By JR on Thursday, December 22, 2011
THE cost of cooling your home and cooking dinner could double under a new Gillard government power proposal. Charging consumers more for electricity during the evening peak, and less at other times, is among a raft of "policy options" contained in a discussion paper made public yesterday.
The plan would involve a statewide rollout of so-called "smart meters", which have caused anger among some consumers whose bills have risen sharply. Other proposals put forward in the paper include minimum energy standards for appliances, rebates and green building regulations.
There is also a bizarre plan allowing energy companies to remotely control home airconditioners in high-demand periods in return for a discount at other times - a move experts say would hit western Sydney hard.
After the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency released the consultation paper for a proposed national energy savings initiative, acting Greens leader Christine Milne claimed it was "another great Greens idea coming to fruition".
The push for a new green scheme would, according to the paper, "complement" the carbon tax, which will add $171 to power bills and would come on top of the existing renewable energy target scheme which added $100 to power bills this year. Smart meters monitor electricity usage in 30-minute intervals and feed information back to the energy company.
Some families in new homes with so-called smart meters are already on time-of-use tariffs where, between 2pm and 8pm, they pay 44c a kilowatt hour - twice the flat rate.
Energy Australia was forced to allow 200,000 households in NSW to revert to a flat rate if they wanted to after time-of-use charging hurt those who were at home during the peak period - new parents, pensioners and the disabled.
Energy Australia claimed 70 per cent of households were better off with smart meters. But research by St Vincent De Paul has shown time-of-use charging imposes double-digit increases on young families and the welfare-dependent.
Senator Milne said: "For too long, governments, businesses and householders haven't tackled our hugely wasteful use of energy because there has been no clear and urgent driver to do so." She said a target for energy use reduction should be set at 3 per cent a year.
Energy Users Association executive director Roman Domanski said similar schemes in Australia and overseas had produced limited benefits. He said time-of-use pricing would be more pronounced in hotter areas of Sydney - the west. "If the government introduces a scheme like that, it is going to increase bills," he said.
"We're now going to have a carbon price that is going to encourage people, supposedly, to lower emissions and also reduce the amount of energy people use so we wonder why you need one of these sorts of schemes to push electricity prices up even more."
A spokeswoman for parliamentary secretary for climate change Mark Dreyfus said a national energy savings initiative was aimed at "helping households and business save money on energy costs".