I have received my latest energy bill, but I don’t understand the wording or terminology being used. I have reached out to my supplier, but they are being stubborn in assisting me. I can’t make heads nor tails of what it says and think I have been overbilled. Can you help?

Understanding the wording on your energy bill can be confusing, but the main components are the same across all energy suppliers.

All correspondence with your supplier should include a customer reference number, and this is your identification as a customer of the supplier. You may need to provide this when contacting the energy company to discuss your account.

Check the period that the bill covers

The bill should state the period that it covers, and if this will generally be a three-month period unless your contract states otherwise.

How to read your balance

Your bill can show a positive or negative balance, depending on whether you are in credit or debit with your supplier.

A credit balance will usually show as ‘CR’ or as a minus figure. A debit balance, where you owe the supplier money, will show as a positive figure.

It is important for you to check that your bill is correct and if you believe it is not, or if you wish to query the amount, you should contact the supplier.

Estimates vs actual usage

Bills can be based on estimated or actual energy usage.

The bill will only be estimated if you are not using a smart meter or have not given a meter reading to the supplier for this billing period. Bills based on estimated usage are not as accurate, with projections being made based on your previous readings and energy use.

If the bill is based on actual usage, it will show the amount of energy you have consumed during the billing period. Electricity usage will be displayed in kilowatt hours, a measurement that describes a kilowatt, or 1000 watts, being used for an hour.

Calculating how much electricity your appliances use

Working out how much each appliance consumes in electricity can be found by multiplying the wattage of the item by the number of hours used and dividing this by 1000.

The wattage can usually be found on the manufacturer’s instructions, or labelled on the item.

Gas usage is measured in cubic meters or feet, with the consumption showing on the bill or statement as an ‘m’ or ‘ft’ with a small number ‘3’ next to it. There is a difference between the two measurements, and it is important that you submit the correct reading to ensure you are being billed correctly.

Your reading, and the way that it is being measured should be displayed somewhere on the meter. Smart meters may have the option for both displays.

There should be a calculation on the bill showing you how to convert one into the other.

Further information

Advice Direct Scotland run, and are the official partner of the Scottish Government for energy advice.

We can help if you have had difficulty communicating with your supplier and can help you get through to their team and speak with someone who can help.

Specialist energy advisers are available on 0808 196 8660, Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm or by visiting

If you think you have been billed too much by the supplier, you should bring this to their attention and utilise their complaints process if you are not getting any further.

The team can help you make a complaint if you believe this is the best course of action.