A simples guide

Energy bills explained

Baffled by your energy bill? They aren’t the simplest to read are they? Too many random boxes with information, lots of numbers, small print – it’s enough to make your head spin. So we thought we’d help straighten things out a bit and explain the most common elements so you’re not left in the dark when it comes to deciphering your gas and electricity bills.

What information will I find on my bill?

Understanding your energy bills shouldn’t be hard, after all, if its purpose is to inform you of how much gas and electric you’re using, you should be able to read it so you know where you stand. Here’s some of the terminology you’ll find and what it actually means:

  • Your account details – this is easy enough to understand. It’ll show the name of the account holder and the address for which the bill is for.
  • Your tariff – your bill will also state the energy plan that you’re on and it will also tell you whether a cheaper, alternative tariff is available with the same supplier. If you want to see if even cheaper tariffs are available elsewhere, then you should comparethemarket.com
  • Your energy use – this is the bit with all the funny numbers and abbreviations that may not mean very much. Energy use is shown in kilowatt hours – shortened to kWh. You are charged for every kWh that you use and your bill will include a breakdown of your consumption by fuel type.
  • The period for which you’re being billed for – this should be shown alongside or close to the amount of energy you’ve used.
  • What you owe – how much energy you’ve used over the billing period will result in the amount you owe. This is usually on the first page of your bill. If you pay by Direct Debit, the amount could be a credit or a debit, depending on how much energy you’ve used.
  • Is your bill an estimation or actual? – bills are worked out two ways, they are either an estimation of your energy usage (in which case there will be an ‘e’ or ‘estimated’ will be written somewhere near the amount of energy you’ve used). If your bill is based on a precise reading from your meter, it will be marked ‘actual’. If you think your bill is particularly high, contact your supplier and give them an accurate reading of your meter – it could result in a recalculation next time.
  • Terms and conditions – there should be a summary of any key points in your agreement with your provider, such as whether there are any exit fees for the tariff that you’re on.
  • An estimation of the next 12 months’ cost – this will be based on your current tariff, it’s an assumption calculated from your current usage so if you increase (or decrease) your consumption then your bills will change accordingly.

MPAN and MPRN numbers

These are your unique meter numbers and tells the provider exactly where your supply is located. If you switch supplier and they can’t find you in the system, they’ll ask you for this number so they can identify you. They are sometimes written at the bottom of your bill or somewhere near your energy consumption.

MPAN is for your electricity meter, it stands for ‘metering point administration number’. Confusingly it’s sometimes called a ‘supply number’ or referred to as an ‘s number’. It’s usually near the Electricity Supply Number heading. On your bill this may be presented in a table with a big ‘S’ and then two rows of numbers like this (the numbers on the bottom are the only ones you’ll need):






0000 0000


MPRN is for your gas meter and it stands for ‘metering point reference number’. It’s a 10 digit numerical code on your bill. 

And because we like to be really thorough, we’ve put together a visual guide too – in case you prefer pictures to words. See our page ‘Understanding your bill’ if you want to boost your geek knowledge of gas and electric bills right down to the formatting.

light bulb

And if you did want to switch?

Well, that bit’s easy, just have your bill to hand and answer a few questions and we’ll search for you, we’re not called comparethemarket.com for nothing you know.