Understanding Power Bills – what to look for

The four basic steps to reducing your power bills are:

4 steps_energy

You can do all of these four steps through analysing your power invoices, as these tell you how much power your organisation uses and how much money the organisation is spending on energy consumption. Once you understand what your invoices are showing, and follow the four steps above, you will be well on your way to reducing your organisation’s energy consumption.

What are the basic terms on your energy bill?

Some of the basic terms and concepts used to describe energy generation and consumption are:

energy invoice term

What is ‘Consumption’ and what are the ‘Costs’?

Energy consumption is expressed on your invoices as kilowatt hours (kWh). This is how much power you are drawing from the electricity grid. For each kWh you consume you pay Power and Water Corporation $0.232 (this is the commercial rate as at 2011. For more information on Tariff Prices go to PowerWater website)

NB: Price tariffs will vary for organisations covered under Alice Solar City customers, and will vary if you are purchasing GreenPower.

An example of energy consumption and costs is given below:

calculation example_AC

The more energy you use in your workplace the more money you will spend on your energy bills. The term ‘energy efficiency‘ means using less energy for the same outcome. For example, an inverter air conditioner running for the same period quoted in the example above will cost approximately 30% less on your energy bills. Refer to COOLmob’s other fact sheets for more energy savings ideas.

What to look for on your invoice – Electricity Daily Average Graph pg. 1

On the first page of your organisation’s PowerWater invoice you will see the following graph (click on the image to see a larger version)

electricity daily use

This graph gives you information on:

  • your current daily consumption;
  • the daily consumption on your last invoice;
  • the daily consumption in the same period in the previous year;
  • the daily average consumption compared to the regional daily average consumption;
  • the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that were produced as a result of your electricity consumption.

You will see fluctuations between adjacent graphs as they are issued in different seasons. For instance, electricity consumption usually increases around October and remains high until around March, depending on how hard your air conditioner has to work. Consumption can be drastically reduced if air conditioning is used less during the dry season.

Check for:

Look for sharp increases or decreases between years, for example is the red circle (i.e. the current energy consumption) considerably higher or lower than the blue circle (i.e. the energy consumption in the same period during the previous year)? If YES, get your colleagues together and ask:

  • Was this year hotter than last year (and as a consequence the air conditioning was used more frequently)
  • Were more people working on the weekends, or after hours this year?
  • Are there more staff in the office this year?
  • Are there more computers or appliances running this year?
  • Was the room left unsealed this year while the air conditioners were in use?
  • Does the air conditioner need servicing?
  • Have the lights, computers or air conditioners been accidently left on after hours?

Make these observations every time an invoice comes in, and as a workplace team ask the questions above together. Addressing anomalies in energy consumption is the easiest way to discover and implement financial savings from reduced energy consumption.

What to look for on your invoices – Details of Invoice Table pg.2

On the second page of your invoice you will see the details of your current invoice in the following table (click on the image to download a larger version)

details of invoice image

How to use your invoice to set improvement goals:

Understanding the information contained in your power invoices is important because you can’t reduce what you can’t measure. Take these steps to set improvement goals:

  1. Choose a ‘start date’ which corresponds to the beginning of your energy efficiency journey (i.e. the day you begin attempting to reduce energy consumption in your organisation)
  2. Write down all of the energy reduction measures that your workplace will be committing to (for example making sure all of the lights are switched off; ensuring air conditioners aren’t left on; replacement of lights to energy efficiency bulbs; replacement of old computer monitors with energy efficient ones etc)
  3. Take out the organisation’s past invoices (at least 12 months worth) and write down the total kWh consumed and the total amount due ($) during each period. Be sure to take note of the month and year so you can see how it fluctuates over time. It is also a good idea to record the data in a spreadsheet so you can automatically graph the results.
  4. Each time a new invoice comes in write down the total kWh consumed and amount ($) due in that current period.
  5. Check the consumption on the current invoice against the figure you noted for the same time in the previous year and ask “Has this increased?”

Always remember:

  • world_v2You may have to spend money to create long term savings, so prepare costings and projected savings over a 2,5 and 10 year period.
  • It may take time for reductions to appear because energy reduction is as much about changing people’s behaviours as switching to energy efficient lights, appliances, computers or air conditioners
  • Use the kWh and $$ figures to motivate your colleagues to change their behaviours. Use the example in this fact sheet to show people how much air conditioning costs the organisation.
  • Always display the information in your power invoice around the office in a simple and clear way
  • If you calculate a reduction make sure you tell your colleagues about it. This should encourage your colleagues to do more (think of it like telling a student to study for an exam and never giving them their exam score).
  • Setting challenges for your workplace may also help motivate staff. For instance, set a goal for a 5, 10, 15 or 20% reduction in energy consumption on your next invoice
  • And most importantly, good environmental ethics and attitudes around the workplace are just as important as other energy reduction measures you put in place. An example of this is proactively SWITCHING OFF lights, d; turning the air conditioning up a few degrees so it is not using as much power; or simply showing your colleagues how much energy was used in the most recent billing period.