Bill Validation

What is invoice/bill validation?
Mistakes happen – it is just a fact of life.
But when it comes to energy bills mistakes can cost you thousands

Energy Data Analysis for Business

Why the need for energy data analysis? 

There are two main reasons why there is a growing need for competent energy data analysts. Money, and saving the planet. Two reasons in complete juxtaposition to one another. 

It is possible to save hundreds, even thousands of pounds by cutting down your energy consumption and altering behavioural habits at a personal or business level. For domestic customers or those with excessively high consumption, this is a straightforward task. For businesses and those with normal to low consumption levels, often data is needed to locate and drive improvement in the areas that need it.  

It is maybe a difficult stretch to say that data analysts will save the planet, and it may not hold completely true. But they certainly play their part 

So, keep reading for some tips and rules on how to analyse your energy consumption– you never know how much money you could save! 

The five rules for energy data analysis. 

Metering: Data does not mean anything unless it comes from a genuine reputable source. For energy and consumption data – this means meters. Most utility companies will install consumption meters (gas, electricity, water) which now allow for accurate collection of data.  

This is now ‘the standard’ across the board, with both domestic and business customers having smart meters installed into their properties. Larger businesses with huge facilities are able to sub-meter different areas of their property, collecting incredibly detailed data. 

If you do not currently have a smart meter installed, then contact your supplier! 

Data doesn’t mean anything until analysis: Collecting data is not the same as analysing data. Data collection is crucial – but it doesn’t actually mean anything until it is analysed… 

Do not fall into the trap of thinking that because you are collecting every trackable metric known to man that you are ‘analysing’ anything. Raw data should never ever ever be used to draw conclusions or make decisions. 

Analysis is a comparison of expected vs actual: This is the part where you begin to organise your raw data a little bit better. This tip can be summed up by one word – Context. 

The statement ‘We used 300kW of electricity during Monday morning at 9am’ does not have any real meaning behind it. It tells us exactly how much electricity has been used, on what day, and at what exact time. Think of this statement as your raw data. 

What it doesn’t tell us is if this is good, bad, awful, dangerous, safe, why, what it was used for etc. We need context in order to understand. 

Now, change the statement slightly. 

‘We used 300kW of electricity during Monday morning at 9am, the week prior we used 400kW and decided to try and lower it.’ 

We have added context to our ‘raw data’ by comparing it against historical data and including our desired (expected) results. We can now make statements with a little more  

Sustained deviation from expectation: Nobody is perfect, people make mistakes. This is universal. 

Even within the most advanced data collection and analysis systems, there will still be some element of error. Small, random variances between metered and expected values are entirely normal. So, what do you do if the mistake keeps on occurring

Firstly, you should change your definition ‘mistake’ in this scenario. Small deviation between expected and metered values? Annoying mistake. Small sustained deviation? You have successfully identified a trend within your results – which can signal a change in operational conditions.  

Use common sense: Continuing on from the previous point – people make mistakes.  

What is more likely, you have made a typo when compiling your data spreadsheet – or that your business consumes 1,000,000 kW of electricity at 3AM every Wednesday? 

Data analytics can be a powerful tool when used correctly – but only if it is used correctly. Use your head at all stages of analysis, if something seems too good to be true… it probably is.  

How to analyse data 

Profile analysis: 

Depending on the software suite and/or the data available to you, it is possible to graph your consumption data with time to create consumption profiles. This is a much more visually stimulating way in which to present data that allows for a greater deal of immediate understanding.  

An example of a daily consumption profile will look a little something like this: 

image

Regression analysis: You may be familiar with this technique if you have completed any statistical work before. Regression analysis helps to identify which variable has the most impact on your specific area of interest.  

Data normalisation

Identifying non operational data

Alert by exception 

Why this isn’t the case in the real world 

Realistically – this is all great in theory but not much else. 

If you are a domestic customer or operate a small business, it is likely that you will have found some use from this article. Energy data analysis is a woefully tricky subject and it is horribly difficult to know where to begin sometimes. But, here’s the catch (the first catch, that is).  

When learning anything for the first time there will be a period of ‘trial and error’. This is where an individual has learned enough of the theory to know roughly what to do, but can’t grow their knowledge further without practicing. Domestic customers can do this in a relatively low-risk environment during their free-time. Best-case scenario is saving a little bit of money and learning about consumption habits while the worst-case scenario is simply wasting some free time.  

Is this the same for business customers? In short, no. 

Unless you run a small business, it is likely that there are multiple stakeholders and/or board members who influence operational decisions. Trying to keep all of these people happy when it comes to spending company resources is a tricky act…  

What poses less risk – allowing an untrained individual within your company to complete incredibly complex data analysis that will underpin all future decision making, or simply paying a professional to complete the job? 

What actually happens in the real world? 

The process of energy data analysis often becomes outsourced to another company – often already operating within the energy sector. There are businesses and individuals who have already gained the necessary expertise to wrestle with huge energy data-sets while understanding the context behind the numbers.  

Who would you choose to complete a statistical deep dive and analysis of your company’s energy consumption? Joe Bloggs from the accounting department who has an afternoon off from his work, or a company with well over twenty years of operating experience in the energy sector with employees trained explicitly for this nature of work…?  

It is really a no-brainer. By allowing us to do what we do best, it lets you do what you do best.  

At Energy Solutions we are familiar with all areas of the energy industry – all the way from installing new supplies and sourcing suppliers, to fitting meters and analysing your data for you.  

Simply call us now to organise a quote! Our team members can be reached during usual office hours at 0131 610 1688 or by email: nick@energybrokers.co.uk 

We are happy to answer any questions that you may have for us, all you have to do is get in touch! If you would prefer to reach us in another way you can use our webform or WhatsApp us at 07757 400 788 

We look forward to hearing from you!  

Common Questions 

How should I begin analysing my energy data? 

For domestic customers – you should always begin by checking what type of meter you currently have installed. It is imperative that you upgrade to a smart meter in order to gain access to your consumption data. Traditional meters do not have this type of functionality.  

For business customers it may be too large of a job to tackle by yourself. It is likely you may need to collaborate with other departments or bring in another business to help. 

What is important when analysing energy data? 

There is no one ‘big’ thing to look out for in particular. For anybody looking to analyse their energy consumption you should always ensure: 

  • Data is accurate: If data is not accurate, the whole exercise is a waste of time – you will be led to false conclusions. 
  • Data is comprehensive: The more data you collect – the more you can do with it. 
  • Data doesn’t take precedent over common sense: Just because the data points towards a particular conclusion does not mean you should accept without question.  

What should I look for when analysing my energy data? 

For domestic customers you should look for some sort of profile to analyse. By charting your energy consumption at half hourly intervals throughout the day (or in any way you are able to), it is possible to find consumption habits that you never knew you had.  

Business customers should be looking to complete more high-powered statistical analysis if possible. Try normalising data, looking for regression etc. If not possible then look to bring in an expert.  

Do I analyse my energy data in the same way for my business as I do at home? 

It depends on both the size and nature of your business (as-well as how you analyse your energy at home). If your business and/or dataset is small – then it is quite possible to complete a less in-depth analysis of your energy. 

If you operate a larger business or rely on energy consumption throughout the production process, then it is likely an unsurmountable task unless you have relevant training and time. 

Why do businesses not complete their own energy data analysis?  

Many businesses cannot afford the luxury to invest in this area – deeming it to be a wasted expense. It is unlikely that many staff have the free time or expertise to complete such analysis. The potential returns increase the larger your business/energy consumption is. 

Can I pay for someone to analyse my energy data? 

Yes – you can. There are multiple businesses set up for this exact service. It is important to find a company that has relevant expertise, good reviews etc. 

Bill validation, what is it?

What is invoice/bill validation?

Mistakes happen – it is just a fact of life.

This also holds true in the business world. Companies will spend millions on advanced software systems, data analytics, and top-tier employees – but mistakes will still happen.

In the energy business when mistakes are made it can sometimes lead to the incurred costs being passed on to the customer. Bill validation is a practice that helps mitigate against this.

Bill validation is the robust process of reviewing and highlighting any discrepancies to be acted upon and fixed. Usually, this will involve cross-checking charges received against any amounts paid or received. At this point, the practice has been developed to be automated somewhat but most often will involve some manual validation.

What causes inaccurate billing?

Inaccurate billing can arise from a multitude of sources – so there is no ‘quick-fix’ to avoiding this issue.

If you or your business have recently switched energy supplier then there is a slight chance that data has been input wrong at some stage. This can be as small a mistake as mistyping a single character in the wrong section. Because most people don’t often check their account details with their energy supplier, these mistakes often fly under the radar unnoticed for a long time and can lead to inaccurate invoicing.

Depending on the meter-type installed at your premises, it is likely that your bills could be less accurate than they could be. If you do not own or have a smart meter installed, then you will likely still be providing monthly meter readings to your supplier. These meters are liable to produce readings far less accurate than their more modern, smarter counterparts.

Over the last twenty years or so, the UK energy industry has undergone huge changes – deregulation, household names going bust, and huge takeovers. This has created a situation where some suppliers have reached such a scale that they operate several billing departments independent of one another, some operate with archaic computer systems that are incompatible with other departments, and overall chaos.

Some small business owners may not actually be aware of their eligibility for a reduction in their VAT rates. This leads to businesses shelling out more of their cash on energy than they really need to be. It also points to a large problem with the energy industry – many customers aren’t aware of how much they should be paying in the first place!

The ‘Fantastic Five’ of invoice validation

For those who are now worried that they are overpaying on their energy bills and want to do something about it – this next section is for you. It is easy to get lost in all of the industry jargon, buzzwords, rates, fees, and overall complexity of your energy invoice. Some may be wondering where to even begin.

Don’t panic quite just yet – just focus on these five areas.

What to checkDescription
Contract RatesDig out your copy of your contract – and look for the rate per unit of energy that you agreed to pay. This is the most important place to start.
Meter ChargesSometimes you may be charged a fee for the meter you have installed. Often, this catches customers off-guard.
Standing ChargesStanding charges are fixed daily charges simply for using that energy supplier.
Consumption DataThis will vary dependent on what type of customer you are, as-well as what meter type you have installed. Try to find as much information as you can on how much energy you have used.
VAT RateVAT is a governmental tax that you are required to pay. It is worth double-checking the amount you are being charged as not all customers are required to pay the same amount.

Business invoice validation – where to begin?

So far, we have addressed issues with invoicing generally, without spending too much time focussing on any specific customer-type. Now, we turn our attention to business energy customers, and how they can become budding invoice-validators

This is a simple (and very general) four-step guide for business owners who would like to take a more critical look over their energy invoices, but aren’t sure where to begin:

  1. Use the ‘Fantastic Five’ to find the figures needed to attempt to calculate your expected monthly bill. If you do this correctly, you will find the correct amount you should be billed for that month. If your calculations don’t match with you monthly bill – then it looks like you could be being overcharged. Remember to double and even triple-check your calculations, mistakes happen to everyone – not just energy suppliers!
  2. Utilise your supply chain department (if your business has one) to ensure accuracy of charge allocation.
  3. Narrow your focus onto specific errors – highlight these and attempt to find why the error happened. Worst case scenario is wasted time, but best-case scenario is catching an easily fixable mistake and acting upon it so that it never happens again!
  4. Begin the process of reclaiming this amount from your supplier if you have already paid, or contact them with your evidence to show incorrect billing.

That is all well and good, but why do no businesses actually ever do this in the real world?

Because more often than not – they are too busy trying to keep the business running!

With energy invoicing – it’s something that will only ever happen once a month. In order to reach the level of competency to be able to spot mistakes within energy invoices will require a massive time investment. Most businesses are not able to provide the training, find the money, or a suitable individual to ever make this practice commonplace.

This is a shame as so many businesses will be overpaying for energy without ever realising. It is calculated that up to 35% of invoices from energy suppliers are incorrect throughout the year… that works out as three months of bills overpaid for.

Is there anyone to help?

Yes, there is! Luckily there are dozens of businesses who are willing and able to help you.

There are many choices when it comes to invoice validation specialists, and this is not just limited to energy companies. When looking for a company to outsource your bill validation to – it is important to do your research first. Many companies will promise the world but fail to deliver.

Looking for previous customer reviews or case studies is a good starting point. This should provide some sort of insight to whether they regularly achieve you the ‘guaranteed 15% savings!’ plastered on company advertising.

How to find out who is the best-placed to help

It is incredibly important that whoever you choose to partner with has a wealth of experience in your industry. This leads to a higher likelihood of catching any mistakes, and reaching a favourable conclusion.

So, when looking for somebody to help validate your energy bills there really is only one choice –energybrokers.co.uk.

Energy Solutions have been in the energy procurement business for over 20 years – so know invoicing like the back of their hands. Being in the business for so long has led to the development of outstanding relations with all of their partners – which includes big names like EDF, SSE, E.ON, and Gazprom.

Energy Solutions do not overpromise, and typically recover 5% of utility bill value for their customers. Their highly trained staff can operate either on a fixed-fee or on a no-win, no-fee basis. This means that if no savings are to be found, then you don’t have to pay for the service!

So, if you are interested in saving cash on your energy bill – give us a call today.

Common Questions

What is Bill Validation?

Bill validation is a general term for the process of checking invoices for mistakes in an attempt to save money.

How do I validate my own bills?

It is difficult to do this by yourself and it will take time – it is advised to outsource this process to a company that offers it as a service.

Who does bill validation?

There are dozens to choose from! Some offer it as an integrated service alongside other products, so have a google to find out.

How to choose company for bill validation?

Make sure to focus on things like customer reviews and industry experience, as these will give a more accurate portrayal of the company and likelihood of success.

Why is my energy bill wrong?

It is always more likely that your calculations are wrong and not those of your energy supplier – so double check your working! Energy suppliers do get it wrong sometimes, and this can be for a multitude of reasons. This can include recent changes in address or details, administrative or user errors, or a software malfunction

Who do I contact if my energy bill is wrong?

If you think your energy bill is incorrect – then contact your supplier as soon as possible to try and sort the issue and save some cash!