Your power bill
It’s useful to know what you’re paying for as an electricity customer. You can request an itemised bill from your power company for any given time period on your electricity use, costs and charges.
Understand your bill
There are no requirements for bills to be presented in the same way or to separate out different charges, so not all power bills look the same. However, the Electricity Authority encourages power companies to arrange their bills clearly for customers.
To help you understand your bill, here are some commonly used terms:
This is the typical rate you pay for any unit of power used during the day or night that is not controlled by your power company.
Power is cheaper to generate outside peak periods, such as early in the morning and late in the evening. Your power company may offer you a lower per unit price for power during off-peak times to encourage off-peak usage. This helps manage pressure on the electricity system.
If you have a 'controlled' hot water cylinder, your power company may offer you a lower power rate in exchange for the ability to turn off your cylinder if there is a large amount of demand on the local network.
Your cylinder can keep water hot for long periods of time without power if it is well insulated, so most people do not notice this happening.
Fixed charge/daily charge
The fixed or daily charge covers the basic costs of maintaining an electrical connection to your home or business. It's the cost you pay for having access to power.
The installation control point number (ICP) tells you how your property is connected to the electricity network. Each residence has a unique ICP that identifies it as an individual power connection.
Power companies use ICPs to locate your connection both physically and on the national electricity registry.
Power is typically charged per unit. A unit is 1 kilowatt-hour or 1kWh. It's a measurement of energy in which one kilowatt of power is consumed over one hour of time.
What does your power bill pay for?
Pricing and rates
Your power company sets the price for your electricity, usually in units of cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh). You will also have a fixed charge to cover maintenance on the grid and network. Learn more about electricity pricing and rates:
How is power measured?
An electricity meter records your power use. The standard unit of power consumption is the kilowatt hour, or kWh. This is a measure of energy over time and is comprised of 1,000 watts of power consumed over one hour. So for example, running a 1,000 watt heater for an hour will consume one unit of electricity or one kWh.
Your power usage is not based just on time. High-powered appliances that run for a short time can use the same number of kilowatt hours as a low power appliance running for a long time. For example, running a 2,000 watt appliance for half an hour will use one kWh unit, or running a 500 watt appliance for two hours will use one kWh unit.
Can I calculate my power costs?
Yes, you can calculate your power. Power companies usually charge in cents per kWh c/kWh. If you know your rate in c/kWh and the power output of an appliance, you can figure out how much it will cost to run that appliance continuously for one hour. For example, if you pay 20 c/kWh for your power, a 2,000 watt heater will cost you 40 cents to run for one hour.
What are the fixed charges on my bill?
The fixed charges on your bill cover the basic costs of maintaining an electrical connection to your home or business. It's the cost you pay for having access to power.
The charges are fixed in the sense that they don't change depending on how much power you use. Even if you are not at home and using no power, you will still be charged a fixed cost if power is connected to your home. There are two types of fixed charges:
- Standard charges - the amount you pay every day no matter how much power you use
- Low-fixed charges - if you use less than a certain amount of power in a year, you may be on a low-fixed charge plan. You may pay low-fixed charge, but a higher per unit cost for power.
Fixed costs generally cover:
- Lines charges - that connect your home to the distribution network
- Metering - to make sure you are billed correctly
- Connections to a separate secondary network - if you are on one. A secondary network is managed by a separate network owner or company and are common in apartment buildings, subdivisions and retirement villages.
What are spot pricing rates?
Spot pricing is the concept of paying for your power at a rate determined by the wholesale market.
The spot price is the price retailers pay when they buy electricity from the wholesale market. Prices are updated every half hour, so retailers and spot pricing customers pay a range of rates over the day/month/year.
Spot price customers may benefit from savings when spot prices are low in the wholesale market. However when spot prices are higher, during winter or at peak usage times (weekday mornings and evenings), then power costs more for retailers and for spot price customers.
Spot pricing contracts are uncommon. Typically, a power company will charge fixed charges for your usage for a set period that allows for fluctuations in wholesale electricity prices.
What if I generate my own power?
If you generate your own power and are connected to the grid, you may have a section on your bill to buy back power from your power company. This is paid into your account or deducted from your total bill and is measured in c/kWh. For example, if you generate 20 kWh of energy over a month and are paid 13 c/kWh, you would receive a rebate or credit of $2.60 on your bill.
In some cases, depending on your usage and the amount you generate, you could end up getting paid more for what you generate than what you use. Note, you may still have to pay for fixed charges, as these are charged regardless of the amount you generate.
An electricity meter records your power use. There are three main types of electricity meters used in Aotearoa:
- Smart meters - record half-hourly power use electronically and transmit this using cellular reception to your power company.
- 'Non-smart' or non-communicating meters - work the same as smart meters, but are read manually. They are used in locations where there may be no or little cell phone reception.
- Analogue or 'legacy' meters - record power consumption mechanically and are read manually. There are very few of these meters still in use.