What do Singapore utility bills look like?



I thank a loyal MR reader — presumably for Singapore — for these images.


And if anyone is curious how the bill really looks, compared to a tiny excerpt, then you are in luck.

'Sample Utilities Bill

SP Services supplies electricity to households and businesses in Singapore. It also provides billing and payment collection on behalf of various utility service providers such as the Public Utilities Board for water charges, City Gas for gas charges and the respective refuse companies for refuse removal fees.'


usage comparison was added to the bill this month

That's what my PG&E bill looks like too (including the part about using more electricity than my neighbors).

Is kWh a common unit for Gas metering? Looked weird.

Btu, therms, cuft was what I'd have expected.

kWh is standard throughout the EU at this point - because it allows an easy comparison of how much energy is being used, regardless of source.

Yeah but gas can't be converted into electricity at 100% efficiency, so the actual fuel used in generating the electricity is higher than quoted.

It is just a unit, one does not convert anything.
kWh is not related only to electricity, any energy can be expressed in kWh (also in MJ, Btu, and so on)

Sometimes you will see folks use a subscript "e" after energy units like kWh or MJ to mean "kilowatt-hours electric" or "megajoules electric" to indicate the type of energy being considered. So while natural gas has an energy content of about 53.6 "total" MJ / kg, that could only ever generate about 20 or so MJe / kg.

Sometimes people will use "electric" energy units without the subscript, so it can get confusing.

Not just that, it also looks just like my bill from Houston and my bill from my rural cooperative in Idaho, I guess I am right when I think of the East Coast as primitive.

Well, I wouldn't be too proud of Texas. You guys use a heck of a lot more electricity than us East Coast primitives. Even more than Phoenix, which never turns the A/C off: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Electricity_use_kwh_per_customer_2000-05.PNG

Also, my Pepco account here in DC has over a dozen features to let me compare my electricity use to similar homes and track changes over time. This is not unique.

I would think that Houston's capacity to cool itself considering its genuinely horrible climate would be a testament to its technical prowess.

You do realize I was joking here?

No, didn't know you were joking. I wouldn't be surprised if someone had posted that comment in earnest, but thanks for clarifying.

Of course usage per customer is higher in Texas...unit square footage is higher, single-family detached dwelling percentage is higher, temperature is higher, and humidity is higher. It doesn't surprise me that usage would be higher in Dallas/Houston than Phoenix, based on the same factors, though I haven't looked at in detail. The simple presentation of usage per customer without accounting for weather and housing choices isn't terribly interesting.

As for the info on the utility bill, a lot of these features are a function of smart meters. And why do I have a smart meter? Because that's how the federal government decided to recycle my tax dollars: http://bit.ly/1hfzZSG. Pepco (or really, their vendors) received a similar "donation". Again, not remarkable, and not a sign that DC (or Houston) is filled with bright, tech-savvy, energy consumers.

You guys use a heck of a lot more electricity than us East Coast primitives. Even more than Phoenix, which never turns the A/C off

Although note that warmer locales are much more likely to use high efficiency electric heat pumps for heating as well (and also electricity for cooking, for that matter), whereas colder locations use much more heating oil and natural gas. The Northeast uses a lot more energy than your first graph would suggest. Hence one reason why the Singapore report, and others, put gas in kWh as well, for comparison.

The per-household numbers are much closer throughout the country, except that the coastal Pacific region does well thanks to its Mediterranean climate. Also I suspect that it's easier to convert the electricity to sustainable sources than the heating oil and natural gas used in colder climes.

Wait, are you guys saying there are reasons that some cities use more energy than others?

JK, thanks for the graph. It is a useful comparison incorporating all the energy sources, which I couldn't find earlier. I do see that the Northeast has the second lowest per household energy consumption of all the six regions listed. I would guess it is due primarily to smaller/denser housing, as DKF pointed out. Another thing holding the Northeast back is that the region has the oldest housing stock in the country, which means many homes were built to rely on heating oil long ago and conversion to other sources is expensive. Even when owners can afford to switch, sometimes the utility companies will refuse to run the necessary lines to convert to natural gas.

The EIA has fantastic data on residential energy consumption.

Arizona and Texas actually consume less than the national average per household in energy, as everything else (especially heating) doesn't make up for their dramatically lower heating energy, according to the EIA. They do use a lot of electricity, both because heating is mostly electric heat pumps, and because of A/C.

New York consumes more energy per household than the US average, though a lot less electricity.

This is all according to the 2009 data, newer than the data used in the graph above.

According to the 2009 data, the Northeast uses the most total energy per household, per family member, and per square foot.

Rural uses more than urban, overall, and higher density is correlated with lower usage per person or household, so NYC as high density does very well in a high energy region (assuming Upstate does poorly).

And BGE in Maryland as well, including the neighbor comparison with similar size houses.

Footnote for every alternate month says "Consumption based on estimated reading". Yet that month's reading, presumably when meter-reader did not visit, is not an average of the months before & after it.

What gives?

Ah! Stupid me. It is indeed an average of two preceding months. Makes sense. Arrow of time & all that.

It's true that they can't look into the future when first making an estimate, but they could revise the estimate when they get the future data. There are two purposes for such estimates. One is for the monthly bill, but the purpose of this graph is to understand usage, and that could use a different estimate.

Also, all of these monthly numbers are estimates. The number they read off of the meter is how much was consumed in the past two months. How to split that between the two months is an estimate. The second number is just the true bimonthly number minus the other estimate, no more real than the first. After having made that reading, an alternate estimate is to just split the total equally between the two months, better for every purpose. But you could do even better than that, say by estimating the first month as 1/4 of the previous two months plus 1/4 of the period in which it appears.

Agree! I wanted to say just that but it ended up being so complicated that I gave up. :)

Or, they could just plot bimonthly values?

Listing bimonthly data is pretty similar to dividing it in two and listing that for both months. The advantage of this method is transparency - avoiding your confusion about the meaning of estimates. But the advantage of giving monthly numbers is that they are in the ballpark of the number on the bill, although not the important number on the bill, which is measured in dollars, not kWh.

We have this in Australia, too (depending on your provider). AGL shows me my usage over the past 12 months, average per day, estimated greenhouse gas emissions, and comparison to other households in your area (although I never trust this bit - last month my electricity usage was about a quarter of that of 'similar households').

I can also login online and view each day's usage by hour throughout the day, ever since the government introduced 'smart meters' which wirelessly transmit data back to base.

Is it in the electric utility's best interest to get you to consume less or more? I'm not quite sure.

Good question. Maybe to consume more , subject to the total being within generated limits. Hence the move to billing at lower rates during non-peak hours. If we are all "nudged" to consume less , would Utility companies suffer ?
Also wonder how the utility bills in Lake Wobegon are worked out.

If electricity demand does not grow, that means the utility can cash all the earnings not worrying about infrastructure development. Also, I think the bill is not complete. Last electricity bill I payed, it included a "distribution network fee" (not sure of the exact words) accounting for 25% of the total bill. So, if you already pay something just for being connected to the network, it may cushion less consumption.

liberalism gets you higher energy prices relative to income http://www.qando.net/?p=12750

Wouldn't keeping the atmospheric composition the way it was back in the good old days automatically count as conservative?

BGE has been doing this in Maryland for over a year at least with colorful bar charts.

Military base family housing has been expanding 'norms-based efficiency programs' for many years. Utilities used to be free and unlimited and unmetered on an individual unit basis (as most units were contained in buildings divided into rowhouses, townhomes, duplexes, and a few apartment towers in certain locations). One never heard any Societ-style stories of leaving the faucet running, but, predictably since the trade-off costs were not internalized to the consumer, no one opted for anything but maximum thermal comfort with regards to AC and heat.

Military households still get neighbor-comparison reports, and while they don't have to pay for utilities, they can win decent 'rebates' for winning the monthly game as using less than their neighbors (though, alas, this has not reached a level of sophistication that adjusts for family size and composition). Since the result of the 'contest' is always positional, it theoretically produces a kind of 'virtuous' 'rat-race-to-the-bottom'. Some bases will also charge a household an equal and opposite amount to the rebate for being in excess of the neighborhood average, or having the highest usage.

The results are positive (usage is reduced) and statistically significant, but not very impressive - a percent or sometimes two.

This month's Governing magazine has a brief article on the topic which reports a 5% reduction in usage in a trial, but from my previous exposure to the topic that is a much higher result than norm-exposing efforts usually produce, and I don't anticipate it will survive a general consumer base roll-out.

Good grief, does anyone still get utility bills? Here in the UK they dissappeared when we got the internet.

If you open your email you might see this.

My electric utility here in the states sometimes sends me a physical letter that isn't a bill but shows my consumption over the past year, compared to an average home, compared to an "efficient home," month by month.

Is this unusual? My Seattle City Light bill has had bar graphs of consumption and "compared to this month last year" numbers for as long as I can remember.

You mean utilities in Seattle use the shame system to make you consume less electricity too?

My bill in the Europe's poorest country of Moldova looks exactly the same.

Surely the point of the post is that Singapore's utility bills compare your personal usage with your neighbor's and the country average as a whole for a property of the same size.

I believe that we are being encouraged to use less power with such information. And I believe that we do pay tiered pricing here to accomplish the same.

'Surely the point of the post is that Singapore’s utility bills compare your personal usage with your neighbor’s and the country average as a whole for a property of the same size.'

And as a number of posters have pointed out, this is so mundane as to make one wonder if Prof. Cowen has actually bothered to see what a typical utility bill looks like. Particularly concerning the recent emphasis of this web site on how data used by organizations will shape our future.

Oops no sorry. Seems the tiered pricing was just a proposal. Same rate for all with rebates for some in HDBs.

Comparison with usage from comparable month in prior year would be more helpful than comparison with last month usage, at least in areas where there is seasonal variation.

We get both now. I think that was just introduced this month (with much fanfare), although we've had usage comparisons for years.

Here in Iowa, Midamerican Energy has been sending these for 4-5 years. It includes comparison to similar size houses and most efficient similar sized houses in my neighborhood, over the last 12 months. So you can compare year over year. It also includes average temperature in the area for each month, so you can sort-of normalize wrt average temperature. I find them useful. Buying a modern AC unit 16 months showed a clear effect.

My concern is that Mencius Moldbug's enthusiasm may be leading certain people in the DC area to admire Singapore for these mundane reasons.

Thank god for Aneesh Chopra and the energy "Green Button" data.

Usage graphs had been on my utility bills for at least 10 years.

This is either an Opower service or a close knock-off: http://www.opower.com/solutions/energy-efficiency

My bill has historical use graphs. I've never had one that compared the average, but it would have been useful when I lived in Illinois and the utility misread my meter for several years in a row. Both that utility and I each think we owe each other money.

We've had usage comparisons from ComEd for years.

Since I judge the comparisons on the Kardashev scale, I'm always very proud to be so much more advanced than my neighbors. I even posted a couple on Facebook.

PSNH, New Hampshire's largest electric utility, had a bar graph of 13 month's usage for each customer two decades ago. I recently got a separate mail from them comparing my usage to my neighbors. Not all of the East Coast is behind Portlandia.

The most salient thing to know about the economic arrangements of households in Singapore is that 82% of the population lives in housing development board (government owned) apartments. http://www.icompareloan.com/resources/a-brief-introduction-to-singapores-public-rental-flats. http://www.ifhp.org/ifhp-blog/singapore%E2%80%99s-successful-long-term-public-housing-strategies#.UzOHmPldVUA while just 11% of the population own non-HDB homes (some, but not all, in a more conventional sense of home ownership). A significant subset of this population involve two households who must share a three room apartment. Each block and estate of HDB housing has ethnic quotas designed to foster racial integration.

Singapore clams a 90% home ownership rate, but its definition of home ownership is really closer to a New York City rent controlled apartment than it is to true home ownership. http://www.mnd.gov.sg/homesweethome/pub_data/conversation/media/pdf/today_supplement_page_19_food_for_thought.pdf As a previous comment at MR explained "the Singapore state has redefined a very long lease as “ownership"" http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2012/06/is-a-high-home-ownership-rate-a-sign-of-a-successful-country.html#sthash.YqgAI0Ia.dpuf

For example, you can only buy a home if your family is within the ethnic quota for the neighborhood: "The Ethnic Integration Policy (EIP) is aimed to promote racial integration and harmony and to prevent the formation of racial enclaves, by ensuring a balanced ethnic mix among the various ethnic communities living in public housing estates. The EIP is applicable to the purchase of new flats, resale flats, SERS ( Selective En-bloc Redevelopment Scheme) replacement flats and DBSS (Design, Build & Sell Scheme) flats as well as the allocation of rental flats in all HDB estates." http://www.hdb.gov.sg/fi10/fi10200p.nsf/GlossaryList?OpenForm#p-2 Similarly, you are required to live in your apartment for at least five years before you can sell it in most cases. http://www.hdb.gov.sg/fi10/fi10322p.nsf/w/SellFlatMinimumOccupationPerid?OpenDocument Homes are required to be owner occupied and existing home owners aren't allow to inherit and simultaneous own two homes. An administrator will sell your home if you don't qualify to own it anymore. And, HDB permission is required for any subletting arrangement (and then only after you have already lived in the home for at least five years). There are substantial waiting periods (e.g. three years in some cases) for prospective home buyers.

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