs are generally only 10% **check** of your bill. Here in Newstead, approximately 45% of your bill is the distribution cost. This is why the special “Newstead Tariff” that Powercor have committed to offering can be a big deal for your power bill, if the retailers will offer it to you. [See more detail about the Newstead Tariff here *** need a link***]

Why are my costs going up when my power use isn’t?

This is an older link, but still quite relevant, from the Energy and Water ombudsman: pricing of electricity and gas in Victoria.

Look here for a better explanation of what (and who) you are paying for from the Australian Energy Regulator.

Smart Meters have made a change to the way energy is measured and priced, allowing for more efficient electricity networks and different ways of paying for energy. Along with the potential benefits for consumers, there are pitfalls if you choose the wrong type of tariff for your situation. Read more here. That’s why knowing what, how much and when you use your power is important.

What is my power bill saying?

Electricity bills vary depending upon the retailer. In New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, there are no regulated offers or tariffs, which means that energy retailers set all of their own prices.

Your tariff is the amount charged for providing energy under your contract. It includes both fixed and variable charges.

The fixed charge is not based on your energy use; it will be identified separately – often called the ‘daily supply charge’ or ‘service to property’ charge. It can be displayed as a daily rate on your bill (e.g. in ‘cents per day’), but may appear as a single figure for a billing period.

The variable charge (or ‘consumption charge’) is the amount you pay for each unit of electricity and gas you use. It is listed on your bill as cents per kilowatt hour. It is important to note that different variable charges might apply in the one bill.

Look for the detailed charges section, which is usually found on the back of the bill. Here you can find the usage summary of kWh and how many cents you are paying per kWh.

If you are on a time-of-use or off-peak tariff you will find two tariff rates here. It is important to compare your tariff rate with your actual power use and your patterns of use (see above in the What’s a Watt/Watt Hour).

You may also have a renewable energy feed-in tariff if you have a grid connected solar system. If you were early on the uptake, you are probably still being rewarded with a high rate.

A good visual explanation of your bill can be found here on the Victorian Government Energy Saver site. There’s also a federal site here: https://www.energymadeeasy.gov.au/get-energy-smart/energy-bills .

At an individual household level, knowing what, how much and when you use your power is important. It’s also important at a community level, if we are to work towards delivering 100% renewable energy that’s cost effective, achievable and equitable.

Need more info:

These links may be helpful:

Embark – Energy Industry Overview; Feed in Tariffs

Victorian Government – Energy Saver

Australian Energy Regulator

For more info about the specifics around the Renewable Newstead project renewable energy options and how it might affect your energy bill, including the Diamond Energy Survey,  subscribe to the latest news. Or contact us.