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Understand energy bills and collect data

Ease
5
Impact
3

Track how much energy is used by common property assets, when it is used, and what it costs.

More than 20 per cent of the fees or levies paid to your apartment building could be related to energy costs. 

Gather energy bills

  1. Ask your strata manager or facilities manager for copies of billing data covering the last 12 months of common property energy use
  2. Review these and create a process to collect, record and review billing data on an ongoing basis
  3. Create a Smart Blocks building profile and enter billing data into it

Your strata manager or facilities manager might already be reviewing billing data for your building so they could provide you with a comprehensive overview. If you don't have a strata manager or facilities manager then the executive committee would have copies of these bills.

Understand the way power is measured

Electricity is measured in watts - a megawatt (MW) equals 1,000 kilowatts (kW). The amount of electricity used over a certain time period is typically given in kilowatt hours (kWh).

Gas is measured in megajoules (MJ) - a megajoule is 1000 joules. A gas appliance consumption is measured in megajoules per hour (MJ/h).

All bills have some features in common:

  • Average daily usage is often shown with a bar graph on your bill, and is measured in kilowatt hours (kWh) for electricity and megajoules (MJ) for gas
  • The breakdown of charges in your bill includes the type of tariff (peak or off-peak) different meter charges, variable and fixed charges, rebates and GST
  • Variable charges (consumption charges) relates to the amount of energy (MJ or kWh) used
  • Time-of-use tariffs (commonly known as peak, shoulder and off-peak rates) refers to different pricing arrangements for electricity depending on the time of day it is consumed
  • Inclining block tariffs (IBTs) means that energy use is split into blocks with different pricing up to a defined threshold or limit; this pricing structure provides an incentive to keep energy use down
  • Regulated or 'standard' contracts are based on retail prices set by state and territory economic regulators while 'market' contracts are negotiated between yourself and the retailer
  • The 'distributor' is responsible for the poles, wires and meter that connect you to the electricity network. Sometimes your distributor's name is included on your bill, other times their phone number is listed beside 'Faults and emergencies'.
  • The National Meter Identifier (NMI) is a unique number assigned to the electricity and gas meter at your address, so there will be more than one NMI listed on your bill if you have more than one meter

Time of Use (TOU) rates

Your building can take advantage of time-of-use pricing by using energy outside peak times to reduce costs. Prices are usually divided between peak (weekdays day and evening), shoulder (weekday late evening) and off-peak (overnight and weekends). Off-peak is typically less than half the peak rate with shoulder rates, where offered, slightly less than peak rates

There are two ways to access time-of-use tariffs: 

Off-peak hot water heating

With an off-peak storage hot water system, your water is only heated during off-peak hours when energy prices are cheaper. Be aware that off-peak systems don’t use less energy but they do save you money. Find out the best way to save energy and reducing water heating costs. 

Smart metering for your building

Installing a smart or interval meter is a cost effective measure if your building is mostly using electricity during off-peak and shoulder periods, or if your building is able to shift energy usage to these times.

An interval meter measures your power use in 30-minute intervals and allows your distributor to charge different rates rather than one flat rate. Under a time-of-use rate you will pay more for peak power than a flat rate, but less for off-peak.

Shop around for different offers

The energy supply industry is very competitive and there are good opportunities to save money if you understand your energy use and are able to shop around. You have the option to engage an independent expert to help you negotiate a new supply contract. Search for ‘energy consultant’ on the internet or your local business directory.

Use our checklist to ensure you are asking the right questions when you talk to energy suppliers in your state.