Understanding Your Energy Bills

Gas and Electricity


Have you ever taken the time to read through your energy bills properly? Unfortunately, many people don’t check that the amount they’re paying is correct or how much energy they’ve used, which can result in overpayments. To avoid this problem and take complete control of your energy bills, it may be time to understand your energy bills and figure out exactly what kWh, MPRN and ‘in debit’ mean.

Due to the meter reading cycles of both ESB Networks and Gas Networks Ireland, gas and electricity bills are usually sent and paid separately. Below, you can first find information on how to read your electricity bill, followed by your gas bill.

How To Read Your Electricity Bill

Your electricity bill will likely be around two or three pages, but the first two are the most important. Page one generally offers a brief summary of your account and personal details. It will provide general information, such as your unique account number, the date, personal details like your address, as well as the billing period and how much you owe. A Meter Point Reference Number (MPRN) will be visible in this section too, and this is your unique number that the supplier can use to identify you. The payment due will likely be in a stand-out box so that you can find it easily.

Page two will usually go into more depth about your energy usage, the type of energy tariff you’re on (standard, fixed, etc.), your meter number, the amount you pay, the amount of electricity you’ve used in the total billing period and your estimated annual usage. It is this page that people tend to get stuck on because of the terms used, such as kWh.

What Does KWh Mean?

It’s likely that you’ll see ‘kWh’ crop up a lot on your energy bills (both gas and electric). It stands for kilowatt hour and is a way of measuring energy usage. The energy that appliances and electrical devices use are measured in watts, and kilowatt hour simply equals the amount of energy consumed if a 1,000 watt electrical device was used for an hour. For instance, a 100-watt light bulb would take 10 hours to use 1kWh of electricity.

If you can’t see a kWh reading on your bill, your energy supplier may instead provide you with an annual estimate using a banding system. Known as an AC band, the letter you’re given on your bill represents your annual energy usage. The brackets are as follows:

  • A - 6,000 kWh per year
  • B - 6,000 to 23,500 kWh per year
  • C - 23,000 to 73,000 kWh per year.

Alternatively, the amount of electricity you have used since your last bill might just be shown in units. The bill will show you the meter reading from the last billing period compared to the meter reading of this billing period. When the two are cancelled out, you’ll be left with the total amount of energy used, and this is what you will need to pay for. This information comes from your meter readings, which you will either provide to your energy supplier regularly or, if you have a smart meter, they will be sent automatically.

What Is DG And MCC?

These two terms may also be present on your energy bill, so what exactly do they stand for?

DG stands for ‘distribution group’ and helps your energy provider to understand your estimated energy consumption.

MCC stands for ‘meter configuration code’ and tells your energy provider what type of meter you have.

You may occasionally see the letter ‘E’ on your bill, which means that your usage has been estimated. As ESB Networks reads your meter four times a year (and a bill is issued every two months), you may notice that at least two of your bills are estimated each year.

How To Check If Your Electricity Bill Is Correct

Now that you understand some of the terminology that can be found on your electricity bill, how do you know if you’re being charged the correct amount for your usage?

Your bill should contain all the information you need to work this out yourself. All you need is the number of kWh of energy you’ve used and the cost per kWh. Electricity and gas are priced per kWh. The exact amount will be shown on your bill and this can be used to work out if your bill is correct.

You should take the total energy you’ve used in kWh since your last meter reading and multiply it by the cost of electricity per kWh. And that’s it! Don’t forget to add on any additional charges, such as low usage standing charge, and remember that you may pay a lower price for electricity at night, or your figures may not add up.

How To Read Your Gas Bill

Reading a gas bill is not much different to reading your electricity bill. Gas usage is also measured in kWh, and the same general information is provided (the billing period, estimated annual usage, usage in kWh, type of tariff, etc.). The bill will typically look very similar to your electricity bill but with a few key differences.

Instead of an MPRN, you will see a GPRN (Gas Point Reference Number), which is your unique number that helps the network to identify which gas meter they’re supplying. This is purely for the supplier’s use and so you shouldn’t need to use it.

While electricity is measured in kWh, gas is initially measured in cubic metres. Your gas bill will differ from your electricity bill because there will be some calculations in order to convert your usage from cubic metres to kilowatt hours. This is done using a conversion factor.

For example, if your gas usage was 200m2 and the conversion factor is 11.4772, these numbers will be multiplied together to show your total usage as 2295kWh. It is this figure that is used to bill you.

How To Work Out Your Gas Bill

You can calculate your gas bill in much the same way as your electricity bill. All you need to do is take your total gas usage (in kWh and not in cubic metres) and multiply it by the cost of gas per kWh. This will be shown on your bill. As with electricity, don’t forget to include any additional fees or standing charges.

If you believe that your gas bill is higher than it should be, you may also be able to check how much gas you’ve used since the last time you were billed. Your bill should show the last meter reading as well as the most recent one. You can subtract these two figures and this will provide you with the amount of gas you’ve used this billing period.

How Often Do Gas Bills Come?

How often you receive your bill may depend on your tariff or your energy supplier. A gas bill generally comes every 61 days, or every two months, and you should receive it either in the post or online.