Melbourne, Australia --- (METERING.COM) --- May 28, 2012 - The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) has set out guidance for retailers to provide customers with electricity consumption benchmarks on their bills.

The requirement is a provision of the National Energy Retail Rules, which are expected to commence on July 1, 2012.

The purpose of the electricity consumption benchmarks is to allow residential customers to compare their household electricity usage with similar households in their area. This, in turn, should assist customers to make more informed choices about how they use electricity in their homes.

The initial set of benchmarks was developed by ACIL Tasman, under contract to the Consumer Information and Implementation Committee (CIIC). These are based on the average electricity use of “groups” of customers depending on a range of characteristics, including the household size, whether or not the household has a swimming pool, the season, and the jurisdiction (which also takes account of the use of heating and cooling appliances).

In the modelling it was found that while 17 variables contribute to explaining electricity consumption, a model based on only household size and an assumption that the household does not have a swimming pool can explain about 20 percent of the variance in electricity consumption. The addition of a third factor, jurisdiction, increases this variance by half again.

Under the Retail Rules, retailer are required to present the customer’s electricity consumption against the consumption benchmarks in graphical or tabular format, or both, in a way that is easy to understand. In this context, according to the guidance “easy to understand” means ensuring the use of plain language in an appropriate size and style of font. If colors and shading are used, these should be clearly visible.

Further, the benchmark information should be clearly set out and positioned on the bill, either at the end of the bill or on a separate page within the bill – not on a separate leaflet or insert included with the bill. Customers should also be able to readily identify the household size and consumption benchmark that is applicable to their circumstances.

The Retail Rules require the electricity consumption benchmarks to be updated at least every three years.